Cathy, who trained as a journalist, has contributed her writing, communication and events management skills to the project for saving the Denmead Fox and Hounds public house from housing developers.
You’re a Communications and Engagement Officer with the NHS?
Yes, I finished University in June 2012 and was lucky enough to get a job with the NHS a week after graduating. So, just over two years now.
Was that Portsmouth University?
I went to Southampton Solent Uni, which I don’t mention around here [laughs].
Were you aiming for a particular path or was it a happy accident?
I was always quite good at English at school and college. I knew that I wanted to go to University, but I wasn’t sure which direction to take. I kind of fell into the course after browsing through brochures, when a course on magazine journalism caught my eye. So I trained as a journalist and now, working in communications, I deal with media enquiries, web site requests and that sort of thing.
Has your journalism training helped in your current job?
I don’t think that I could do my job as well as I do without that training. It taught me how to deal with journalists; it gave me a good understanding of what they need from us to do their job, so it can be more of a collaboration. Along with managing our web sites, I write quite a lot of the content, so it’s been useful from that point of view as well. I’m also involved with all aspects of social media, Twitter, Facebook etc.
And now you’re living in Portsmouth?
Yes, that’s since the beginning of the year. The NHS department that I work for had a large restructuring of staff. As a result of that, most of us ended up in different work locations. My time is now split between St James’ Hospital and Fort Southwick, so it made sense to move a bit closer, for convenience.
Do you work in a team?
Yeah, I’m in a team of six people in the communications department. They’re very supportive, especially after the upheaval of the restructuring, where we were scaled down from an original team of twenty-four, covering all of Hampshire. It turned out OK in the end, because everyone found jobs in other areas, but it’s meant that we’re quite a tight-knit team having gone through a tough time.
This has been quite recent?
It was all done and dusted by April of this year, but it was obviously quite a stressful period of time for everyone.
How does work feel about your involvement with the Fox & Hounds?
My boss knows all about it and is very supportive. He knows that I’m looking for personal development, so it’s considered to be valuable experience, quite apart from being community minded. He’s very happy for us to be involved in any kind of voluntary roles and understands that although we enjoy our jobs, they’re not everything in our lives and we have other things going on. I have a work colleague who helps out with Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs.
The Fox and Hounds pub community project
How are you associated with the Fox & Hounds?
I moved to Denmead with my parents, from Gloucester, when I was two years old. Then in 2006, when I was fifteen, we moved houses within the village to three doors down from the pub. When I turned eighteen I was able to use it with friends and it effectively became my local, in the literal sense. So I grew up in Denmead really.
Were you aware of what was going on behind the scenes from the start?
The announcement of the pub closing shocked everyone in the village. I knew that the community was trying to change the owners’ minds about turning it into land for housing. Without any luck, as you know.
When did you get involved with the project to save the pub?
My dad was on the mailing list for the updates from Rob Stark [Co-operative Chairman] and on one of those it was mentioned that they were looking for someone to assist with communications. As I work in that area for the NHS, and being something that I do on a daily basis, I thought that I could make good use of those skills outside of the day job. Being part of the Denmead community and having a close association with the Fox and Hounds, it seemed like the perfect fit.
Yes, they’re investors, like myself. They’ve been around for most of the ‘clear up’ days.
You’re the grand web mistress for the F&H web site?
Was there an existing site or did you start it from scratch?
Rob had a contact who was able to do the technical side of things [Steve Cross], but they didn’t have anyone responsible for the content. The public face, if you will.
That’s where you came in?
I put together the diary of events, the photographs and general information. The guys pass me the information and I massage it for public consumption [laughs]
Is it only you that has admin access?
It’s open to the rest of the team and they could easily add content if they weren’t terrified of breaking something [laughs]
What sort of things are showing up on the web site at the moment?
At the moment my main task is keeping the momentum going, by ensuring that everyone knows what’s happening, often, as it happens. There are plenty of updates going out, purely because it is so busy with building work. Rob does the email updates and I make sure they go out on the website and social media. We put up photographs when we can to show what progress is being made.
You manage the Fox and Hounds twitter account?
I have it on my phone so that if we have any new pictures, or anything, I can tweet about it straightaway. Everything that Rob puts up to the supporters, I tweet about it to make sure that everyone is kept informed. Unfortunately, because I’m so busy with the day job, I can’t physically get down to the site during the day to see what’s going on. I would like to get more involved with that side of it.
As soon as we have a confirmed date, I’ll be able to get a lot more involved with that aspect and reach out to a wider audience. I’ll get in touch with the local media and launch it that way. We’ve worked very closely with one of the journalists at the News [Elise Brewerton] to get a few stories out.
I’ve heard that you have a local celebrity lined up?
Yes, Fred Dinenage has been mentioned, but that’s not confirmed yet. I’ve organised several events in the past, so my experience will be useful in that way, and it’s something that I would like to do more of, anyway.
How did you get the word out to the community to start with?
One of the first things that I was involved with was the leaflet drop that we did. That was a really positive experience. I met some fantastic people who were willing to help, and really keen to get involved.
You don’t fancy being a pub landlady or working behind the bar?
I did actually think about it for some extra income. One big thing against it though is that my partner, Robin, works at sea for four months at a time. When he’s home, I like to spend as much time as I can with him. So, at the moment, I’m not so interested in having two jobs!
When you have the grand opening of the pub, will that be the end of your involvement?
As an investor or, as we are called, ‘a friend of the Fox,’ I’d like to still be involved. If they think that there is still value in keeping the web site going, I’d be more than happy to continue in the current role and to support Angie [the new landlady] with that.
You stepped straight into work after Uni; any plans for a gap year at all?
Not at the moment because of finances, but I would like to do some travelling as some point. We had a holiday in Morocco last year. Before that, I’d not really been that far away. The different culture and everything, has given me a taste for exploring a bit more.
With your background in writing, would you consider travel journalism, maybe?
That’s something that I would really enjoy doing. I love writing and the creative side of life in general. Being able to combine travel and writing would be perfect. Where I did magazine journalism at university, I wrote a lot of different styles during my training, and travel writing always interested me. I’m looking to progress in my career, so any writing opportunities are up for grabs at the moment.
Would you consider yourself adventurous?
I’d love to do something like go on safari, take photographs and write about the experience. As I’ve said money, or lack of it [laughs], is the main stumbling block. If somebody wanted to pay for me to go, I wouldn’t object though [laughs].
You’re a sun worshipper then?
Yes, not so keen on the cold [laughs]. So India, Mexico, somewhere hot, is likely to be on the cards for next year.
I’m sat in the office in Portsmouth and I get a text saying, I’ve just seen a polar bear!
You don’t fancy somewhere like Iceland?
Hmmmmm, not so much, I like being by a pool in the sun [laughs]. Robin saw a polar bear on his last trip away. They went to the most northerly town in the world [Longyearbyen Svalbard, Norway].
Has Robin got the travel bug?
Because he travels a lot with work, he’s seen a lot more places than me. The Baltic appeals to him. He has been in that area with work, but would like to return in his own time and explore a bit more. We’ve actually just been talking about where we might go next year on holiday. India might be on the cards, not sure at the moment. It’s quite tricky to plan because of his work routine. The time of year that we have some time together, relatively late in the season, we have to travel quite far to get some sun.
Do you prefer home comforts, or do you put up with roughing it a bit?
I’d rather go to a hotel. Robin has suggested that we go camping but …
How about writing a book?
I think magazine articles and things of that nature would interest me more. I don’t think that I have the attention span for something as demanding as writing a book [laughs]. It would take me too long, and I would get fed up and move on to the next thing. At home I have the attention span of a gnat [laughs]. I tried to teach myself the guitar once. I had a go at a few chords, couldn’t get the hang of it, so got bored and gave up! What’s odd is that I have a completely different persona at work, I’m focused and ultra organised. I guess I compensate when I get home [laughs].
Do you enjoy the research side of writing?
Yeah I do. When I first started in the NHS, I knew absolutely nothing about it as an organisation. So I did quite a lot of research before I started. Building up my knowledge and being able to get my teeth into it, I enjoy a lot. That’s helped me immensely with doing my job. Because I have exposure to such a wide variety of people and departments, it’s very useful to have a basic understanding of the language, so to speak. Armed with that knowledge means that writing content for the NHS web site, I can convert our complex world into something more understandable for the general public.
You can add ‘doctor speak translator’ to your skills
Yes, it can be challenging working with doctors. Exciting, but tricky to get a plain English version of the information on occasions [laughs]
Magic wand time
If I could wave a magic wand and remove any financial burdens, Robin can quit his job, what would you do?
Travelling has to be top of the list. Added to places in the sun would be going to New York. I’m a shopaholic, so that has to be mecca for me [laughs]. I guess next would be to buy a house somewhere. No idea where at the moment, but definitely our own place. Myself and a colleague were musing over winning the lottery the other day at work. I was saying that I couldn’t just completely stop working. I would have to do something, whether it was voluntary work at home or abroad, I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing.
What sort of voluntary work? People or animals?
You’re a soft touch then?
Any in particular?
Lots of different ones really. I love dogs; we had one when I was growing up. I met my friend’s new kittens yesterday, so now I want a kitten. [laughs] I’m a sucker for them all.
Editor – sorry Robin 🙂
What breed was your dog?
A poodle called Polly, but not a fancy one. My dad is allergic to dog fur, so we had to choose a breed that didn’t moult. Unfortunately, she passed away this year, it still feels strange when I go back home and she’s not there. She was very intelligent, which was not easy sometimes. She could get round us very easily [laughs].
Anything else you could spend the money on?
I enjoy fast cars. I’ve been on a couple of driving experience days and love doing that. I like to dream which one I would buy if I did win the lottery, but, in the meantime, I’m quite happy with my Polo [laughs].
Web Links and References of interest