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Neil Forsyth

Football was central to Neil Forsyth's student life and the focus of his first writing job. Since moving on from match reports, he has established a successful career writing for TV and film and is known for creating the sitcom character Bob Servant.

Name

Neil Forsyth

Degree 

Politics

Year of Graduation 2000

Your time at the University  

Neil Forsyth

I chose Edinburgh University because my big brother Alan was already there, and it wasn’t too far from home in Dundee. I enjoyed my Politics degree but I think it would be fair to say that my commitment to extra-curricular activities was slightly beyond my academic application. However, that has left me with lots of lifelong friendships and many happy memories.

I joined the football team during Freshers’ Week and would end up playing for the Firsts for several years. They were wonderful days - the Wednesday afternoon trips around Scotland, Saturdays playing in the East of Scotland League and Monday and Thursday evenings contracting pneumonia at Peffermill. My favourite memories from the University football team were post-match celebrations/commiserations, playing in the Scottish Cup Qualifying Rounds, and the time I scored an injury time, volleyed winner at Gala Fairydean that I like to remind my former teammates of to this day and to their dismay.

I had many part-time jobs in Edinburgh including working in the Three Sisters Pub in the Cowgate, where I would end up working back at for several years while trying to forge a writing career. I lived in Pollock Halls during my first year, and then a shared flat in Marchmont for the rest of my time and have many happy memories of winding my way back across the Meadows with friends after a night out. The fact that was now twenty years ago, however, fills me with existential horror. 

I wanted to be a writer, but my only experience was writing for a Dundee United fanzine as a teenager.

Neil Forsyth

Your experiences since leaving the University

I moved to London after University and worked for two years in advertising, before going travelling and then moving back to Edinburgh for a number of years. I wanted to be a writer, but my only experience was writing for a Dundee United fanzine as a teenager. Eventually I started picking up some freelance journalist work, reporting on football matches for the Scotsman. I didn’t have a car so would catch the train from Waverley all over Scotland where I would phone in my match reports within fifteen minutes of the final whistle. I absolutely loved it.

From there, I started to pick up work writing features for newspapers and magazines. I specialised in true stories. One of them, the story of the credit card fraudster Elliot Castro, would become my first book, ‘Other People’s Money’. I then published two novels, ‘Let Them Come Through’ and ‘San Carlos’, and four humour books based around the character of Bob Servant.

I adapted Bob Servant for the BBC, first for radio and then for two series of a sitcom, and I have been writing for TV and film ever since in the UK and America. I have recently written four Playhouses for SKY, and a drama special for the BBC called ‘Eric, Ernie and Me’ about Morecambe and Wise writer Eddie Braben. I won a Royal Television Society Award and my shows have been nominated for a number of awards including a Writers Guild Award, an International Emmy, and a Scottish BAFTA.

I have several television shows in development, and I hope to one day come back to Edinburgh to film one of them.

Alumni wisdom

I wish I’d been a bit braver at University in getting involved with things that I was interested in like the Student newspaper, or the Drama Society, but I lacked the confidence to do so for whatever reason. If you see something that you want to do, do it!

Related links

Neil Forsyth official website (external link)

Edinburgh University Association Football Club (external link)

 

Last updated October 2018