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This interview is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

Stephen Heath in Conversation Nicolas Tredell

JESUS COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, 12 JULY 1991

Nicolas Tredell: Could you tell me about your family background and education prior to going to university?

Stephen Heath: I was born in Haringay, North London, of a family none of whose members over the generations had ever continued in education beyond the age of fourteen at most, so my background was not academic in any way. After the 'eleven-plus', I went to Enfield Grammar School which was very successfully committed to winning university places for its pupils, preferably Oxbridge places. Largely due to the school and the strength of that commitment - I didn't show any particular academic aptitude during my time there - I was carried along into the Sixth Form and then got into Cambridge by the skin of my teeth.

What was your experience of Cambridge?

My experience of Cambridge was one of complete shock, in rather the standard forms that someone coming from that kind of background would have and which have been recorded many times. It seemed like a mistake that I had been accepted and I spent a lot of my time in Cambridge nervously disliking it, since in any but the most formal senses 'acceptance' was indeed the problem. I felt socially inept and culturally out of things, though I suspect that the Cambridge of those days, thanks to the existence of grammar schools such as the one I went to, was taking in more people from ...


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