Amelia Fletcher takes UEA chair

Indie musician and the OFT’s former chief economist, takes chair at ‘creative’ UEA

February 7, 2013

‘Not yet embarrassing’: Amelia Fletcher, who co-founded Talulah Gosh in the 1980s, fronts Tender Trap, whose members find themselves ‘unable to stop’, she says

“Do you want a boyfriend?/Sure, if he’s not too vain/Do you want a boyfriend?/He’s got to have a brain,” sings Amelia Fletcher, lead singer of the 1960s-influenced indie band Tender Trap on their 2010 track Do You Want a Boyfriend?

This paean to brainy romance may not be surprising, given that in April Dr Fletcher will become professor of competition policy at the University of East Anglia.

This follows an 11-year stint as chief economist at the Office of Fair Trading, various spells as an economic consultant in the private sector, and a stretch studying and lecturing at the University of Oxford.

But all this came after she spent years performing on the 1980s and early 1990s independent music scene with bands including Heavenly, Marine Research and, perhaps most notably, Talulah Gosh.

This last band also counted among its line-up Elizabeth Price, who went on to win the 2012 Turner Prize; Peter Momtchiloff, now senior commissioning editor for philosophy at the Oxford University Press; Eithne Farry, now a literary critic; and Rob Pursey, who has gone on to become a television producer.

Random variables

Dr Fletcher is at a loss to explain why Talulah Gosh produced so many successful people.

“I think it must be a bit of a random coincidence,” she says. “But we were all at Oxford [university], and we were all people who were bad at sports - so we got into music. We were quite focused and concentrated on our studies. It’s a strange thing, but everyone in that band has gone on to different but successful things.”

Dr Fletcher continues to record and perform with Tender Trap, a London- based five-piece. But will the move to East Anglia mean this chapter of her musical life will come to an end? It seems not.

“We haven’t played Norwich for a long time actually,” she quips, “so playing there might be a good idea. I keep thinking that we’re too old and that we should stop, and then we keep somehow being unable to stop and carrying on. I think it will get embarrassing at some point, but it doesn’t seem to have got embarrassing yet.”

The move into academia after more than a decade at the OFT was not planned, she says. It was the mixture of research and teaching offered by the UEA role that convinced Dr Fletcher to apply.

“After 11 years I was trying to decide what I really like and [that] is the economic research side of it, and I never really got enough time to do that. Another part I really like is the leadership of economists, and the training of economists - making sure they are up to speed with all the latest [developments].

“This professor role…kind of combines those two, and it felt very attractive.”

When she takes up her new post at UEA, Dr Fletcher will also be responsible for developing new courses for both students and practitioners, and she is keen to explore the possibility of a distance- learning course in competition policy.

“There is a huge international set of practitioners doing competition policy and a lack of really good distance-training options for them. So if we can make it work it could be world-leading,” she says.

Open-door policy

However, despite her PhD in economics, completed at Oxford under the tutelage of former Bank of England chief economist Sir John Vickers, Dr Fletcher was initially unsure whether she had enough relevant experience to land a professorship.

“I have been involved in running and commissioning economic research, but I hadn’t published a great deal of economic papers in my own name,” she explains.

But she says that UEA’s “creative” approach opened the door for her. “They realised that having a practitioner who understood how competition policy was applied and understood the network of practitioners would fit nicely with the very renowned academics they already have in the school.”

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