Where are they now? Iain Harvey

Accountancy & Financial Management graduate, Iain Harvey talks to the Development and Alumni Relations Team about his University experience and what he is doing now. Iain is currently a Producer at the Illuminated Film Company. One of his most notable projects was as Executive Producer of the Christmas classic; The Snowman.

What attracted you to study at the University of Sheffield?

At that time (1968 - gulp, where did the years go?) it was not necessarily part of the procedure to have Photo of Iain laughinginterviews or visit. So I ended up at Sheffield without any prior knowledge of the city, attracted purely by the strength and breadth of the course. Mind, I nearly suffered for it as I said in a loud London accent on my first night in a pub that I had never been to Lancashire before! I discovered then the tolerance and good humour of Yorkshire people.

What is your fondest university memory?

I loved from the beginning the easy access both to the city centre and the Peak District, but one memory stands out most sharply. It was a beautiful snowy morning, and we had an enjoyable walk from the halls of residence past the Botanical Gardens and down to the Arts Tower for lectures. Imagine our delight when we discovered all were cancelled - I spent the rest of my day (it happened to be my 18th birthday) listening to a pile of borrowed records.

What bit of advice would you tell your first-year self?

To ensure you make the most of the sporting and other non-course facilities on offer. For some reason, I missed out on University sports and that was a mistake, not because of any sporting prowess but for the social and teamwork elements. If not into sport, at least join one or more of the special interest clubs/societies.

What else were you involved in when you were at University (clubs/societies etc)?

See my mistake above. I did spend many weekends exploring the Peaks - stunning scenery and superb pubs.

As an alumnus of the University yourself, do you think that it is important for the University to keep in touch with its former students?

Very much so: it may not seem apparent for some time, as one progresses in your career etc., but Sheffield provided me with a fantastic education and a broad social experience which I value to this day. We are especially lucky given its superb central location (both in the city and the country) - my life is London-centric but having a daughter that chose the Medical School gave me a second chance to savour the good times I recall. Most importantly, especially given the financial pressures on every aspect of life nowadays, is the chance to see if the University still justifies your support - and this has been very apparent to me thanks to the Alumni programme.

Tell us a little bit about your current job.

I am a film/television producer running an animation studio in west London. It is varied, sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating and I feel very privileged to be able to make a living from something I enjoy so much.

Why did you decide to take the career path you did?

A series of accidents and chances, which is why I believe that you must always keep your eyes open to what the world offers, and never be negative about anything. My course at Sheffield lead me straight to qualifying with what is now KPMG as a chartered accountant; from that I fell into journalism (partly because I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do), then into publishing. As that company (part of the Penguin group) specialised in children's books, I became involved in animation by supporting THE SNOWMAN, of which I became Executive Producer. From that step and the experience it gave me, I eventually formed my own company, Illuminated Films.

Did your degree help you with what you are doing now?

Absolutely. Even when I no longer needed my accountancy qualifications, I still had the analytical mind that my course helped give me. One lecturer I especially recall with fondness was a good old fashioned Welsh socialist teaching us (Mr Idris Hicks); coming from a more conservative background, I recognised the power of a vision and a passion. That is vital when I am trying to persuade investors to part with their money!

What has been a personal highlight of your career?

It's still to come, I hope! What I recall most is seeing kids react positively to films you have had a hand in; that somehow motivates you the most. One of the most surreal experiences was watching an audience in Rio watch a poorly dubbed version of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS (the Raymond Briggs anti-nuclear satire) at an open air screening. How they understood (and laughed at) this very English black comedy confirmed my passionate belief in the universality of peoples and their aspirations.

What do you do in your spare time?

Lots! My sporting passion (making up for a mis-spent youth) is real tennis, the strange indoor originator of lawn tennis. I also love skiing, watching cricket and theatre. Of course I also read a lot (what a fantastic writer the Sheffield alumnus Hilary Mantel is), and see many films. I keep dreaming of writing, but that's another story.


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