Beyond Penrice: Matthew Shepherd

Former Student Matthew Shepherd is a researcher for BBC South West, based at BBC Radio Cornwall in Truro. Earlier in the year he was part of the production team behind the BBC’s interview with students, staff and our resident Therapy Dog, Harvey. You can read about the interview here.

We took the opportunity to find out what Matthew is up to, what he remembers about his time at Penrice Academy and how he became friends with Pudsey Bear…

Pictured: Mathew (left) at a recent charity show he hosted in Helson, with Gragam Fenton from the band Matchbox.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I grew up in a village called Polgooth and attended both St Mewan and Penrice. I loved my time at Penrice; taking part in loads of plays under Roger Larham (including To Kill a Mockingbird where I played Atticus Finch and had to recite a two page court speech!) I was also really lucky to be Deputy Head Boy at the school as well. I made some awesome friends at Penrice and I am lucky to still be in touch with a lot of them.

What are you up to now and how did you get there?

While I was still at Penrice I started a casual weekend job at BBC Radio Cornwall. I never thought it would last. I was 15 and working for the BBC. It was a very cool time! I went away to study Journalism in Surrey and, when I came back, I started DJ’ing in the evening around pubs and hotels. During the day I worked on a voluntary basis for both BBC Radio Cornwall and the Cornish Guardian. I had great times in both offices but, after three months, Radio Cornwall offered me a three month contract, and that three months turned into 21 years.

My job involves setting up interviews for radio and television, sourcing guests and finding case studies for news stories. I also go out and record interviews for both TV and Radio. I often package up the reports for radio use. My bizarre claims to fame include being the warm up act for the Teletubbies at the Royal Cornwall Show on the BBC stage and being a good friend of the one and only Pudsey Bear! A surreal moment was walking into the dressing room of McFly (now known as McBusted) to do an interview with the band and they were playing hardcore dance music!

When did your interest in the media begin?

It all started when I was about eight years old. On wet days in Polgooth I would sit up in my bedroom, in front of a computer and pretend I was hosting a TV show which I called Snake Cube. It was my take on CBBC. I used a hairbrush for a microphone! My parents had no idea I was doing it…

Who inspires you?

So many people. Your parents inspire you from day one, the friends you make, the teachers you have, the people you work with, those you interview over the years. Far too many to mention!

Can you remember who inspired you back at Penrice?

My first English teacher was called Mrs North. In our very first year at Penrice we did an outdoor version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We were 11 years old. It was great to be involved in. There’s still a fuzzy old version of the play kicking around some cupboards in the school I’m sure!

I may sound like a bit of a creep – but all my teachers were great. I had my favourites of course. I think there’s only one of my teachers still left at the school (That shows how ancient I am!) and Roger Larham was definitely a favourite. A brilliant Drama and English teacher who gave me the opportunity to have some parts in plays that I still treasure to this day.

Kerena Rundle taught me German and was my fantastic Form Tutor too. I had the pleasure of going to her retirement party last year and it was certainly one of my favourite nights of the year.  Others that spring to mind are Mrs Strookman (Strooky!) Mr Step, Mr Reader, Mr Pollard, Mrs Davies. All great teachers and real characters.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Lottery winner…but in reality hopefully still working for the BBC and by then I will be dad to a 16 year old son – oh wow!

What advice would you give a Year 11 leaving the school this year?

Be yourself – reach for your goals. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your dreams. You can! Best of luck to you all.