“A film that feels good, but not through any Hollywood schmaltz” says the Independent. Last night we watched the Marvellous, a BBC2 film based on the extraordinary life of Neil Baldwin, a life long member of Keele University community, a good friend for many of us since the first day we, as students as well as staff, arrived this remote part of North Staffordshire. “I’ve always got on with people,” Neil says in the film, in the characteristically soft, rich and friendly accent of the Potteries.
It was exactly 18 years ago, in September 1996, I met him for the first time in Keele, not on my very first day on the campus, like many others, but probably it was my second week when I discovered the Sport Center and the Tuesday’s lunch time staff/ graduate student football session. He was there among us, talking enthusiastically and commenting on the match. Soon he became a part of my life in Keele, always there, around the Sport fields, in the Union, in the Union Sq pub, and in the chapel. For a long time I, like many others, didn’t really know what he was doing in Keele, but we didn’t think about it either. He was simply there, almost like an essential part of the place. Even in the nearby town, Newcastle-under-Lyme, mainly in the weekends, always sitting somewhere, or walking slowly with a smile on his face. He never talks alot, talks very little indeed. As today’s Guardian writes in describing Marvellous, “Sometimes less is more.”
Once I was talking to a Turkish friend from Istanbul visiting me in Keele in the Union Sq, and he asked me “isn’t it boring to live and work on this campus almost in the middle of nowhere?” I said something like “I feel, in a strange way, at home here, in the middle of the Midlands. Yes, it is the smallest place and probably remotest place I’ve ever lived, but feels good”. Now I know many others, students as well as staff share these feelings, and the role of Neil in making this place such a warm and friendly community is significant. “There’s only one Neil Baldwin”. Thank you very much Neil.
Bulent Gokay, Keele