Stuart Harber is 31 years old and 6’4” tall. He’s proud of his height he tells me. Stuart won the 30-50 male age group in The Face of The Cheltonian competition last September having been ‘guilt-tripped’ into entering by Editor James Neal. Stuart was out for a walk one Sunday morning when James collared him. He tried to talk his way out of it but eventually agreed as a favour. Shortly afterwards he saw the photos and forgot all about it until he happened to pick up a copy of the magazine and saw his picture in the final three! Once he realised he was in the final he started to take more interest.
He received a letter inviting him to the ceremony where the winner was going to be announced and it was then that he decided he wanted to win. He was in the lead by 100 votes right from the start but of course he didn’t know that!
Apart from the original photo-shoot, he had never done this sort of thing before or even considered it. He says he would be lying if he said he wasn’t a bit nervous. His mum of course was very excited when he won the competition and is also excited about his picture appearing on the front cover of The Cheltonian.
Stuart was born and bred in Cheltenham, having attended Chosen Hill School while his family lived in The Reddings. They too have always lived here. After Chosen Hill he went to Hartpury College for a year to study for a GNVQ in Leisure & Tourism and then carried on to take a National Diploma in Outdoor Leisure & Recreation. This was a two-year course which focussed more on the sports side.
But then Stuart admits being ‘sporty’. He enjoys water sports such as sailing and canoeing and worked in Wales for two years as a sailing multi-activity instructor with PGL.
He has also enjoyed Martial Arts his whole adult life and is very keen to tell me all about the various styles he has practiced. These include Yukan Na Ryu – a freestyle martial art school which doesn’t teach anymore and Shutokai Karate. Stuart has trained in Martial Arts since he was in his early teens doing various styles, but when he started training in Yukan Na Ryu 11 years ago he stayed with it and developed a great respect for his instructor Dave Capewell and really enjoyed the lessons, especially the people he trained with. He graded as a black belt in both but hasn’t been able to practice recently because of knee problems. He also qualified as an instructor and would love to go back to it when he is fitter.
In the mean time he works part time in a coffee shop called Partners in Grosvenor Street, which is handy as he lives in the town centre. He is a huge film fan – he calls himself a ‘film geek’ - and has a collection of over 500 DVDs. He particularly likes martial arts, horror and action films and is a fan of Marc Dacascos, an American actor and martial artist who is part Hawaiian and part Japanese and is proficient in Wun Hop Kuen Do, Capoeira, Wushu and Muay Thai. Dacascos, Stuart tells me, makes it all look so effortless. Watching his films is his inspiration to get back into it.
Stuart has always been into fitness but following a stint working in Julian Graves, he became interested in nutrition as well, particularly when combined with physical health.
Stuart really likes listening to music and has even been known to pick up a guitar from time to time for a strum. As well as playing guitar he is able to play bass guitar and drums though he admits not overly well. He likes ‘good’ music including blues and traditional rock and is a huge fan of the late Gary Moore who sadly died in February this year.
Gary, from Belfast, was best recognised as a blues rock guitarist and singer and an influence on a number of notable guitarists, as well as for collaborating with many well known artists from George Harrison and Bob Dylan to Ozzy Osborne and Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Stuart also has a dark secret in that he is a Garth Brooks fan and likes modern country music - his peers would be shocked, he laughs.
Stuart’s parents still live in Cheltenham. He has a younger sister who lives in Tewkesbury and a son called Jacob who is six years old.
The front cover photograph was taken by John Moore of Two Front Teeth Photography in Cheltenham. Tel 01242 708468.