Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work
It is interesting how a little coincidence or an innocuous happening can have a significant impact on one’s life. My father never talked about the war. The only snippets I ever picked up were some of the places he’d served. For a young boy growing up in the excessively green surroundings of rural mid-Ulster his description of oranges growing in Palestine absolutely pricked my imagination. It was as a direct result of this that I later decided to go and work on a kibbutz in Israel, where I met the woman who was to become my wife.
After graduating I went to work for a cookware company. Unsure of where my career was going I covered my options by going through the selection process for the regular army. Crunch time to take up a place at Sandhurst and I resigned from my job. Shortly afterwards an amazing coincidence happened. The firm knew that I wanted to move into marketing and when a colleague also resigned they offered me his job as a brand manager.
That was the start of ten years promoting various brands, mainly in the drinks sector. All the while I was able to keep up my interest in things military by joining the Territorial Army – a parallel career which was to last 22 years.
Following the introduction of an important piece of legislation, called the Beer Orders, there was massive structural change in the drinks industry, which ultimately led to my job being made redundant. As I looked for my next career move I decided to give a bit of time to a charity. A few months later one of the fundraising staff left and the organisation asked if I wanted to join them. That was the start of a great four year period – raising funds to alleviate the threat/impact of meningitis and ultimately its eradication.
Then I joined Julian House. The contrast between a very scary disease and homelessness was quite dramatic. One generates very widespread sympathy and fear. The other is much misunderstood and beset by urban myths, for instance many folk think that it’s a lifestyle of choice. That a homeless person could only possibly want a pet dog so that they can claim extra benefits. Both of which are nonsense.
During a long spell at the charity, raising funds and working on PR it has been gratifying to see that attitudes are changing. Likewise seeing new projects and services introduced which not only address the symptoms of homelessness but also the causes. The expansion by the charity into closely associated areas such as domestic violence and criminal justice has been very valuable – building on its expertise and experience, as well as providing better joined up working.
Further evidence of the charity’s willingness to be bold is demonstrated by its move into social enterprises, like its busy bike workshop in Corn Street, Bath. Here we offer clients and other marginalised individuals the opportunity to access work experience and training – boosting self-esteem and hopefully, a way back into the job market.
It’s a great feeling, enjoying what you do and knowing that you are making a difference for some of the most marginalised members of society.