In praise of Councillor Neil Hughes – 56 Up

If you missed it, it is worth watching the first episode of 56 Up on ITV Player. Aired last night, it is the latest in Michael Apted’s Seven Up series, which filmed a group of seven year olds in 1964 and has since caught up with them every seven years.

One of the group is Liberal Democrat Councillor Neil Hughes, who represents Shap ward on Eden District Council in Cumbria. Neil was previously one of our councillors in Hackney and is also a lay preacher. As you can see from last night’s film, the Seven Up series has followed Neil round different parts of the country as he underwent a period of homelessness and work searches over the years.

Last night’s programme was a joy to behold. We saw Neil in his ward and proudly showing off a toilet block for which he had fought long and hard, speaking at a council meeting and enjoying a local event.

It gives this Liberal Democrat great pride to see that Neil Hughes has so obviously found his niche in Cumbria and that this includes being an (obviously) exemplary councillor.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Grammar Police 15th May '12 - 3:08pm

    Hear, hear.

  • A good councillor and a thoroughly Nice man. Yet another hard working cumbrian Lib Dem! There’s a lot of us! Led by the party president 🙂

  • Glad to see Neil doing well, I used to make him buy raffle tickets at party events in Hackney when I was small.

  • Keith Browning 15th May '12 - 8:09pm

    Makes me feel old – I remember seeing the original – can it be nearly half a century ago?

    Very noticeable that peoples career paths were set very early and most have followed a predictable path. Great to see Neil come through his problems to become a stalwart of his community. Always seemed a decent bloke.

    That generation (and mine) didn’t seem to breed many greedy bankers or people trying to cheat the system.
    The good old days..!!???

  • Steven Bate 16th May '12 - 2:14pm

    I saw a lot of myself in Neil, it was the best part of a very good program. Big difference was I met my wife Linda in 1989, otherwise our lives would have been very similar.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 18th May '12 - 6:02pm

    @ Greg Judge

    As a former steward, I do not recall ever seeing Neil at Conference. I do, however, recall standing behind him in the queue for leaflets / canvass packs ata one of the by-elections: Winchester, I think

  • Ian Stewart 18th May '12 - 8:29pm

    and in 49 weeks and 6 days time I look forward to plenty of help coming north to help Neil defeat the scion of Lowther Castle in the County Council elections. (happy to take names now!)

  • I have been watching the 7UP’s since 28up and seen the earlier ones and was inpressed by Neils confidents to be an astronaught and coach driver to 14 as a teenager to a labourer or builder at 21 then at 28 traveling round western Scotland then at 35 on the Shetland Isles then 42 into politics.
    Pleased to see you are doing well have a good a little boy I would never of imagined you as a church person.its been interesting seeing you on the TV.Good luck with you votes and good luck with this country for the next generation.

  • I spent some time with Neil when I visited the UK in 1994. After I returned to Australia, we stayed in touch for several years and he always kept me informed about what he was doing. I’m really looking forward to seeing the latest series.

  • I have been an avid viewer of 7Up for many years. Of all the children on the programme, my particular favourite was Neil who was an absolutely beautiful and delightful child who, despite suffering from mental illness and the set-back of homelessness, managed to rise above these adversities and and lead a very successful life as an admired and hard-working Councillor. Neil is, in my opinion, an extremely intelligent, articulate and humble gentleman who showed enormous courage to face the rather cynical and, at times, critical observations of the show’s interviewers every seven years despite going through very hard times. Not many people would have that depth of inspirational courage. Well, good on you, Neil! You showed ém, darling! Your success as a Councillor is applauded and your integrity as an honourable and valued member of your community, very much admired!

  • Every time I hear about the return of another 7-year episode, I get struck in a way that nothing in my world does. The shock of hearing it’s time again. The memories of episodes past. It is not so much the anticipation of what happened the participants the last seven years. It is the absolute reminder that all our lives have hit another 7-year mark. A time to reflect, and see what came to pass in our own lives. It is the respect for all those involved in the program, their courage, their loyalty, their reluctant persistance to see this through until the end, a whole life long. The genius of Michael Apted and his vision, his unwavering optimism that a program like this can actually be made, even if it takes a lifetime. It is also the return of the fear of what is no doubt to come; the loss of those we think we came to know so well and with it, the realisation that time will run out for us as well, eventually. This program is what you buy a TV for, just to throw it out again, every seven years.

  • David R Haslam 30th Aug '13 - 5:42pm

    I just watched 56UP on Netflix here in Canton, Michigan USA. I watch 21UP and 28UP when I was still living in England. I’ve been in the States now for 25 years.
    Before I left England, I always voted Lib-Dem, as I always believed they were the true “party-for-the-people”, and I saw in Neil that that is still the case.
    Also, I was amazed to hear that NO ONE has considered publishing Neil’s work. Well, I would like to set the record straight. I have been involved in printing and publishing for almost thirty years, and launched my own publishing company almost five years ago. Can you PLEASE forward my information to Neil so that I can talk to him about the options. We would love to review some of his work and see if there is potential. Thanks in advance!

  • Neil stood out in third instalment, (21up) I could tell he was a deep thinker and I have watched him in every episode. I did think he was suicidal as he sometimes wasn`t forthcoming and seemed to have a lot on his mind. I have just seen the 56up episode and am glad he has survived the toils of life. Well done, Mr.Hughes, keep on doing, best wishes to you, H.Hill.

  • Jackie Van Zwieten 28th Jul '14 - 12:31pm

    I was delighted to watch the recent episode of 7up. Neil Hughes has such an interesting and inspirational personality. It must take great courage to take part in this series especially when you are at such a low ebb as Neil displayed in the previous ones. It was indeed heart warming to see his achievements. As a little boy he was delightful and now has fulfilled his potential in spite of many setbacks. This series is amazing, worth the TV licence!

  • Amelia suarez 21st Jun '15 - 10:15pm

    I was pleased to see Neil Hughes fitting into some thing , he has tried and I Have admiration for him, he is very bright and as he rightly says he has not been successful at finding a good job , which is a shame. I would like to buy one of his books if someone can let me have a title from him. Again putting publishing a book is not easy!

  • Great to see Neil is doing well. How’s he now? Is he alright? Hope everything’s ok for him, and he can fully enjoy the joy and pleasure in life which he may have missed when’s he’s suffering.

  • I was profoundly moved by Neil in the 7up series and think he’s so beautiful and such an inspiration. He has a sweetness in him you just don’t see too many times in life, and I really hope to meet him one day; if not in this life, in heaven for sure. I feel I have this unexplainable connection to him and believe in another life we would have been soul mates. I am in America, and I have never been a ‘fan’ of celebs or anything, but Neil has a fan in me. Just an extraordinary man x

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