Norwich and Los Angeles don’t have a lot in common. While some of the city centre apartments are particularly glamorous, the city twinned with Koblenz and Novi Sad doesn’t have its own version of Beverley Hills.
This isn’t to say that Norfolk’s largest city doesn’t boast a plethora of celebrities, ranging from the high-profile, nationwide stars to the moderately obscure, and many variations in between.
UEA, meanwhile, has its own fairly impressive roster of famous faces, many of whom will have trodden the same paths, drank in the same bar (minus some cosmetic changes) and sat in the same lecture theatres as you.
Some tend to have negative perceptions of Norwich as a marginal, mostly rural city with not much going on. This is hardly fair, and it’s worth remembering as well that Norwich isn’t all about a football club which plays in yellow and green and a TV chef prone to rather embarrassing gaffes.
The face perhaps most commonly associated with Norwich is that of Stephen Fry. Eminently intelligent, and a staple in intellectual comedy programming, he has been the host of QI since it began in 2003. His role as General Melchett in celebrated television series Blackadder set Fry on the path to fame and respect, and gained him a place in the nation’s heart.
Known for his passionate devotion to the city, Fry joined the board at Norwich City last year telling Concrete that “Norwich City is one of the truly great exemplars of a true community club.” He had a point. City, now a Premier League club, can proudly boast to have a man on their board who, whilst claiming to have “loathed all forms of sports” as a child, defends the city and the county at every turn.
Whilst Fry is perhaps the most recognisable and charming faces of academia in the country, it’s fair to say that UEA can rival his intellectual prowess. Kazuo Ishiguro, Booker prize winner for The Remains of the Day and author of novel-cum-blockbuster Never Let Me Go, is just one of a host of great authors to have passed through the prestigious Creative Writing MA course at the University. Rose Tremain, whose career has taken in an Orange Prize for best novel and a Whitbread Award, both studied and taught in the Creative Writing department. Speaking to Concrete last year, Tremain described her first enrollment at UEA as “incredibly exciting” and recalled that the experience at UEA was “something completely different”.
She did, however, recommend that UEA students “burn effigies of the late Denys Ladsun for giving you such miserable buildings”.
If, however, you really want to brag to your friends at clearly inferior universities, it might be worth bringing up Matt Smith, the current Dr Who. The fresh-faced, pointy-haired, time-travelling Dalek killer graduated from UEA with a degree in Drama and Creative Writing.
And if you’re a budding actor holed up in the Drama Studio feeling the crippling weight of the world on your thespian shoulders, console yourself with the thought that John Rhys-Davies trod the same boards as you. Famous for playing Gimli in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Sallah in Indiana Jones, Rhys-Davies is a man with incredible potential during Movember and one of the first crop of UEA students in the 1960s.
Away from epic trilogies, Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson spent their first year at UEA skipping lessons and playing guitar in a punk rock band.
Whitehouse then dropped out and lived in Hackney for a while. Whitehouse, famous for his collaborations with Harry Enfield and his lead role in The Fast Show, has been described by Jonny Depp as “the greatest actor of all time.” So skipping class and forming a punk band is not formally endorsed by this newspaper. But it did work for him.
Of course, UEA fresher, you will be wondering how many famous sportsmen and women have passed through the doors of the Sportspark on the way to the World Cup or jogged past Norwich Cathedral in preparation for that Olympic Gold. How many of these superhuman athletes were once amongst our ranks? Well, none. But Jake Humphreys is from Norwich and he presents F1 on the BBC.