“Coming to Northampton College gave me the chance to open my mind and see the world from another perspective. It allowed me to meet people I‘d never normally meet, I listened to them and learnt from them. My world got bigger overnight.”
With his debut album earning five star reviews, collaborations in the bag with the likes of Skepta and performances at Reading and Leeds Festivals booked in for the summer, former Northampton College music technology student Tyron Frampton (better known as slowthai) is on the verge of the big time.
But the grime artist, regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in the UK, is not letting the success change him.
“I’m not leaving Northampton” he said, during a visit to Booth Lane just hours after his critically-acclaimed album ‘Nothing Great About Britain’ dropped. “I love the people here, I love my family and I love the smell of the air. This year I have travelled more than ever, I’ve seen South Africa, I’ve seen Dubai but I feel like I belong here in Northampton.
“You have to stay true to yourself in life. Surround yourself with good people who will tell you straight, not just what they think you want to hear and do what’s right for you. That’s what will set you apart. That’s what will make you different.”
His experiences at home in Northampton have shaped much of the content of his album. “We’re all a product of our environment and conditioned by the people around us” he says, while handing around a plate of chocolate digestives and jammie dodgers to current students who have come to listen to him in the lecture theatre at Booth Lane.
“I wrote ‘T N Biscuits’ after getting my new loafers filthy while walking in the mud in Abington Park on the day I lost my job in Next. I’d got sacked for giving my mate a discount on a new suit and I thought ‘nah, this ain’t for me’. I couldn’t do that job, I needed to focus on music.
“I started writing and I worked hard. I’d sleep on the floors of music studios in London for weeks on end. I’d churn out 1,000 rubbish songs in the hope of finding five good ones. I’ve never been afraid of failing. Keep on trying because every failure is a lesson. Fail until you can fail no more, then you will find success.”
The 24-year-old is certainly finding success right now. He was a Level 3 Music Technology student at the college in 2011 and, since leaving, has established himself as one of the hottest new acts in the UK. He’s been named one of the BBC’s top five acts to watch in 2019 and is quickly earning a worldwide reputation for his progressive lyrics and unique style blending grime, rap, dubstep and garage.
He was listed at number four in the BBC’s Sounds of 2019 poll – an annual search for the artists most likely to break into the mainstream over the next 12 months. His music has been championed by Radio 1 and he has recently returned from a sell-out European tour.
It’s all a long way from his upbringing on a Northampton council estate but staying true to his roots is a key part of slowthai’s message. He has enlisted the help of his cousin and another former Northampton College student, Lewis Levi, to act as his manager and best mate Rufus, who he met at Booth Lane, is his right hand man.
“Rufus is probably my biggest influence” said slowthai. “If I hadn’t have come to college and met this guy, none of this would have happened. I was ignorant to the world that existed outside of my little circle but he enabled me to see what else was out there.
“My time at college allowed me to make better choices in life. I could easily have gone down a very different path but thankfully I chose music.”
Spending an hour with current students before heading off to sign copies of his album for fans, slowthai had plenty of advice for young musicians looking to follow in his footsteps.
He said: “If you’re a fish in the ocean don’t stay in your little rock pool, get out there, have a swim and see who’s around. Keep knocking on doors, work out where you want to be, who you want to work with and find a way of getting there. Most importantly, say everything and do everything as though you mean it, no half measures. Carry yourself properly, be a decent person and be confident.”
His album launch coincided with Love Our Colleges week – a national campaign to lobby Government to put Further Education at the heart of the forthcoming spending review – and slowthai had a special message for Prime Minister Theresa May.
“People need education and colleges give people an alternative view on life, the ability to have confidence in themselves and to learn and grow. They deserve support.”
A former Northampton College art student has been included alongside the likes of The Pope, Donald Trump and Lady Gaga in a list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Billionaire businesswoman Pat McGrath, known as the ‘stylist to the stars’ for her work in the global make-up and beauty industry, was named in Time Magazine’s annual list of world leaders and rubbed shoulders with her fellow nominees at a lavish gala in New York.
It’s a long way from Booth Lane, where she took an art foundation course in the mid 1980s, and college staff are thrilled to see the progress of their star student.
Former teacher Julie Teckman said: “Pat’s journey has been phenomenal. It’s incredible to think just how far she has progressed since arriving at Booth Lane as a 16-year-old girl to her position now as one of the most powerful women in the world.
“Her story is truly inspirational and proves that if you work hard enough and channel your passion and ability anything is possible. She’s arguably Northampton’s greatest export and someone for the whole town to be proud of. All our students should look at her and think ‘that could be me’.”
Pat’s career has seen her develop a line of cosmetics for Giorgio Armani and enjoy a spell as global beauty design director for Proctor & Gamble, where she created collections for CoverGirl and MaxFactor.
She now has her own brand of beauty products, ‘Pat McGrath Labs’, available in Selfridges and can regularly be found at leading fashion shows around the world working with leading designers such as Prada, Versace, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton.
Writing in Time Magazine, supermodel and author Beverly Johnson, the first African-American model to appear on the cover of Vogue, said: “When I started modelling, there were no black makeup artists. We were just trying to get people to really see us. All you want to do is to be seen for who you are.
“Pat McGrath allows us to be seen. Her bold, beautiful colours make a statement. You usually don’t get that with world-renowned makeup artists. People are afraid of stepping outside the box.
“People of colour have long been immersed in beauty, from adorning our bodies and our hair in Egyptian times and in African culture to inspiring street-wear trends. But we have never really been celebrated for our contributions to the fashion industry. And now we have this woman, this creative genius, being celebrated not only for her artistry, but also for her business acumen. It’s something we just haven’t seen before.
“Pat must already have the sense that she can do anything, because you have to have that in order to be able to do what she’s doing. In our business, she’s a legend already.”
Next week marks Love Our Colleges Week, with a series of events lined up to lobby Government over the importance of fairer funding to support the work of Further Education (FE) institutions up and down the country.
Principal of Northampton College, Pat Brennan-Barrett, said: “It’s essential the Government understands the difference FE can make to peoples’ lives. Nobody better illustrates that difference than Pat McGrath.
“Her achievements prove that anyone can achieve their dreams, all they need is a chance. Colleges give people that chance and the Government needs to recognise that they, in turn, need to give colleges the resources we need to be able to do what we do best – prepare the next generation of pioneers, business leaders and influencers.”
Northampton College will host a multi-faith ‘Iftar’ dinner to mark Ramadan and bring together communities from across the county.
The dinner, which will be attended by Conservative MP for Northampton South Andrew Lewer, will see up to 120 people gather for a special meal after sunset on Thursday, May 23.
Northampton College principal Pat Brennan-Barrett said: “Northampton is a town with residents from all four corners of the globe, representing almost every country, every religion and every race. We are thrilled to be bringing the community together under one roof to celebrate Ramadan.”
The event is being staged by the East Midlands branch of the Bangladesh Caterers’ Association.
Guests will be served a traditional Iftar meal featuring fruits and a porridge-like dessert. Dates will be given to all those attending to emulate the Prophet Mohammad, who broke his fast this way.
BCA spokesman Naz Islam said: “We are very grateful to Northampton College for hosting this event in their wonderful facilities at Booth Lane. We look forward to welcoming guests from across the region to Northampton and showcase our rich, vibrant, multi-ethnic culture. These traditions go back centuries and we are looking forward to sharing our customs with guests of every faith.”
Andrew Lewer, Conservative MP for Northampton South said: “Ramadan is clearly an important time in the Muslim calendar and this event is a wonderful way of bringing the community together to celebrate as a whole.“
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