Mark Connelly is Professor of Modern British Military History at the University of Kent and in this very candid and wide-ranging interview Mark begins by talking about his family background. He was born to a German mother while his father, who is a London cab driver, is a mixture of Irish and Russian. Mark also talks about how his love of history was precipitated by reading Ladybird History Books as a child.
Mark was the first in his family to go to university and we discuss our shared arts backgrounds. Mark reveals his earliest memory which is Christmas-related and we learn that he enjoyed going to the Imperial War Museum and the Tower of London when young.
Through his parents Mark developed a love of Frank Sinatra, especially his 1950s concept albums, and Mark can just about remember Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ from its original 1973 incarnation. He especially loves Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ and the memories it evokes as well as Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’. We also learn about the time that Mark encountered Chesney Hawkes on a plane and about the importance of film soundtracks in reunion films such as ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’ and ‘Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion’.
We then learn what inspired Mark, who was the only pupil to take ‘O’ level Religious Education at his school, to enter academia and we find out that he is still in touch with his ‘O’ and ‘A’ level History teacher from school. At University, Mark was the Head of the History Society and organized various trips to quirky places in London as well as being a devotee of West Ham football club.
Mark shares his love of radio, in particular comedy shows such as ‘The News Huddlines', as well as ‘Yesterday in Parliament’, and he talks about being a fan of the jingles played on LBC. He also explains why he is misty eyed for Desmond Carrington and he reminisces about ‘Pick of the Pops’ with Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman.
In the final part of the interview, Mark recalls growing up in the 1970s, during the ‘doom and gloom’ of the Winter of Discontent but speaks about how he has happy memories of his teenage years. Mark also discusses how his Chrohn’s disease has taught him various lessons and how he is nostalgic for wallowing in solipsistic moments of teenage misery e.g. the music of The Smiths.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Mark Connelly and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.