Life It’s my birthday today. I’m 35.
Regular readers will know that one of the standing rules on the blog is that I don’t talk about work. Recently I've thought about the implications of that and how sometimes when I meet people who read this, how they know so little about me and specifically my career and I find myself rushing through my CV. I’ve also considered the extent which it’s ok to talk about a job once I’ve gone. There has to be a period after which it doesn’t really matter.
And so, because it’s my birthday, because it's this birthday, find below an annotated version of that CV, up to, but not including, my present position, followed by some chatter about what I’d really like to be doing with my life. Some of this may be a surprise. Probably not. There will also be links to relevant passages from the blog in which I’ve previously been so circumspect. Now the full story can be told.
31st October 1974
[Let us fast forward a bit …]
Liverpool Blue Coat School, Church Road, Liverpool
1986 – 1993
GCSEs: English Language (B), Chemistry (C), Geography (C), Graphic Communication (C), Maths (C), History (D), Art and Design (D), Physics (E).
A-Levels: Fine Art (B), General Studies (D), English Literature (N).
[Seven years of study boiling down to a couple of lines of early qualifications. What they mask is that I worked really, really hard to get these grades, didn’t do any of the things which teenagers are apparently supposed to do. The failed English A-Level was particularly crushing because I’d studied and studied and building my critical faculties and making myself understand over a two year period, starting with F grades for essays until I managed a respectable B. Then it was all over in three hours. I was never very good under exam conditions. I did however sing at the cathedral.]
Leeds Metropolitan University
1993 – 1996
BA (Hons) Information Studies 2:1
[This was really a librarianship degree, something which wasn’t entirely clear from the prospectus or the title of the course for that matter. In the second year, they changed to title to Library and Information Studies and you could choose which one you’d like to be awarded. I decided to go with the degree I began with and that’s stood me in good stead. It was during this period – for reasons which will become clear – that I thought I’d like to go into art history so my dissertation was about the censorship and restriction of art – in The Last Judgement, so-called Degenerate Art in Nazi Germany, Socialist Realism in the USSR and the Maplethorpe trial – comparing and contrasting the approaches. To this day I don’t know how I got away with that. Lord knows how I ended up with a 2:1. In 2003 I revisited all of the places where I lived.]
University of Liverpool
1996 – 2000
General Certificate In Higher Education
[After graduating, I couldn’t let go of higher education and learning. So from that autumn right through to 2003, I attended night school courses at the University of Liverpool, some of which I talked about on this blog in the early days. This is combined flexible qualification featured accreditation gained from courses in journalism, Theatre Studies (acting and directing), creative writing, philosophy, history and film studies. It’s here that I met my friend Fani and became the kind of person who is intensely interested in everything because there are so many interesting things to discover.]
The University of Manchester
2005 – 2006
MA Screen Studies (merit)
[Which you can read all about here. Well, most of it. Subjects covered include fantasy adaptation, gender representation in French cinema, classic Hollywood and science in entertainment media (including comics). I was very proud that I’d gone from just about making it into undergraduate university on the back of an Art A-Level to gaining a qualification at a prestigious university, and I’m getting a lump in my throat about that even as I type this. My dissertation was titled “To what extent is 'Hyperlink Cinema' identifiable as a genre and what are the conventions?" for which I received mark of 70%. It was about those kinds of films laced with unusual connections between people and places, which has also been true of my life.]
Front of house at Studio Theatre, Leeds Metropolitan University.
[A voluntary position ushering. Downside: weird hours. Upside: the chance to watch all of the weird and wonderful shows that would pass through its tiny walls, which included a musical version of Casablanca, some performance art which amounted to the performers stripping themselves naked very slowly then putting their clothes back on and something which wasn’t a million miles away from that joke production in Friends were Joey’s character is abducted by aliens. I also took part in a poetry afternoon were the audience was able to enjoy my prose renderings of The Bangle’s In Your Room and John Lennon’s Imagine, poor things.]
Agency work through Job Shop at Leeds Metropolitan University
1993 - 1996
[My first experience of agency work was at university through their job shop. Five in total. Standing on a platform at Leeds Railway Station for eighteen hours asking passengers if they would like to have a GPs surgery on the concourse (they didn't care). Standing on the corner of a road in Hull with a clicker counting cars during rush hour. Five days at Headingley Cricket Ground clearing the rubbish (which mosly consisted of beer cans) from the stands. One evening on the turnstile at Headingley Rugby Club. Prospective candidate for a Police identity parade. I didn't get chosen. Which was a comfort.]
Telesales Advisor at Legal and Commercial
Summer 1994 (1 week)
[This was complicated. Working through a copy of the Yellow Pages and phoning companies to ask them if they required debt recovery services, working without deviation from a poorly written script. They were based in a tiny office above a shop on Allerton Road in Liverpool and to this day I can still vividly remember the smell of the rooms, a musty mix of nicotine and sweat. This was before the minimum wage so I received £80+commission for my troubles. The problem was that you needed to have been working there for a good long while before you’d developed enough personality capital to come anywhere near gaining anything significant in terms of commission which seemed like too many of those troubles which is why I was only there for one week.]
Door to door salesman at some company on the Dock Road
Summer 1994 (1 morning)
[Another find in the Liverpool Echo's job ads. Going door to door selling a card that gave discounts at local restaurants, the kick being that we didn't get paid unless we sold enough of said cards. Apart from the "interview" I was only in the job for a morning, except an hour and a half of that morning was spent getting to Maghull then the "managers" taking us to the pub for a game of pool. When we eventually got on the road, the reality of what we were doing, randomly knocking on people's doors asking them to spend £15 on a promise became apparent, as did the fact that the public didn't want us interrupting their lives. Eventually the "manager" sent me away on what I like to think was mutual agreement after I suggested the flaws in the plan.]
Information & Library Assistant at Henry Moore Institute
February 1995 – July 1996 (1 year 6 months)
[Sprang from five weeks of work experience during my undergraduate course and was mainly helping to staff the library during weekends and some evenings, even commuting to Leeds from Liverpool every weekend in my second summer at university for just four hours (so I was actually travelling more than working). It’s a library dedication to the study of sculpture and it was here that I decided that I would quite like to work in museums and art galleries which explains my late nineties career path. The work was what you’d expect – shelving and cataloguing but I also reorganised the periodical and journal stock and helped with displays. It was at the institute that I also had my first experience as an invigilator in the Institute’s exhibition space, as security and to liase with the general public, offering comments and information about the work, and in some cases, guided talks. The only person I’ve really kept in touch with from this period, Denise, was the library manager.]
Sales Assistant at HMV Liverpool
Late 1996 (3 weeks)
[I don’t actually remember which weeks these were or all that much about the engagement. It was in the stockroom processing and labelling cds and it’s fair to say it was the second worst job I’ve undertaken. My knee still twinges from the afternoon I knelt over wrongly on the cold concrete service area floor. I'm very pleased that the floor no longer exists having been demolished to create the walk through from Church Street to Liverpool One.]
Librarian at a chemical factory.
Late 1996 (2 weeks).
[Just after university, when was still a member of the Library Association (as it was then -- now it has the rather grander title of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and on their agency books. The one job I managed to get with them was at a small library which was part of a chemical research facility in a factory where I reorganised their journals into alphabetical order. The subsidised cafe was a marvel -- the kind you expect astronauts would have with plenty of food and as much as you could eat for about 10p a go. I was filling in for their usual librarian who had a brain tumour. The things you remember.]
Volunteer at The Blue Coat Chambers
Late 1996 (1 day)
[I can't remember how I ended up doing this, but I think it was through the job centre, because I'd said I was interested in work in an art gallery. It was in the old main space that you came to as you went in the front door -- where the cafe is now. I was thrown in with a group of school leavers on what appeared to be some kind of youth training scheme. I painted the back door.]
Research Assistant at Public Monuments and Sculpture Association
December 1996 – December 1999 (3 years 1 month)
[I’d finished at HMV and decided I needed to gain some experience. So I wrote the Walker Art Gallery, and Edward Morris suggested I join this fascinating national research project attempting to create a central source of information of historical and curatorial information concerning public monuments and sculpture. That involved extensive desk research work in libraries and public record offices in the Warrington and Wirral areas with the information ultimately appearing in a national database and eventually, hopefully, a volume just like these.]
Poll Clerk at Parliamentary, Local and European Elections
1 May 1997 - (I've lost count)
[I was literally on the telephone to the council's election office as soon as John Major stood outside 10 Downing Street to make his announcement about "going to the country" (or whatever it is) -- I even think they got the news from me. That was going to be a historic election and I knew I had to be part of it, and I've worked the elections ever since. I'm the person who tears out and stamps your ballot paper before handing it to you, and who puts the signs up outside, which can be easy or impossible depending upon the location of the station. Whether the ten or twelve hours in a single room drift by or drag depends upon who the Presiding Officer is.]
Sales Assistant at Liverpool Museum
May 1997 – August 1999 (2 years 4 months)
[In May 1997 for about a year, the museums and art galleries on Merseyside charged for entrance, £3 across eight sites. Which was fairly nominal and still a bargain. We were hired to sell this to the public who’d previously been about to visit for free. Surprisingly visitor numbers increased I think, perhaps because of a clear unified branding. My first proper retail experience this also included working in the museum shop and on the ticket desk and encouraging visitors to enjoy museum activities such as the planetarium and providing information regarding the history of the institution and directing enquiries by telephone to the correct curatorial departments. Of the eight of us who began working there, six had a connection with the Blue Coat School either because we were pupils or through family and friends. Everything is connected etc.]
Documentation Assistant at The Walker Art Gallery
October 1997 – May 2001 (3 years 8 months)
[Undoubtedly one of my favourite jobs. Creation of a combined catalogue and location index of The Walker Art Gallery’s fine art collection as a Microsoft Access database, merging and completing separate computerisation projects that had been carried out over a number of years. The acronym we gave it was SCALIWAG (Systematised Cataloguing and Location Index (of the) Walker Art Gallery) and everyone used it. This was the first time I really employed the internet as a research tool, logging on to the Getty biographical artists website using a very slow dial-up connection. Eventually the database was available for use by the gallery staff and general public who could finally find out instantaneous if a painting was in stock and could be viewed. Just before leaving having completed the project, my the data was readied for conversion to Multi-mimsy, a dedicated museums and art galleries package, and as far as I know, it’s still in use now.]
Freelance Databasing and Cataloguing at National Museums Liverpool
October 1997 – May 2001 (3 years 8 months)
[During my time at the Walker, I developed a reputation for being quite handy with a database and moved about the organisation working on other projects. At the marketing department I cleaned up the data collected from the sales of visitor tickets ready for a mailing list – which was my first proper experience of working in an office for any great length of time. It's worth mentioning that this also led to some more market research, this time asking visitors to the Walker and the Maratime Museum if they enjoyed their visit. In the antiquities department I re-organised their catalogue of objects and verified that the information in the database corresponded to what was in the store.]
All of this work ended at the same time. At one point I was working four different jobs simulaneously, but then I was left with none. With no formal qualification in museums and art galleries I couldn't work out how to continue. It’s then that I decided on the five year plan (which was actually about five years but “the about five years plan” doesn’t sound quite the same). I would work full time in some jobs I didn’t necessarily want to do until I managed to save enough money to do something that I did, which at that point was an MA in Art History. So I cast about for two months I desperately looked about for work, but I was really trained for nothing specific. Then I happened to phone Job Centre Plus and …
A housing repair company.
2001 (I think) (1 week).
[Agency work. What was supposed to be admin work -- sorting files into alphabetical order -- turned into answering phone calls from worried residents trying to find out when their repairs would be done. Seemed to spend the week running backwards and forwards to a manager who would simply take the message and this was my first experience of having to tell people something when I knew absolutely nothing.]
Data entry at an arts funding organisation.
2001 (I think) (1 week).
[Agency work. What was supposed to be entering the details of artists making funding claims turned into helping to reorganise the databasing system in two days and other IT odd jobs.]
Call Centre Advisor at Royal Bank of Scotland Credit Card Centre
July 2001 – June 2002 (1 year)
[Taking calls regarding credit card accounts which included balance enquiries, payments and applications. I began writing this blog a month after I started and it was this job, in Manchester, that I was travelling to during the first salvo of commuter tales. I was commuting for a call centre job. Which meant that I didn’t do much in the way of saving because of the sheer cost of getting to and from work in comparison to the salary – but I decided that it would be good experience for returning to Liverpool and hopefully another, better paid job. Was the perfect opportunity to build my customer service skills and was my longest experience of working in a commercial organisation. Here’s what happened the day I handed in my notice.]
Data Entry at some insurance company in the Port of Liverpool Building
2002 (1 evening)
[Agency work. Checking through car insurance claims and entering the guts of them into a database. Very slow work, since it involved going through a series of tick boxes and making value judgements based on what people had written. We were each given about fifteen. I only managed to get through about three. It didn't help that I know nothing about cars or driving cars or anything related to cars, though no one seemed particularly concerned about that.]
Press Office Volunteer at Manchester Commonwealth Games
July 2002 – August 2002 ( 2 or 3 weeks)
[Providing information to press regarding the Netball Championship; security on touchline advising photographers where to sit; distributing match information on press tribune within the arena. One of the most exciting two or three weeks of my young life. I’d watched these kinds of events on television for years and wondered what it would be like to be there. Initially I was a bit disappointed not to be in the athletics stadium, but then after watching Australia demolish one of the less able teams two days in, I realised that this way I could become a temporary enthusiast of a sport I’d never seen before. As a student of pop culture I was quite excited to be entertained by Heather Small, Roger Black, Steve Cramb and Ted Robbins at the volunteer party and three parts of S Club 7 at the closing ceremony rehearsal (Bradley, Rachel and Hannah). I wrote some more about this here.]
Call Centre Advisor at Nat West
November 2002 (6 weeks)
[Taking calls regarding bank accounts. A bit of a false start this. I trained for a month, worked in the call centre for two weeks then was offered the next job which I’d actually applied for at the same time. A sympathetic manager who knew I wasn’t happy and knew I wanted to move was happy for me to leave without working through my whole notice period. Walked on a Saturday. On Monday I began working at …]
Steward at Birkenhead Balloon Festival
Summer 2003 (2 days)
[Safety and security at a balloon festival, making sure the public didn't drift into the main field and get stuck in one of the baskets or something. Also included telling people where they could park depending on whether they had a blue badge. The more of this I write, the more varied and bizarre I'm realising my CV actually is.]
Call Centre Advisor at Liverpool Direct Ltd.
December 2002 – August 2005 (2 years 9 months)
[This is the call centre for Liverpool City Council, and my section dealt with calls ranging from parking permits for disabled drivers to taxi licensing, neighbourhood services, environmental services, street lighting, pest control and refuse collections, funeral arrangements and council switchboard. I was also process champion, liaising with management regarding ways to improve call handling and departmental connections in areas related to environmental services. I was also 'the voice of Liverpool Direct' and my vocal chord were utilised on the council's automatic payments line on 0151 233 2000. It’s still there if you phone it, my voice in the machine.]
By now, my five years were more than up and I’d also given myself the job of saving what I thought would be enough money to return to university or have a new life (see above). I'd also decided that film was my passion and that was what I'd quite like to study and later have a career in. I actually handed my notice in before I’d found out if I was on the course, that being the only course I’d applied for. What I would have done otherwise is probably one of this life’s greatest cross roads. Imagine my relief when the acceptance letter came through a week later and just a couple of weeks later I’d finished work and was back at university. Then, a year later …
Casual Invigilator at AFoundation
October 2006 – November 2006 ( 2 months)
[Once you leave university, there’s a limbo of a couple of months were you’re not sure what your final mark will be, were you’re still in shock that it’s over and you wait hopefully for graduation. Having tried but failed to find some agency work, this was advertised at Art In Liverpool for the duration of Liverpool Biennial 2006. It was about talking to visitors about the art works, offering safety warnings were necessary. Very casual in terms of work patterns, but I did meet some good people including Leo who you may remember from the One & Other video.]
Card Seller at The Grand National
April 2007 (3 days)
[You can read all about the application process then the job itself, here and here.]
Columnist at Liverpool.Com
March 2008 – December 2008 (10 months)
[Writing the monthly ‘City Links’ column highlighting the most interesting Liverpool based weblogs and websites and contributing previews to the theatre pages. My first paid magazine published articles (unprinted example).]
Reviewer at Liverpool Confidential
November 2008 -
[Which you already know about and can read the fruits using the links here. I haven’t been writing for them for a while because of the mixed up crazy way the taxes are collected and how it impacts on some other things in relation to …]
Doing something at somewhere
April 2007 – now
[Which brings us up-to-date. Incidentally, if you follow me on LinkedIn you can find out what my present job is. It’s just not something I want Google to be able to find, the sometimes evil monster …].
Even though I do want to keep up this Kubrickian mystique as to my current vocation, I will at least tell you what I'm not doing, a sort of fantasy CV. I’ve written a list similar to this before but I think, after all of these revelations it’s worth setting down at least for my own benefit. In my dreams I would like to be …
I want to have Mark Kermode’s job, but that’s hardly likely, unless someone wants to be my Simon Mayo. Or just to be working as a critic full time. The problems with this idea is that as Toby Young made abundantly clear on The Culture Show last week, full time critics are a dying breed. The public tend to just want to know if something is worth the money and won’t necessarily pay someone else to find out. Word of mouth has become just as important as word of expert. Plus, I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot by giving this stuff away for years myself. And I’ve no idea how to get in.
Doing this full time.
Being paid to blog, and being paid enough that it’s a wage. I’d be happy to write about anything if someone paid me enough.
Which could mean further training. Feature writing and interviews in arts related fields. Miniature versions of my Off The Telly work. But I think I've missed the boat on this. Most journalists must have a strong academic background and large vocabulary and I don't have either of those. At all. Would a proper journalist use a phrase like "I've missed the boat on this"?
I like to think I'm very good at research and nothing makes me happier than being given a question to answer, a range of information to collate, a problem to solve and working towards a conclusion. Every job or course I’ve been has had an element of this, be it phoning around various council departments and beyond trying to discover ownership of the bucket sculpture in the city centre (eventually spoke to an old colleague at the Walker Art Gallery) to searching my way through bookshelf after bookshelf, index page after index page at various universities looking for mentions of the films I was investigating for my dissertation.
Google has obviously made some research work obsolete, but it’s knowing what resources are available, which I often do, somehow. I have a fantasy of being as a fact checker in television, film or publishing working my way through scripts and manuscripts making sure that everything is water tight – or for that matter aiding someone who is considering a topic for the first time and wanting to know where to begin. Perhaps this is editorial research. I don’t know. Notice that I've written a little bit more about this subject than the others. Perhaps this is a passion. I don't know.
I'd also be very pleased if I could win the lottery very soon and finally undertake my plan to spend the rest of my life travelling the world or until the money runs out. Why stay in one place when there's a whole world to see?
But that's the fantasy.
Social networking has probably given me delusions of grandeur and I'm simply looking at other people's jobs and thinking how much I'd like that and that I should just get over myself and make do. But having worked so hard for all of those years to get the MA I feel like I'd be doing my younger self a disservice if I didn't somehow repay all of his hard work and sacrifices and didn't try to make something with it.
I'm not sure where this rolling CV could go next, though I suspect the answer is in my own hands, just as it always has been.