Actor, writer and former pupil Ralf Little, who left Bolton School in 1998, returned to his alma mater to deliver a humorous and instructive 45th Tillotson Lecture. Entitling the presentation, ‘Reflecting on a 20 Year Career in the Arts’ or ‘Ralf Little’s Unimportant Opinions’, he offered the audience of pupils, parents, teachers and the local community a series of life-hacks which he wished he had been told when he was a young man. Cleverly intertwining key moments in his life with 22 nuggets of advice, Ralf delivered an open and honest reflection on his findings so far.
He took the audience back to the beginning recalling how he came through Bolton School’s infant and junior schools before moving up to senior school and making his way with a local drama group in his hometown of Bury. Aged 13 he landed a role in Sloggers, much to the amusement of his classmates. This led him into life lesson number one – what people at school think about you does not matter! Ralf still felt indebted to the school’s headmaster of the time, Alan Wright, for letting him take time off to pursue his acting and at the time was determined to work hard to repay the trust that had been placed in him.
He then received his ‘big break’ and needed to be out of school for 12 weeks to film the Royle Family. This fed into his next piece of advice – own your mistakes, for you will make them! He again praised the extraordinary headteacher at the time who supported him, saying the school was about preparing rounded, unique individuals for the world not just academics and if acting would make you a better person then you should do it.
Then followed a candid question and answer session in which he talked about his voiceover work in Monkey Life, how he had turned down a professional football contract for a lower league team, tales from the filming of 24 Hour Party People and what the real Ricky Tomlinson is like.
Earlier in the day, Ralf spent time with pupils discussing how to juggle academic studies with other interests, delivering a masterclass to aspiring actors on the differences between stage, TV and film acting and playing badminton with some of the school’s star players.