Schooldays Anita Roddick
Source: The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Date: May 29, 2002
Byline: Leila Farrah
Where did you go to school?
St Catherine's, a convent school, and
Littlehampton Junior School, West Sussex, then the local
secondary junior school to prepare for the 11-plus. I failed and
went to Maud Allan School, which was for working-class girls,
then Worthing High.
Did you like school?
My Catholic schools taught storytelling
and moral education. Everything was religious education, and what
an education I had! It puts chills down me thinking how brilliant
it was. School fascinated me because there were charts,
visual-aid materials, radio, television. I relished it all. I
spent two utterly bloody miserable years at Worthing High School
because they "was a posh lot".
Did you get into trouble?
I'd pocket my money, have a free school
meal and then buy books. Got caught, got the slipper, so I
pleaded poverty and my headmistress summoned my mother to her
office to give me more money. Miss Parker sat on a high stool and
always had her parrot in the room.
What subjects were you good at?
My brilliant subject was English. I
love language and poetry. Also history was phenomenally exciting:
Roman Britain and the First World War. To this day, the stuff I
learned stayed with me. I remember going home from school every
Friday and thinking: "God! How much have I learned - from
music to stories, theatre, art, talent competitions, games."
There wasn't this conveyor belt shoving everybody through exams.
Did you have a favourite teacher?
My teachers were breathtaking,
mysterious people who had no husbands and were passionate about
their subjects and related them in a way that wasn't just
academic. Not one of them tried to suppress my brio and
enthusiasm. My education at this stage was nothing to do with O'
levels, but based on reading the social writers such as John
Steinbeck and George Orwell.
One teacher was barking mad and told us
she had been one of Hitler's mistresses. Miss Eades taught French
and art and every day it was thrilling to hear her talk.
Miss Springham wore blue eye-shadow. It
was like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
What did you want to do?
I became a person of such enthusiasm
that I won a scholarship to the London School of Music and Drama.
University or college?
My headmistress and my mum, a little
Italian countrywoman, said I should go into teacher-training
because I'd be able to perform all day.
I went to Newton Park in Bath to learn
how to teach English and history.
I always say the best things I did as a
teacher were in the Body Shop when the company became more
What do you wish you had learned at
I regret not learning music.
What is the most important lesson you
have learned outside formal education?
Challenge everything. Learn to love
libraries. Look at dissenting viewpoints. I believe passionately
that travel is a university without walls . The writer Gunther
Grass said the job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open.
Anita Roddick is an environmental
campaigner who started The Body Shop, 25 years ago. It has grown
into a cosmetics empire of more than 2,000 stores in 50
countries. In February, Mrs Roddick and her husband, Gordon,
stepped down as executive directors.