Manchester Made One – becoming an etiquette expert

William Hanson

William Hanson graduated from The University of Manchester in 2011. He is now the country’s leading etiquette consultant and has just released his debut book, ‘The Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette’.

I studied BA (Hons.) English Language, Literacy & Communication at Manchester and graduated in 2011 (although couldn’t attend the ceremony as I was working for a high profile Middle Eastern royal family).  My job title is ‘etiquette consultant’ but this gets diluted on television and radio to ‘etiquette expert’: journalists love alliteration, seemingly.  I started my life’s work teaching manners and good behaviour even before I started writing my UCAS application.  My school in Bristol asked me to teach the Year 9s how to set a table and dress for a dinner every Tuesday afternoon – I didn’t do sport so they needed something to keep me occupied.  I soon was aghast at how many people didn’t know really very basic things (like writing thank you letters after you go to someone’s party, or even how to hold a knife and fork).  I became terribly evangelical and precious and started traipsing around the West Country, napkin in tow, talking anyone who would listen.

My two final university choices were Newcastle and Manchester.  Thankfully – as lovely as Newcastle is – I chose Manchester.  I continued my work and one month after starting lectures joined the company I still work for today (now as a senior tutor and Assistant Director of Training), The English Manner.

It wasn’t until my second year that I went co-curricular – mainly as I was busy with work (academic and professional).  I regret not starting with student radio (Fuse FM) sooner, as it really was a joy.  Since leaving (always the way), Fuse FM’s facilities have been upgraded.  I’ve been back for a viewing: imagine going from Fallowfield to Deansgate.  But back in my day we had to cope with being sectioned to a dank corner of the basement with hot water pipes running through both studios making any wannabe broadcaster sweat profusely before they even had chance to play Kaiser Chiefs (or Donna Summer and Alesha Dixon, as I played on my show).

Having enjoyed my radio show so much in second year I was invited to join the station’s committee for my final year as Head of Speech.  I remember my first act in my new role was giving all presenters a talk on good diction and the art of clear speech – vital for radio.  I had learned this having done almost daily radio interviews about etiquette for several years.  Apparently, and I can’t believe this for one second, I came across as a bit of a twit and two people actually walked out quite pointedly.  Amusingly, these are now two of my best friends.  They have since apologised.  In writing.

Whilst I had already been fortunate to gain much radio experience prior to joining Fuse FM, by presenting my own show I was able to see things from the other side of the microphone and I think this has only enhanced my radio performances and outings to date.  I have since commentated on the Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee for BBC Radio 5 Live, CNN Television, and Discovery Channel.

My time as a presenter also extended to Fuse TV, the visual branch of the student media.  My quips to my radio friends about how I was being promoted to TV from radio didn’t go down too well, but I was able in final year (somehow) to balance both media as well as my dissertation and work trip to China.

Experience and laughs aside, what I am most grateful for (and sorry for sounding mushy) is the friends that I have taken away from Fuse FM and TV.  Some of them remain my closest friends to date.  They have all now flourished in their respective careers and it is nice to think that we were all together at ‘the start’ at university crammed into a furnace-esque studio thinking we were BBC Radio 1.

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