Top Of The Class

John Wilson meets leading figures in their fields and takes them back to the places and people they left behind but who influenced their later success.


0101Bill Morris2008072820090730

Former Trade Union leader, Lord Bill Morris returns to the car component manufacturer in Birmingham where he began work as an 18 year old in overalls on the factory floor drilling holes in 1954.

John Wilson takes Lord Bill Morris back to the company he worked for in Birmingham for nearly twenty years before he ascended the union ranks to become Britain's first black trade union leader.

He is reunited with his then union mentor, Graham Gold and manager Maureen Constantine - both people who Bill regards as instrumental to his later success.

Bill first worked in the car manufacturing firm in 1954 as an 18 year old in overalls drilling holes.

All the time he was a quietly ambitious man with his eye on greater things.

He quite fancied the "white coat" supervisor's job but found success first in the union.

Producer - Sarah Taylor.

Former TGWU leader Bill Morris returns to the component manufacturer where he began work.

Former trade union leader Bill Morris returns to the car component manufacturer in Birmingham where he began work as an 18-year-old in overalls on the factory floor in 1954.

0102Tasmin Little2008080420090723

Internationally acclaimed violinist Tasmin Little returns to the Yehudi Menuhin School where she began her musical education as a young prodigy at the age of 8.

She is reunited with her teacher Pauline Scott, who nurtured her talent and helped her become the player she is today.

He takes international violinist Tasmin Little back to the Yehudi Menuhin School where she began her musical education as a prodigy at the age of 8.

Her best friend at the school, Gwawr Owen, is also there as they both rediscover their childhood haunts, share memories of boarding school dinners and Tasmin reveals to John extracts from the diary she kept from her time there.

Producer - Sarah Taylor.

Internationally acclaimed violinist Tasmin Little returns to the Yehudi Menuhin School.

0103Lauren Child2008081120090806

Writer and illustrator Lauren Child is known to many parents and children for her Charlie and Lola books and Clarice Bean novels.

She takes John Wilson on a tour of her own childhood in Wiltshire to meet the people and the places which have inspired her.

"People never really know what they've done for you" says Lauren of her Latin teacher, Alan Clague.

"When I was in Pompeii a year ago, I wanted to ring him up and thank him for his Latin classes and how much they meant to me." Twenty five years later in this programme John takes her back to her comprehensive school to meet her retired teacher.

Lauren also takes John to meet her craft teacher who taught her how to make dolls houses and shows John the first dolls house she played with when she was seven years old.

The wallpaper looks slightly familiar as does much of the miniature furniture.

It's these early memories and the comfortable feel of the furniture which can be seen as illustrations throughout all her books.

But she didn't succeed as a writer for many years.

She drifted through art school, spent time working as an assistant for Damien Hurst during his spots period before finding her own voice as a successful children's writer.

She is accompanied in the programme by her best friend at school, now also a children's writer, Cressida Cowell, who remembers Lauren doodling on the school desks - little figures who were the beginnings of Charlie, Lola and Clarice Bean.

Producer - Sarah Taylor.

The creator of the Charlie and Lola children's books goes back to school.

Children's author Lauren Child goes back to her comprehensive school to meet her former teachers and best friend.

0104 LASTGary Rhodes2008081820090716

was making Sunday lunch for his mum when he was 14.

The 1970s was not an era for a football loving boy to tell his schoolfriends that his dream was to be a top chef, so he applied secretly to Thanet Catering college.

Overjoyed to be accepted, he panicked on the first day when he couldn't answer the question "what is a sauce bechamel?" He thought he would never make it in the world of cookery, but he ended up being the college's top student, became a successful restauranteur and a TV Chef who now has restaurants around the globe and is a prolific cookery writer.

Much of his success he feels was down to the excellence of the training he got from Thanet Catering College and in particular, his mentor Mr.


John Wilson reunites Gary with Mr.

Barrett and his great friend and rival from college days, Martin Nash, who followed his own catering career.

Producer - Sarah Taylor.

Gary Rhodes is reunited with his best friend and his lecturer from catering college.

Gary Rhodes is reunited with his best friend from catering college and the lecturer who taught him everything he knew.

0201Marcus Du Sautoy20101228

John Wilson meets Professor Marcus du Sautoy in the first of a new series of Top of the Class.

Marcus went to Gillots Comprehensive School in Henley and whilst he was there, he excelled academically, particularly in maths and playing the trumpet.

When he was 13, his maths teacher, Mr.

Bailson, asked him to step outside for a chat whilst he smoked his mid-morning break cigar.

Marcus thought he was in trouble and was mightily relieved when instead, Mr.

Bailson chose the break time to talk about the beauty of maths and of the text books Marcus should look at outside of the normal secondary school curriculum.

The chat has stayed with Marcus and he describes it now as a formative moment when he was enthralled by the possibilities of mathematics.

Professor Du Sautoy is currently the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and he takes the morning off from his calculations to go back to his old school with John Wilson who reunites him with Mr.

Bailson and his best friend from school and fellow trumpeter, Helen Brind.

Helen has brought along her photo album from the time which shows Marcus in all his thespian glory and Marcus has found his old school report.

Join John Wilson as Marcus and Mr.

Bailson walk to the spot where the "cigar" moment took place and Marcus' best friend Helen flicks through her photo album.

And more importanly, don't miss Helen and Marcus playing their trumpets together again - thirty years later.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

John Wilson reunites mathematician Marcus du Sautoy with his maths teacher and old school.

0202Rachel Portman20110118

Radio 4 listeners will be familiar with the music of Rachel Portman as she is one of Britain's most successful film composers.

Her scores include the oscar-winning Emma, and she also received nominations for Chocolat and The Cider House Rules.

She grew up playing the violin, piano and organ and began to compose at the age of 13.

In this edition of Top of the Class, Rachel goes back to the school she attended as a sixth former, Charterhouse.

There she was encouraged to take her composition seriously and had her work performed at regular pupil composer concerts.

John Wilson meets her there with her former violin teacher and best friend.

She brings with her the scores from her very first compositions which were heard at the school concerts.

Memories and melodies are rekindled.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

John Wilson reunites composer Rachel Portman with her music teacher and old school.

0203 LASTLord Digby Jones20110125

grew up in the Midlands and as a youngster, won a scholarship to Bromsrove Public School.

There, he represented the school at rugby and cricket and took part in the debating society.

He was head boy and was about to leave school with a glowing report until he was expelled for streaking around the quadrangle for a bet.

John Wilson meets Digby Jones back at his old school with his former English teacher and school friend.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

John Wilson reunites Lord Digby Jones with his former English teacher at his old school.

0301Michael Portillo20110719

In today's instalment of Top of the Class, John Wilson takes Rt.


Michael Portillo back to his former school in Harrow.

In his day, it was a boys' grammar school and in this visit to celebrate 100 years of the school, Michael is one of the guest speakers.

The school has changed greatly since Michael's time there and is now a mixed comprehensive.

At the school, Michael is reunited with one of his former teachers, Mr.

Ken Waller who remembers him as a very conscientious pupil and someone who he never thought would go into politics! John Wilson also manages to get the school to find an old school report of Michael's which he has never seen.

John Wilson takes Michael Portillo back to his old Grammar school to meet his teacher.

0302Andrea Levy20110726

is now part of the literary establishment.

She was short listed for the Booker Prize in 2010 with her novel, The Long Song.

In Top of the Class, she goes back to the building where her creative success took root - the old City Literature building in London's Covent Garden.

As a school girl, Andrea's literary talent never shone - it was only when she started doing an adult education class in creative writing that she realised hers was a voice which had something powerful and resonant to say.

Encouraged by her classmates, some of her early classroom forays into creative writing were the starting point for her first novel, Every Light in the House Burnin'.

John Wilson takes Andrea back to the building and reunites her with her creative writing tutor, Alison Fell and class mate, Aubyn Hall.

They retrace their steps - try and find their former classroom of more than twenty years ago and tell the story of Andrea's literary journey from classroom to international success.

Producer: Sarah Taylor.

Novelist Andrea Levy goes back to her adult education writing class with John Wilson.