Nicholas Crane re-discovers Anglia Ruskin University

Published: 14 November 2008 at 11:13

Writer, journalist and TV presenter returns to former University to give The Ruskin Lecture 2008.

A former student of Anglia Ruskin University has returned to Cambridge to give The Ruskin Lecture 2008 at the Mumford Theatre.  The lecture, attended by over 100 invited VIP guests, included stories and anecdotes about his life as a writer, journalist, expert cartographer, traveller and TV presenter. 

Nicholas Crane, a presenter from the TV series Map Man, Coast and Great British Journeys graduated from the University’s East Road campus, Cambridge in 1975 with a BA (Hons) degree in Geography.  His return to the university brought back many memories of his life as a student.

Commenting on the event, Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Thorne said:

“We thank Nick Crane for his superb contribution to The Ruskin Lecture.  The fact that he is an alumnus of the Cambridgeshire College of Art and Technology (CCAT) and clearly has fond memories of his time in education, made him the ideal speaker for the event.”

"Nick's presence has helped to make The Ruskin Lecture - during our 150th Anniversary year - very special indeed."

Nicholas said:

"The BA Honours degree in Geography which I studied for three years in what was then CCAT, a forerunner to Anglia Ruskin University, laid the foundation for almost everything I’ve done since. The journalism, radio work and ten books I’ve written have all been underpinned by geography, as have the BBC TV series I’ve presented in recent years."

"CCAT’s outstanding lecturers, the exciting honours course and the sheer fun I had just off Mill Road, were the perfect springboard to adventure!  At the end of my first year at Cambridge, I cycled with my closest friend Doug Whyte, who was on the BSc Geology course, to Greece, and at the end of our second year, we pedalled to Africa."

"At Cambridge, I learned that knowledge is a greater asset than money."

Great British Journeys, which was screened on TV during autumn last year, was Nick’s latest adventure, with each episode focusing on an individual character considered to have been instrumental in discovering Britain.  

"I’d been writing about Britain for about ten years",

said Nick.

"First there was Map Man and then Coast.  I began wondering, who discovered Britain, who actually opened it up?"

Eventually Nick chose eight of the most interesting traveller-chroniclers to have explored our nation, including Gerald of Wales, Daniel Defoe and Thomas Pennant among others, covering Britain from the far north of Scotland to Land’s End, and from the west of Wales to East Anglia.

When asked about the underlying message in Great British Journeys, he responded,

"I feel strongly that there is a generation of people that has turned its back on Britain."

Nick, who stopped recreational flying ten years ago, is keen to promote low-carbon alternatives.  

"There’s no corner of Europe that isn’t accessible by train.  Everyone in Britain lives, at most, 70 miles from the coast.  All of this is close to everybody, and I can’t believe that there are so many beaches deserted in August when Heathrow is clogged with people going abroad on budget charter flights.  There’s a general lack of appreciation of Britain and what we have."

Nick, says his enthusiasm for exploration initially came from his mother and father, who often took him hiking and camping as a boy.  Equipped with O/S maps he used to climb mountains, ride bikes and explore Norfolk with a friend.  Passionate about geography at school, Nick then came to CCAT.

 "I grew up in East Anglia and Cambridge was the dream place to study."

Of the region, Nick says that the geographically,

"East Anglia is very interesting because it is low-lying and will see the first impact of sea-level rise. This is going to alter the coastline faster than any other comparable coastline in the UK – an appalling threat that is already showing signs.  Scientists have outlined that these events are not within the natural cycle of the earth, and humanity will have to employ a collective will in a way it’s never had to before to combat these effects."

The success of Nick’s first book, published by Penguin, encouraged him to become a freelance writer and he began presenting on television four years ago.  His biography of the cartographer Gerard Mercator interested the BBC, who approached Nick to do a series about map making.  He then got the call from the programme makers of Coast.  He says modestly,

"I loathe seeing myself on television but love working on the process of making films for TV!  It’s very demanding but I enjoy the challenge. To know that 3 million people are watching makes it all worthwhile."

Nicholas Crane is currently writing another book about England.  He is married to Annabel Hoxley and has two children, Imogen and Kit.