Jackie Holderness

 Picture of Jackie

Jackie studied English and Art (with a year of Italian) at Aber, graduating in 1975. During her time there, she helped to edit and illustrate a student magazine and to organize several arts events. Since then she has worked in Education, in the UK and overseas, as a teacher, writer, lecturer (Oxford Brookes University), consultant, trainer and school governor. 

What do you remember most about your time at Aber?

My clearest memories of my time at Aber revolve around friends and the Theatr y Werin, where I worked backstage, occasionally on stage, and up in the lighting box, operating the spotlight for touring companies, including the Ballet Rambert. I enjoyed all my courses, thanks to the wonderful tutors and lecturers who inspired us and skillfully nurtured us into adulthood. In my last year, I lived on a coastal farm and reveled in the beautiful rolling countryside and the sea. I know now how formative all my undergraduate experiences were because all those various elements are all still central to my life.

What are you doing now career-wise and how has your Aberystwyth Degree helped?

For the last five years, I have worked as Education Officer for Christ Church Cathedral, where I run the education and outreach programme for schools and families and very much enjoy introducing children and adults to 1,300 years of history and heritage, through the stunning architecture. I explain to the Primary and Secondary pupils who come to visit that I have one of the most beautiful classrooms in the world and they usually agree. It’s very special seeing their eyes open wide with awe and wonder when they first enter our sacred space or visit our medieval shrine.

Oxford’s patron saint is an Anglo-Saxon princess, called Frideswide. Her name meant ‘Great Peace’ and her story inspired me to switch from writing educational publications to her first picture book, which was published by the Bodleian Library and is called ‘ The Princess who Hid in a Tree’. To my great surprise and delight, the Bodleian submitted the book for the 2020 Illumination Award, and the book was awarded the Gold medal in the Children’s Picture Book category. http://www.illuminationawards.com/15/2020-medalists

Studying and living in Aberystwyth enabled me to develop my love of literature and the arts. The joint honours degree allowed me to combine my visual and literary strengths and gave me the breadth, knowledge and skills I needed for a career in education.

What advice would you have for a student doing your course now?

Enjoy the place and build up a reservoir of positive memories, I have only been back twice since I graduated, but on both occasions, the place spoke to me very warmly and re-awaked fond recollections. Use your weekends and summers to work outside the University world, to develop flexibility and broaden your experience. Stay focused on your studies and allow them to stimulate and follow your heart and your curiosity. Take advantage of the many clubs and societies and be courageous enough to participate fully in what University life has to offer. Enjoy the social scene but look after your body and mind. Stay healthy and value the walks and the beach. Make good use of the wonderful libraries and develop sound research skills which will be eminently transferable. Be prepared that your career path may not be the one you imagined. I had intended to run an art gallery or be a poet! But perhaps writing picture books may be the logical conclusion to those unfulfilled dreams of mine? Whatever you achieve, you will look back and realise that Aber will have provided you with the space, geography and time you needed to grow.