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Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Naila Barrett

(English with Creative Writing BA, 2021)

My writing has changed astronomically. I came to Queen Mary with a want, but not much of a way. I had no idea how to write academically, let alone critically to a university standard! I was definitely a blank canvas. The support of many fabulous lecturers is a testament to the writer and person I am now.


Selfie-style photo of Naila Barrett. She is standing in front of a hedge and is smiling.

Why did you decide to study the BA in English and Creative Writing at Queen Mary? 

When choosing a university at 17 years old, I knew two things. One, I wanted to stay in London and pursue my dreams of becoming an actor/presenter, and secondly, I needed to be somewhere with an excellent English programme which would allow me to build on my love of poetry, theatre, and script writing. So, I am sure you can understand my shock when I saw a course, in London, that matched my desires so closely (I was a little freaked out!)  

I loved how central the university was, paired with the campus touch - it just felt like I couldn’t turn it down. Put it this way, if Queen Mary was on a dating site - I would have swiped right.  

How was the course structured and what did you enjoy most about it? 

The course felt very much 50/50 with English and Creative Writing, although I do think factually that content-wise it was more 70/30 towards English. 

We covered a range of topics from Shakespeare (wouldn’t expect anything else) to Art Histories. We had grouped lectures, which I actually enjoyed (pre covid!) and then smaller seminars for around 10-15 people. I love a good discussion, so seminars were the best bit for me! The best discussions came if you didn’t like a book, believe it or not!  

I couldn’t talk about what I enjoyed without giving a huge shoutout to Senior Lecturer and my dissertation supervisor, Nisha Ramayya. She is the epitome of what it means to be a good teacher, a good person. She is impassioned and witty, she made my Queen Mary experience what it was! She taught my creative writing lessons from 1st year all the way to the end! We would do free writing, peer reviewing and analyse other poetic texts with her - it was always a joy. 

How do you feel your writing has changed as a result of your degree? 

My writing has changed astronomically. I came to Queen Mary with a want, but not much of a way. I had no idea how to write academically, let alone critically to a university standard! I was a blank canvas.  

The support of many fabulous lecturers is a testament to the writer and person I am now. You won’t click with every lecturer, but when you do - it changes your whole experience. The skills I learnt at university, I 100% use to this day. 

What were some of your best experiences during your time at Queen Mary? 

My best experience came during Covid. Everything was online, (unfortunately) and morale was low. We were all stuck at home, and it was challenging. However, I made a group of 3 friends from our online seminars who I had seen during the first year a lot but never spoke to as much. When covid hit, strangely, it encouraged communication. Communication was a huge life support for me, and it made everyone lean on each other.  

Another wonderful thing for me was all the societies I was a part of. I met friends for life through the African and Caribbean Society. It was so important to me to join a society with people who understood my life experiences and who I could support and who could support me! I found my love of Radio when I joined Quest Radio as a Radio host. It is such a fantastic society and really improved my confidence to present live (which I now do professionally?! Pinch me!) I and three others were even given the chance to present a radio show in association with BBC Music Introducing! It was such an invaluable experience, and I cannot express how grateful I was for this. 

You have shared that your academic performance was not great at School but your experience at Queen Mary really changed things for you. Can you talk us through your experience? 

At school, I was a huge talker – more into having a chat than doing Maths; gossip over Geography; more into playground politics, than Downing Street (even though I now realise the two are synonymous). I never felt that my secondary school believed in me, and I feel like I fell through the cracks. If someone told 15-year-old me that I would graduate from a Russel Group university with first class honours, I would have told them to ‘shut the front door’! My two English teachers, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Huntington were two teachers who truly rooted for me. I worked so hard at university so that their belief in me wasn’t in vain.  

With university, you get what you give. If you are proactive, involved in seminars and emailing lecturers outside of lessons - you will find assignments are easier, becoming involved in the work is easier and university is easier. I really got out what I put in!  

What are you doing now that you have completed your degree and what opportunities have you had since graduating? 

I feel like I haven’t stopped since finishing university! I was incredibly lucky to land a job two months after finishing university. I work at the brilliant National Youth Theatre as the Membership and Communications Coordinator. This role lets me fulfil my love of social media, theatre, presenting and providing opportunities for young people.  

I also freelance as a creative, most recently curating a campaign for International Women’s Day for the fantastic organisation, Sound and Music UK as a campaign coordinator.  

Since graduating I have had amazing opportunities which I am so grateful for. Most recently, interviewing Bridgerton’s, Calam Lynch for NYT. In addition to this, I created a mini-series for Sound and Music, called ‘The Guestlist’ where I interviewed three amazingly talented women / non-binary talent with the purpose of bridging the gap in the industry and finding out how people got to where they are! One of the guests I interviewed was Jesley Faye, who I met at Queen Mary - it all links back to Queen Mary!  

What would your advice be to others interested in studying a BA in English and Creative Writing? 

As a creative writing student, it is only right I give advice in poem form: 

How to convert words into scripture 

Really fall in love with it 

if you can 

but if you can’t 

with everything in you  

find the light of this degree 


& then read some more 

read until words become like scripture 

unreadable strokes  

fall in love with the words, the meanings, the hue, the current 

situation will never be as bad as you think 

hindsight is (trigger warning) 

20 20 

once you have formed a bond  

that can articulate the howl in your gut 

that yearns 

to be a writer, to write 

that for some reason 

meets an assignment paper 


at 2am on Mile End Campus 

reconnect with the love of words 

for that is far bigger than any degree  

& as if scripture  

you will find the way 



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