Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work. View a gallery of Bath@Work subjects at: thebathmag.co.uk
Special Events Organiser, Theatre Royal Bath
I came to Bath from the Midlands in 1968 to study home economics and am still here after 50 years. I was told Bath was the graveyard to ambition, meaning that once you lived and worked here it was very hard to move away. The principal of the all-female college warned us about the dangers of drinking sherry with the opposite sex. Fortunately, I’ve never enjoyed this tipple so have avoided the associated consequences…
In the mid-80s, after training as a Blue Badge guide, I offered my services as a volunteer guide at the theatre. I had always loved watching drama in my home town, so this was a good way of reconnecting with my favourite pastime.
In 1987 the job of education officer came up and with my teaching and guiding experience my application was successful. Apart from liaising with schools I also visited lots of groups such as WIs in the evenings and promoted visits to the theatre with illustrated talks. Homemade tea and cakes at the end of the evening was always a bonus.
After several years I wanted to expand my lecturing beyond Bath while still working for the theatre as it was now in my blood, so I invented the role of special events organiser and began staging literary events during the day. Working with publishers and authors for the last 25 years has given me the opportunity to interview famous actors such as Alec Guinness and Peter O’Toole – who were far more nervous than myself at having to be themselves on stage. A number of politicians and two ex-prime ministers, Ted Heath and John Major, have visited and of course they are never short of things to say and have no nerves. Lord Snowdon, on the other hand, was extremely nervous and needed a lot of TLC to convince him to be interviewed about his book of photographs of famous thespians.
One of my favourite authors is Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, who read history at Cambridge and writes fast-paced history books for the layman in a non-academic style. Another is Terry Waite, a giant of a man at 6ft 7in and a brilliant story-teller. His account of his time in captivity in Beirut is one of the best documents of human survival I have ever read.
In my 30 years at the theatre I have seen more than 300 plays. During this time I interviewed theatre critic Michael Billington about his favourite 100 plays – he has watched and reviewed more than 900 during his career, so this interview was a fascinating challenge.
Over the years I have also been a theatrical landlady and have accommodated many of the performers, their dogs, cats, babies and partners. My late husband Peter was a hotelier and together we enjoyed hosting such a variety of interesting guests. The theatre has also enabled me to develop a series of lectures based on theatrical and literary figures and I have travelled the world doing this. However, I’m always pleased to return to Bath and to the theatre which has been so much a part of my life for half a century.
PORTRAIT: Neill Menneer at Spirit Photographic.
Visit: capturethespirit.co.uk, tel: 01225 483151