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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Cumbrian councillor features on ITV documentary 56 Up

The latest instalment of a fascinating ITV experiment following the lives of 14 Britons at seven year intervals was broadcast last night.

Neil Hughes photo
Neil Hughes

Eden Liberal Democrat councillor Neil Hughes was among the group whose lives have regularly appeared on our TV screens since 1964, starting when they were just seven and selected from across the social spectrum.

As a youngster, interviewed for the original Seven Up, Neil spoke of his dream to become an astronaut, or failing that a coach driver.

Last night’s 56 Up caught up with Mr Hughes, who like most of his contemporaries has settled into a life more mundane that he dreamed of as a youngster.

A lay preacher, whose passions are writing and politics, he has became deeply involved in his local community at Bampton, near Shap.

Asked about 56 Up, he seemed rather underwhelmed, commenting: “I’m not terribly interested, to be honest.”

Since the original programme was aired, Neil’s life has taken a number of interesting twists and turns.

As a young man he spent time living in a squat in London, in a caravan in Scotland, and in a hostel in Portsmouth.

While there, he was teaching a Chinese chip shop owner to speak English in exchange for meals.

For the past 12 years, he has lived near Shap, where he says he finds local people to be “tolerant and supportive”.

While living in Cumbria, he was formally adopted as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats.

His website described him as a trained teacher, who was working in a bookshop and had taught both in Britain and abroad, including in Poland.

He spoke also of his work with the homelessness charity Crisis, giving talks in schools and colleges on how to avoid debt and homelessness.

In an interview a few years ago, he said of his move to Cumbria, where he had spent childhood holidays: “It was never my original intention to settle in Cumbria.

“Now I feel part of the community.”

One of his most dearly held ambitions is to have more success with his writing, which includes political plays.

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