Professor April McMahon is the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Education and Professor of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Kent, and it was a great pleasure to meet her for this week’s interview. April was born in Edinburgh while a Beatles concert was taking place nearby and she recounts at the start of our conversation how her father was defined more by his absence than his presence during her childhood. She speaks candidly about how there weren’t many opportunities open to her as a child and how her mother had to work ‘hand to mouth’.
As a child, reading books from the library van was April’s passion. She also talks about being into the New Romantics, such as Ultravox, as well as Clare Grogan and Altered Images, and being a sucker for musicals. April sings to this day in the university chorus, and we learn whether April is a ‘Braveheart’ or a ‘Gregory’s Girl’ type of person.
April recounts what inspired her to go to university and she talks about her false start, having initially chosen to do English Literature rather than Language, and what happened during her first lecture. We then learn whether there were particular teachers who inspired her and how she learned the art of writing down sounds in a precise way.
April grew up at a time when there was constant friction between London and Scottish politics, and in her first job at Cambridge she recalls giving a lecture on the day Margaret Thatcher resigned and how the students then stood up and applauded. We learn that April has never been a party member and will make decisions on the basis of the issues. April also talks about how her personal, Christian faith came along later when she was in her mid-30s.
Radio played a role in April’s growing up. In particular, she remembers listening to ‘Junior Choice’ on Saturday mornings and she did her school homework while Radio 1 was on in the background.
In the final part of the interview we talk about how her memories are mixed due to her mother dying suddenly while April was at university, and, in terms of whether she has fulfilled the dreams she had when she was young, April discusses how she managed to get out of her more limited environment and how she is still in touch with her university friends. We also learn whether April tends to look forwards or backwards and why she believes that there is no point in dwelling on times that weren’t good but that it is important to enjoy the present.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and April McMahon and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.