Shirley Harding

“My story started a long time ago, but restarted due to grief. My husband passed away in February 2021 after fifty years of happy marriage, and I knew that I needed to return to something that made me happy.

I initially completed my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature in 1992 at the University of Central England, formerly Birmingham Polytechnic and now BCU.  It was a happy time for me, so I knew returning to study a postgraduate course would bring me some much-needed joy. I was apprehensive that I was too old for the course, however after speaking with the course leader Gregory Leadbetter, he assured me it would not be a problem. It was a light at the end of a very dark tunnel for me, and I was delighted when I got a place.

It was not easy returning to learning after so many years and I wondered if I would cope, but to my surprise, I settled in quickly. This was due to the friendliness of staff and students and my passion for English which returned with a vengeance.

I remember, as a child, getting lost writing a story. What was this place where anything could happen? I also remember being enthralled as my English teacher danced about the classroom reciting Shakespeare. At Birmingham Polytechnic, the passion developed as I was introduced to P B Shelley, Thomas Hardy and countless other writers and poets. I began to understand the structure of the language itself through linguistics. 

I seem to have been writing all my life. In times of crisis, it is what I do to try and make sense of the world and myself. I’ve had light bulb moments during my course, including in the fiction module with Helen Cross when I realised I could write from a man’s point of view.  Dare I do that? I did. I was also mesmerised by poetry in the Reading into Writing module.

Collaborating with my friend, Namal Rizwan, in editing this year’s Anthology has given me so much joy. I have not travelled extensively, but through Namal’s eyes – her stories and her writing, I have stood on the top of mountains in Pakistan and Russia and been introduced to Persian poetry. Namal said I remind her of her mother - I feel honoured!

I want to use the second year of the Master’s course to crystallise my ideas. My dream is to work towards a PhD.  I have a particular interest in linking science and the arts creatively and know there is already work going on in that field. I would also like to work in radio!

I am still grieving, but BCU has helped me so much on my journey and I see hope and happiness in my future.”