January 22, 2021

Old Boys update – Alastair Garner (2005-2012)

Alastair was part of NSB since before it even had a name! He started out at Ascham School in 2002 and stayed on beyond the merger with Newlands and the formation of NSB, until leaving sixth form in 2012. He is part of the very fabric from which NSB has been built. Alistair is well known as one of NSB’s many talented musical alumni. Mr Hopkinson caught up with him last week to find out what he has been up to since he left NSB.

What you have been up to since you left NSB? 

When I left NSB in 2012 (wow I feel old now) I went to Leeds Conservatory to study music production which was a great three years of my life. During my time in Leeds, I was working with my band, now known as Friends Like These (shameless plug), and also running my own business, AG Events, which at the time ran club nights and student events around the city. In my third year, I realised that the 4am finishes involved with running student events were not ideal for my final year at university, so I moved the business more towards the corporate/wedding scene. I graduated in 2015 and moved myself and the business back up to Newcastle, as there was a big gap in the market for quality event providers. The first year was a slow year, however it gave me time to build the foundations of the business and spread the word and advertise throughout the North East. In 2017, the business gained some traction and now in 2021 we have 4 members of staff and provide our services at hundreds of events each year. We have luckily managed to keep busy during the pandemic with home events and it’s looking like the end of 2021 and 2022/23 is going to be a crazy time of work. 

During the various lockdowns my band has had some success via YouTube & Spotify which has been amazing and finally the 10 years of hard work is really starting to pay off! 

What have been your greatest achievements as a musician since leaving NSB? 

Since leaving NSB I have been lucky to have had some great experiences as a musician, my band Friends Like These opened for Simply Red on their ‘Big Love’ Tour in 2018 which was an incredible experience. In 2020/21 we have been very active on YouTube and racked up nearly 4 million views on our channel which has allowed us to finally earn some money, turning what was mainly a hobby, into a job which is a major achievement for me after years of investment (financial and time). 

What are your plans for the future? 

Our goal as a band for 2021 is to release some new original music now that we have a growing online fan base and hopefully keep increasing our presence as a band. As most musicians are feeling right now, we just can’t wait to get back on stage! 

In regards to my business for the future, I would like to be in a position by 2022 to take on a business manager as I would love to take a bit of a step back from the daily running of the business so that can focus on my real passion which is music. 

What is your greatest musical memory of your time at NSB?

My greatest musical memory from NSB has to be singing “You’ve got a Friend in Me” with my my good friend Jonny Reid at our final school prize day. My girlfriend will tell you I’m not an emotional person (“who doesn’t cry at the end of Marley and Me!”) but that performance was quite emotional and seemed to nicely sum up our time at the school and our relationship with peers and teachers. 

What advice do you have for our current students who want to pursue a career in music? 

Very cliché but please do not give up on what you love doing as it will pay off if you are truly passionate about it. You don’t have to be the best by any means, I am far from it and there were hundreds of better musicians than me at University. Persistence and determination is key which is true for me as I have only just started to reap the benefits from nearly a lifetime of wanting to have success with my music. 

A quote from one of the founders of McDonalds which has always stuck with me and in my opinion is applicable to success of any kind and something I have applied to my music and also my business. “Nothing in this world can take place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Persistence and determination are the most powerful traits you can have when aiming for success”. 

What is the best advice you can give our students about their time at school?

As many teachers will tell you, I wasn’t academically the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree and I certainly wish I had worked harder at some subjects, it would have made my last year of sixth form far less stressful trying to bring my grades up so I would be accepted into my university choices! 

But despite this, I was involved with most extra curricular activities, mainly music but also occasionally sporting teams. I can still see the fear in Mr Hogarth’s eyes when he saw me step onto the bus to go to a match which he was previously confident we would win. But that’s one of the great things about NSB, if you want to try something, you can no matter how good you are at it. 

In summary, my best advice would be first and foremost to work as hard as you can, as it certainly makes your life a lot easier down the line. Secondly, get involved in everything you can to find things you are really interested in, you should never be bored in life! 

Finally, do what you love to do. The amazing thing about NSB over many other schools is that you are free to follow the things you love to do, not what you feel like you should be doing so grab that opportunity with both hands. If you have a passion in life, follow that passion, stick with that passion, and it won’t let you down.