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1988 Geography & Sociology and Social Anthropology
Where am I now?
I’m Chief Executive of Seven Stories, the first museum in Britain dedicated to children’s literature, in Newcastle upon Tyne. Seven Stories was founded in 1996 and I joined the founders to help set it up in 2002. We raised £6.5m to convert a dilapidated listed Victorian warehouse into Seven Stories and opened it in 2005. We run a lively programme of exhibitions, events and learning activities that celebrate children’s books and promote a love of books, story and reading across generations. www.sevenstories.org.uk
How did you get to where you are now?
After Keele I did a Masters degree in Town and Country Planning at Newcastle, but knew quite quickly that this career’s bureaucracy wasn’t for me. So, I’ve worked mostly for small and medium sized charities concerned with all sorts of issues - crime prevention, family health, arts and culture and regeneration. I met the founders of Seven Stories when I was regeneration manager for the part of Newcastle where Seven Stories is now located. I joined them as Development Director and, three years ago applied for the job of Chief Executive.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Professionally it’s the opportunity to lead Seven Stories – which has fulfilled by work ambition to be a charity leader. I’m very proud of my son Jamie and I’m quite chuffed that I discovered open water swimming last year and did the Great North Swim in Windermere.
And your biggest mistake?
I think it’s best not to look at decisions taken as mistakes – they are things that happened and its best to look forward not back.
What are your ambitions now?
I don’t really know – working at Seven Stories has been a bit of a roller coaster and it’s hard to know what could top it!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
It can be hard but it’s very rewarding. Motivation and a strong belief in what you’re doing helps. Get as much experience as possible and take every chance to learn about your area of interest – I did an excellent management course for charity workers with the OU. Working for small charities means that you have to turn your hand to lots of different skills – strategic planning, fundraising, human resources, organising projects and events. And if your motivation is getting rich – do something else cos that’s not going to happen!
What made you choose Keele University?
Keele made it onto my UCCA form list because it offered the courses I was interested in - I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up, but had a strong interest in environmental issues, coupled with a resolute sense of social justice. I had the chance to explore these interests by studying geography and sociology. When I visited Keele as a sixth former I loved the beautiful campus and knew it was the place I wanted to be when I left home.
How has Keele influenced your life?
I’m still in touch with friends from Keele – and they’ve been good influences (mostly!). I started running when I was at Keele – there were such great routes to train on – and so I guess I learnt to be fit at Keele. I still run and do the odd triathlon.
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
There are lots of memories. Apple blossom trees still remind me of Keele in the springtime, and weaving home with friends from the students union on light evenings. And your worst?Tricky – I had a great time, I was young and I haven’t remembered if there were any bad bits (except maybe some hangovers!). Wading through three weeks of rotting food and alcohol outside the chapel after my last final exam, the last to be sat that year, waiting to be pelted with beans and cheap booze by my pals was a bit gross!