Alumni Services

Harriet Cunningham

From the Student to the Sydney Morning Herald. English Literature and Latin graduate, Harriet Cunningham takes us through the journey.

Name Harriet Cunningham (nee Wilson)
Degree Course MA Hons in English Literature and Latin
Year of Graduation 1990
Harriet Cunningham

Your time at the University

I chose Edinburgh because it was the furthest university from my home town of London. This was in the days of student grants, housing benefits and no course fees. All I had to do was get there…

I never planned to do Latin, it just sort of happened. It also nearly unhappened, when, during a busy year as manager of the Student Newspaper, I was told that if I didn’t show my face at the next lecture, I’d be out.

I think I also broke the record for worst unseen translation score in my mock finals. Why did you give me such a hard one?, I wailed to my supervisor. I thought I gave you an easy one, he said. But I loved Virgil and Shakespeare with a passion, and that saw me through.

My time at Edinburgh was made up of socialising (Potterrow, Kids Love Jelly, parties and endless coffees in the canteen at the bottom of DHT), playing the violin (in Chamber Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra and in the Patten Quartet, which played for all the balls in term 3), and student journalism (classical music critic and, for six months, manager of the Student newspaper.)

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I’m a writer. In retrospect, I’ve always been a writer, but it took me a while to find my way there.

When I left Edinburgh I went into arts administration, via volunteering. I’d like to work for you. I don’t expect to be paid… has always opened doors for me. I was with British Youth Opera for three years.

I loved Virgil and Shakespeare with a passion, and that saw me through.

Harriet Cunningham

In 1992 I went on a working holiday to Australia and, in my first week there, used the same line on the Sydney Opera House.

They took me on and, to cut a long story short, twenty years later I’m married with two kids and am classical music critic for the Sydney Morning Herald.

I also do copywriting, features and essays and, who knows, one day a book.

Alumni wisdom

Check your brakes before cycling down Mayfield Road.