Brighton College alumna Tamzin Merchant is a film and TV actor, known for her roles in Pride and Prejudice and Carnival Row. She has also written two children’s books The Hatmakers and, new out in February, The Mapmakers 

Tamzin Merchant
Tamzin Merchant

What school did you go to? I went to five different schools on four continents ending up at Brighton College, for GCSEs and A-levels.

Boarder or day? I was a day pupil except for the two years when I went to an all-boarding school called Windlesham House School, in Sussex. 

Your A-level choices ? English, History and Theatre Studies.

What were your passions at school? I loved doing plays, I auditioned for every single play I could. I didn’t always get a role (one time I did the costumes because I didn’t get a part in the play itself and once I was the director’s assistant). I think I learned almost as much about acting from doing costumes and assisting than I did from doing the plays themselves. I also adored the after-school creative writing club. 

Did you have a memorable teacher? Dr Jo Seldon who taught English and ran the creative writing club with Jonathan Smith: they made Wednesday afternoons inspiring. And my history teacher Mr Crichton, because he would do brilliant impressions of the historical figures we were learning about.

How was the school food? It smelled like armpits when they were cooking frittata… you could smell frittata day 100 yards from the dining hall. And once there were sausages which inspired a small food-fight. They were too rubbery to eat but perfect for hurling across the dining hall.

Can you recall the school smell? The floor in the entrance hall smelled of a particular kind of polish – that beeswaxy camphor-y floor polish smell was lovely. And the library smelled beautiful and book-y. 

Any regrets? I liberated some tadpoles we were meant to be doing experiments on. I smuggled in a jar of pondwater and slipped my tadpoles into the jar and took them away to release them in the wild. My regret? I didn’t liberate ALL the tadpoles.

Have you been back? Yes, a few years ago to talk to my old boarding house about my career as an actor. Maybe now I’ve written a book I can go back to talkto the creative writing club.

Describe your one perfect day. One summer term we put on a play of The Canterbury Tales all around the school grounds. We finished the play and had a barbecue on the field – best day ever. Not much schoolwork done, but school is about so much more than classes. The Mapmakers publishes on 17 Feb (Penguin).

Tamzin Merchant The Mapmakers


Maths or English? English! Maths + me = trouble.
Hockey or Tennis? Hockey – but only if the ball is nowhere near me. Uniform or mufti? ‘Own Clothes Day’ was excellent, so mufti.
Piano or guitar? Piano – but I only play one song.
Head girl or Rebel? I would love to be notorious as an out-and-out rebel. Let’s tell everyone that.


Politics Q&A: Nicky Morgan | A Matter of Faith