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Animal studies career change for former Butlin's entertainer

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November 9 2015

A former Butlin’s entertainer who suffered a stroke exactly 20 years to the day since having a heart attack and weeks before starting university has graduated with a degree in animal studies.

54-year-old Brian Groves moved from London to North Wales in the 1980s to work as a Redcoat and went on to enjoy a 28-year career as an entertainer in clubs and holiday camps across the country.

Three years ago he began working part-time at Greenacres farm park during the day, following a lifelong passion for animals.

Deciding he wanted to gain a formal qualification, Brian was preparing to join Glyndŵr University when in June 2013 he suffered a stroke after arriving at his Flint home in the early hours following a gig.

Doctors discovered that the stroke was caused by a clot on his heart breaking off into his arterial system. The clot had formed when he suffered a heart attack two decades ago, aged 31.

Undeterred by short-term memory loss and a host of other challenges caused by the stroke, Brian continued with his goal of studying and collected a foundation degree in animal studies last week.

Brian, who is also a former Territorial Army Soldier and TV actor, said: “I was still in hospital when the papers arrived and with the help of a friend I managed to fill them in with a covering letter explaining what had happened.

“I left school with two O-Levels but I got offered a place based on my other skills and experience of working with animals. I was ecstatic.

“Three months later I attended university for the first time and sat there thinking, oh my god have I got the wrong room? I still couldn’t believe it, and it was tough at first.

“Having a stroke is worse than a heart attack. You are  trapped in your own body – you know what’s going on but you can’t transmit messages out.

“But I persevered with it and I’m now working towards a full degree in Animal Studies.

“It’s been an amazing journey. Glyndŵr University has opened up so many doors for me.”

Brian still works at Greenacres but has added another new post into his busy schedule - volunteering at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay, a position he says he secured directly as a result of his new-found knowledge.

He now has his sights set on starting his own educational live animal show when he finishes his degree next year.

The show will feature a few of the many pets which he keeps at his Flint home, which include a North American skunk, two barn owls, a ferret, cat, German Shepherd, four rabbits, a Chinchilla, an African pygmy hedgehog and two birds.

Brian, who worked alongside the likes of the Chuckle Brothers during his entertainment career, said: “For the first time ever, I’m now turning down  shows.

“The work on the animal park was the hardest work I’d ever done in my life but it was the happiest I’d ever been.

“I can’t really put it into words how pleased I am and I can’t thank everyone at Glyndŵr University enough. I had massive support from the disability team here.

“The degree has totally changed me and standing on the stage at graduation meant more than anything I’ve done in my life.

“The saddest thing about the day was that my mum wasn’t around to see it. She had a lifelong passion for animals and would have been so proud.”

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