Lancaster’s third university degree for “literary impresario” Damian Barr

Damien Barr.

This is Lancaster’s third degree for Damian, who previously obtained a BA in Sociology and English Literature in 1998, followed by an MA in Contemporary Sociology in 1999.

He is grateful to Lancaster for his academic achievement and for helping him transform his life, allowing him to embark on a brilliant career after a chaotic and underprivileged childhood, which he wrote about in his memoir Maggie & Me.

He credits the start of his phenomenal success to the welcome and support offered by the University, where he received hardship funding and emotional support at a crucial time in his life.

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Damian said: “Lancaster was a home for me. I felt calm and safe there and there was a sense of community. I am extremely grateful to Lancaster for giving me this time and space.

Now a member of the Royal Society of Literature, Damian has been described by the Financial Times as a “literary impresario” and by The Guardian as “one of the most connected men in publishing”.

He was ranked by GQ as one of Britain’s 100 Most Connected Men and One of The Bookseller’s Top 150 Writers in 2020.

He said: “Books are at the heart of my life and I am fortunate to make a living telling stories. I share stories to help us understand ourselves and others better, ask better questions, not provide easy answers.

His memoir of his childhood in 1980s Scotland, Maggie & Me, has won him several major awards; Radio 4 Book of the Week, Sunday Times Memoir of the Year and Stonewall Writer of the Year.

You Will Be Safe Here, her novel about South Africa, was a Bedtime Radio 4 book and Book of the Year in the Observer, Guardian and Financial Times.

He is currently the host of the Literary Fair and runs the BBC’s Big Scottish Book Club. He also acts as a literary judge, host, columnist, playwright and short story writer.

It all started with the chances he was given at Lancaster University. Damian was supported by four years of weekly therapy to deal with nightmares, anxiety and post-traumatic stress from his childhood.

“Access to free, regular therapy was as essential to me as my degree in propelling me on a path to a healthy and happy adult life,” he said.

His studies at Lancaster also prepared him for a career as a journalist and then as a writer. He also spent his second year of undergraduate scholarship at the University of Texas, Austin, with a scholarship that covered his education but not his accommodation.

He ended up receiving support from an anonymous benefactor in Glasgow, who only asked for a letter detailing his progress once a month.

He earned a master’s degree in sociology and thanks to Lancaster’s close ties to industry, he obtained a two-week work experience at The Times which led to his first job in the newspaper’s student online publication.

This turned out to be his passport to a career as a journalist, writing for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and High Life.

He even met her future husband Mike Moran at Lancaster University, whom he considers the “greatest thing” to ever happen to him.

Summarizing Lancaster’s legacy, he said: “It has made me feel more secure, more able to take place in the world and has made me successful and happy.


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