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SWC Alumni: Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar has been one of Northern Ireland’s leading actors for a number of years, and his prominence has continued to grow over the last few weeks as the latest season of Line of Duty came to a conclusion. The dramatic, spoiler threatened, conclusion to the show means that he’s spent the last month or more carefully navigating his way through TV and radio interviews for fear of letting anything slip. Perhaps no surprise then that he was happy to change the line of questioning, and answer a few more relaxed enquires about his time growing up in Enniskillen, and in particular his experience at what was once the Enniskillen Technical College.

Adrian’s teenage years were full of variation. At seventeen he was playing country music and working in a factory; by eighteen he was involved with a local amateur drama group and had joined a cabaret Elvis impersonator band. In this time he also left St Joseph’s College in order to study alternative A Level Courses at “the Old Enniskillen Tech” – a change of path that would eventually lead him to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Much has changed in the time since, not least “the Tech’s” evolution into South West College, but Adrian still believes that education should be built around the opportunity for students to follow what they’re passionate about.

Adrian says, “I was at the Tech around 1977 and 1978. The Technical College was offering A’level courses, that at the time weren’t offered at St. Josephs, and I studied English and Geography in the main building at the Gaol Square.”

These years at the college had a prominent impact on him, encouraging many passions which would remain with him in the future, including sport and drama.

“I really enjoyed my time at the Tech, and in particular meeting Marion Cathcart and John Maxwell. John very decently included me in the Rugby team and gave me a love for the game that has been a great and constant part of my life ever since.

“Marion put on a wonderful production of JB Keane’s Sive, and along with the two local theatre companies, the EADS and St Michaels, this kept my interest in acting and performing as a possibility for the future.

“My English teacher Mr Lindsay tried his best with me but the process of examination was a mystery to me. The first hurdle was to understand the questions. However the poetry of Yeats and Byron have been with me ever since.”

The change of education from secondary school to college offered Adrian a freedom not only in what he was studying, but also in environment, and this is another thing that has stayed with him ever since.

“My best memories are mostly of being in an environment of openness. I had been in the Catholic boys schooling system up to that point, and to be in class with Protestant boys and girls and indeed Catholic girls was like entering a new world.”

“This experience in particular led me to be a patron of Integrated Education, something I know I share in common with John Maxwell and others. There can be no real and lasting future for our society while we have two education systems built on a religious divide. It is an inbuilt obsolescence in the system.”

Dunbar has been a recognisable figure on face and on screen for a long time, as well as working as a writer and a director, but his career has reached a new level with his role as Ted Hastings. He admits that it’s very exciting to find himself in a hit show at this stage of his career, but it hasn’t taken this success to prove to him that he was right to follow his passions all those years ago. That much has always been clear to him, and it’s what he’d advise today’s generation of students in Enniskillen and beyond.

“My advice to all students is to try to allow what they are passionate about inform their career choices. Try to identify as early as you can what makes you excited and passionate and tailor your courses to reflect those passions.”

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