I can hardly believe my dream came true

03 Jul 2018

Geoff Edwards, 52, a former Big Issue seller who spent years living on the streets, has won a place to study English Literature at Cambridge University.

Have you ever thought of studying at Cambridge?

Edwards: Frankly speaking, I didn’t even think of applying to Cambridge. I didn’t think Cambridge University would take someone like me. But my tutor encouraged me to apply. It is the first thing I am proud of in my life.

You are greatly fond of reading, aren’t you?

Edwards: Oh yes. I enjoyed reading from a young age and there were always books in my childhood home in Liverpool, where my father worked as a postman and my mother held down an office job.

Did you like to study at school?

Edwards: Well, I didn’t quite enjoy school. I left with O-levels in mathematics and English language but got a U, or “unclassified”, in English literature.

After leaving school, I left Liverpool to work as a field labourer in Kent, Gloucestershire and Scotland. And I always had a book on the go.

Your life wasn’t easy.

Edwards: It wasn’t really. When I arrived in Cambridge, the work dried up and I began living in squats when possible and on the streets when not, picking up books from libraries and charity shops. Reading was a way to “escape”.

With help from homeless charities I began to sell the Big Issue, saving up £20 to go to London on Mondays to pick up the magazines, which I then sold on the streets of the city for the rest of the week.

Your job was connected with literature, in a way.

Edwards: Yes. Besides. selling magazines helped me gain back some self-respect and prompted me to realise that I needed to do something different with my life.

You decided to join Cambridge?

Edwards: That’s it. I went to an open day at Cambridge Regional College, where I arranged to do a gateway course, and then an access course, which would enable me to go onto do a BA in English Literature.

I happened to gain distinctions for every subject on the access course and my tutor recommended me to try for Cambridge, where I took up my place last month.

Your dream came true at last.

Edwards: It’s difficult to believe but it’s so.  Attending the university to study something I loved was “a dream” of mine. Now I am just getting used to the idea that it was actually happening.

This is what I have always wanted to do, but no-one in my family had been to university so I didn’t even consider it.


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