Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work. View a gallery of Bath@Work subjects at: thebathmag.co.uk
Peter Rollins – Director of marketing at Thermae Bath Spa
I was 12 years old when I caught my first sight of Bath. Coming over the brow of the hill on the old A46, I’ll never forget the view of the city nestling in the valley and the Bath stone glowing in the summer sunshine. I still love that view.
I was born in Belfast and grew up in the 1970s when the Troubles were at their worst. Like everyone in Northern Ireland, I experienced some terrible things, but no members of my family suffered any significant harm. After studying German and French at Queen’s University, I left Belfast in 1979 in search of work.
My first job was as a tour guide escorting coach tours of Europe and as a representative in an Austrian ski resort. It was hard work but great fun. I was then fortunate in getting a job with Voyages Jules Verne and escorting rail journeys in countries such as China, Mongolia and the former Soviet Union – I travelled 12 times on the Trans-Siberian Railway en route from London to Hong Kong.
After years of living out of a suitcase, I needed a change in lifestyle and went back to university where I completed an MSc in Recreation Management. This enabled me to get a ‘proper job’ as head of tourism in Cheltenham. Those were interesting times, but when a role as tourism and marketing manager in Bath was advertised, I couldn’t resist the lure of working in the premier league of tourism destinations. We moved to Northend in Bath and my children, Bridie and Conor, went to Batheaston Primary School followed by Hayesfield and Beechen Cliff.
We had a great tourism team working on economic development and there was a real sense of energy and purpose. However, there was something intrinsically missing from Bath – the spa. Under the leadership of Paul Simons, a small team was assembled to make a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. After a huge amount of work, a fax arrived confirming that the bid had been successful. I’ll never forget that morning.
Subsequently, I made a big decision to join the company who would operate the spa led by a truly inspiring man called Henk Verschuur. Through various trials and tribulations, Henk and other supporters such as Nicole O’Flaherty never lost faith in reviving the spa. It felt like a moment in history when Thermae Bath Spa opened in August 2006 – residents and visitors could once again bathe in Bath’s natural thermal waters.
When Thermae first opened, it employed 85 people – it now has a team of more than 200 and makes a massive contribution to the local economy. It has also been the catalyst for other developments in Bath including the new Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel.
Over the years, there have been many highs and lows – the lows have been some serious health scares for myself and my partner, Fiona, and the sad passing away of Henk. The high points include the night of 31 January 1998 when the Three Tenors performed in Bath, when Bath Rugby won the 1998 Heineken Cup against Brive, and every day that I stand on the open-air rooftop pool at Thermae and count myself lucky to live and work in Bath.
PORTRAIT: Neill Menneer at Spirit Photographic. Visit: capturethespirit.co.uk, tel: 01225 483151