Alumnus of the month
Aaron Tam Akinyemi is our Westminster City School Alumnus of the Month for January 2021. Aaron left Westminster City School in 2001. He is now a multimedia broadcast journalist and producer at the BBC.
Please tell us a little about yourself – where do you work and how did you get to this role?
I’m a journalist and producer at the BBC. My role involves filming, producing and editing video for TV and online, as well as writing articles that typically focus on global social and human rights issues. I also occasionally present on TV and radio. My job takes me all over the world - I’ve filmed TV documentaries for BBC2 and BBC Africa in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Djibouti, Kenya, DR Congo and the United States.
I knew I wanted to be a journalist while I was still a pupil at Westminster City School. I loved English lessons at school and knew writing was a passion I wanted to pursue as a career. In Year 10, I applied for a two-week work experience placement at News International (publishers of The Times, The Sun and the News of the World). After going on to do A Levels in English, Politics and Sociology, further placements followed at The Guardian, the BBC World Service and The Voice.
I read English and History at Queen Mary, University of London, with a minor in journalism and French at City University. During my studies, I wrote for the university paper, and the summer I graduated, I got a job at a small news company. I then went on to various roles at CNN, Newsweek, BBC2's Newsnight, ITV News and the International Business Times, among others. Journalism is a very difficult and competitive industry to get into - I spent many years freelancing or in fixed-term roles before eventually getting a permanent staff position in my dream role.
What are some of your proudest achievements since leaving Westminster City School?
I’m proud of achieving my boyhood dream of becoming an international journalist. I’m particularly proud of the articles I’ve written on human rights and global social issues in Newsweek magazine, The Guardian and the BBC - especially interviewing the then Prime Minister of Haiti and writing about a Nigerian drummer who had a little-known role in the US civil rights movement. I’m also very proud of the documentary I made in DR Congo about challenging attitudes to sexual violence and presenting a programme in Kenya about masculinity across Africa.
Most recently I travelled around America covering the 2020 US presidential election - I’m very proud of the TV packages I filmed and edited from Atlanta, Texas and Washington D.C., which were broadcast to millions of viewers around the globe on the BBC World News channel.
What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?
My advice is to get as much work experience as possible at your earliest opportunity. This helps give you an idea as to whether or not journalism is a career you will enjoy. And if it is, work experience will let you know which aspect of journalism you’re more interested in - writing, news, broadcast, TV or radio etc. It also gives you experience and arms you with examples of your work which you can show to potential employers.
Finding a good mentor in the industry is also important. This is someone who can give you advice, constructive criticism on your work and also help you with contacts and networking within the industry.
How have your experiences at Westminster City School contributed to your life and successes since leaving school?
I thoroughly enjoyed academic and social life at Westminster City School. Lessons gave me a firm academic foundation which I used to build on in further education and achieve A Levels and my degree. I particularly loved English lessons with Ms Clipsham, who had a genuine interest in my academic development. I also relished summer schools and Mr Bell’s drama lessons, which played a role helping develop my communication, performance and oratory skills.
Can you describe one of your fondest memories from your time at Westminster City School?
Some of the best years of my life were spent at Westminster City School and I look back on those years, my friends and some of the teachers with great fondness. Memorable moments are too numerous to count. One that stands out is performing my humorous limerick about a particularly strict teacher (who will remain unnamed!) in the grounds of Westminster Abbey to rapturous laugher from parents and Headteacher at the time, Mr Tanton.
Other memorable moments include our Year 11 trip to Disneyland Paris; dozens of fun drama performances and English lessons; services at St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey, summer water fights and a few of us performing our poems at Soho Theatre.
I have a documentary series coming up and will be doing some filming in Asia in the near future. I plan to continue telling interesting stories that shed light on underreported issues across the globe - both behind and in front of the camera. I also plan to build on my school-time interest in drama and acting in my spare time. I’m appearing in an upcoming thriller film, with hopefully more cinematic projects to come in the future alongside my journalism.
We love hearing what our alumni have been doing since leaving Westminster City School. Each month, we are inviting a member of our alumni community to share their story of life after Palace Street. If you’re an alumnus who would like to take part, or you’d like to volunteer an alumnus that you know, then please drop us an email.