Amy Raphael

A student cuttings portfolio fronted by interviews with The Cure's Robert Smith and Mick Hucknall from Simply Red was enough to give Amy Raphael's future as a writer the kind of jet propulsion that others could only dream about.

They ensured that within two years of leaving Lancaster University, the London-born student had one of the most prized jobs in rock journalism working as features editor on The Face magazine, and soon moving on to Elle and Esquire.

Looking back now as a well-established writer and biographer (including Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh and David Hare) on a career featuring a catalogue of interviews that looks like a thumbnail history of rock music since the early nineties, Amy gives the full credit to her time at Lancaster.

She says: "I owe Lancaster everything. I made great friends there and my experience there made me feel when I left that I could tackle anything."

Her career-making interviews are a case in point. She had netted these at Glastonbury, thanks to a 'blagged' pass to the festival in her first year through the student magazine Scan, long before the event became famous and sought after. She had been going there with her bohemian parents from the age of three and knew it would provide rich pickings for a young woman set on being a journalist.

Just the mere fact of working on Scan gave her the chance to hone her journalistic skills – interviewing the host of bands and rock personalities that used Lancaster University as a touring venue including Gary Glitter, The Fall and Pauline Black.

So when she applied for a fiercely-contested place on the top post-graduate journalism course at City University, she stood out head and shoulders from the hundreds of other applicants. From then on she made swift progress in a profession for which many of her peers would have given their eye teeth.

Amy admits that Lancaster was not her first choice, but her father died in the run up to her A levels and they did not go well. She found herself leaving her Bridgenorth Comprehensive School to go to a university she had never visited to study English, Italian and sociology, but she loved it immediately and made two of her best friends in the first week.

She marvels at how well things have turned out. In retrospect, she thinks she would not have coped in the highly-competitive journalistic environments at some other universities, for although set on a press career, she was not 'a dead pushy type'. Instead she walked into the Scan offices and immediately found a haven of opportunity.

Even academically, things went in her favour. Italian, which she took from scratch to A level in her first year, became her passion, thanks to memorable teachers like Paolo Rossi. She had done French before and visited Italy as a child. She says: "The whole department was fantastic." She was also inspired by her literature studies.

When it was time for her year in Italy, she spent it teaching Luca Carbonari, an Italian equivalent of rock star George Michael, English. She wrote university essays on Italian popular music, and built up such a love and proficiency for the Italian language, that she has been able to use it to interview footballers like Paolo Maldini and manager Marcello Lippi, in their native Italian, for Esquire magazine.

She's kept it up to this day. Four years ago she did a four-hour interview in Italian with a director. She says: "If you are a journalist and you have a couple of languages, it can only help."

On her return to Lancaster to complete her degree she continued to pursue her career dreams via Scan, catching the National Bus to Manchester after lectures to cover gigs and getting back at 2am. "It felt so very open at Scan." says Amy. "It felt like a real collaboration."

Since then, Amy has written for most of the national newspapers and magazines, as well as her book Never Mind the Bollocks: Women Rewrite rock, a series of books on football called Perfect Pitch, and much more. She is now based in Brighton.

Becoming a journalist now, she feels is even more difficult than when she was starting out, because of the contraction of the press. Her advice to aspiring journalists is practical: "Learn as many digital skills as you can – all we know is that we are in the middle of a virtual revolution and the digital media will not go away. Also be absolutely sure that you love it – being a journalist is not a job it is a lifestyle."