John-Paul Flintoff

Comp: A Survivor's Tale

Comp: A Survivor’s Tale

Comp is a memoir of my time at Holland Park Comprehensive, a flagship state school in London. It got a lot of attention when it was published because newspapers found in my account things that justified their own fixed ideas, both for and against comprehensive education.

Case-hardened young offender

‘Flintoff has not written a history of Holland Park Comprehensive, though he has woven the essential historical facts into his narrative. He has done something far more rewarding and entertaining, turning his rite de passage, from cocky middle-class product of the polite Fox Junior School to case-hardened young offender, into a very funny memoir… Comp is a marvellous account of growing up rough in West London’ – Tony Gould, Times Literary Supplement

A classmate puts me right

One of my former classmates contacted me, a decade after Comp was published. He wrote:

“On the whole I thought it was very good, very well written & extremely funny throughout, although having said that I also found it untrue & very exaggerated in places…” [He described several major errors.] “I’m sorry to go on but I thought I would point out some facts. Anyway like I said I thoroughly enjoyed it (except for the things I mentioned). It made me laugh for hours & brought back some really good & bad memories (mainly good). I also enjoyed all the history you wrote on Holland Park which I never knew.”

Comp 2

The Eton of comprehensives

‘The first time the lid has been lifted on the school once dubbed the “Eton of comprehensives”’ – Edward Marriott, The Evening Standard

‘A light-footed comic autobiography… in an understated way, it also has much to say about how we teach children’ – Adrian Turpin, The Big Issue

New comprehensive opens, 1959

Adolescent lust, tender bravado

‘An entertaining and thoughtful memoir… Flintoff’s book manages to be funny while making a serious point… He conveys the blatant hostility of the less privileged, the chaos of adolescent lust, and the comedy of classroom anarchy, while acknowledging the treacherous cruelty of which teenagers are capable. There may be a lesson here, but Flintoff is the gentlest of moralists' – Susanna Rustin, Financial Times

‘Unmissable’ – Joe Jenkins, Catholic Herald

‘It has faint echoes of the tender bravado of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and gives a nod to the wicked young Amis of The Rachel Papers. But mostly Flintoff writes as his own likeable, transparent self' – Melissa Benn, New Statesman

‘A fun and honest book' – Lisa Allardice, Literary Review

Comp 3

Holland Park prison

‘Makes The Lord of The Flies look like a soft-soap cover-up' – Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

‘Very readable, in an Adrian Mole-possessed-by-Satan kind of way' – Roy Kerridge, The Spectator

‘High quality anecdotage and characterisation… Should strike a chord with anybody who’s ever been to school or, indeed, Borstal' – Robin Askew, Venue (Bristol)

‘May not bring much comfort to supporters of the comprehensive system, but it is a fascinating read' – Mario Basini, Western Mail (Cardiff)

Too horribly, comically true

‘Often hilarious… the timing of a natural' – The Sunday Times

‘Funny, sometimes disturbing' – Denise Winterman, Hampstead and Highgate Express

‘I hope John-Paul Flintoff is a fast runner. He’ll need to be if his old classmates at Holland Park Comprehensive ever find him. Flintoff has written an hilariously merciless memoir' – Guy Somerset, Metro

‘It all rings too horribly, comically true' – Glasgow Herald

Non-judgemental frankness

‘Comp is a compendium of teenage delinquency… the great strength of the book – which is often funny in the blackest way imaginable – is its non-judgmental frankness' – Adam Lively, Times Educational Supplement

‘Might shock parents' – Maxim

‘Hilarious, hair-raising narrative… manages to be both supremely entertaining and an invaluable social document. The closing “register” of what happened to Flintoff’s old school friends is priceless' – Max Davidson, Daily Telegraph