KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER ON CAREERS, PARENTHOOD, AND LIFE ON THE FARM.

KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER | IMAGES BY TOM PITFIELD FOR BROOD MAGAZINE ©. | INTERVIEW BY LOLO STUBBS

“I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.

Parents to four children under six years old, Kelvin and Liz Fletcher, are a humble yet extremely impressive couple, and their incredible appetite to create a full and vibrant life for themselves and their children is truly inspiring! Both Kelvin 38, and Liz are well known for their careers as actors, with Kelvin in particular becoming a household name through his 20 years on one of Britain’s best loved soaps – Emmerdale. But the careers that they are most recognised for are not what defines this enterprising couple as they recently added the role of ‘Farmers’ to their impressive CV’s. In their early years as a couple, Liz enjoyed a successful career as a fashion buyer but then decided to leave behind that career and return to drama school. They had only lived together for a few short months, before Liz was given the exciting opportunity to attend a Drama school in London, and despite the distance this would put between them (as Kelvin was at the peak of his career in Emmerdale at the time) he insisted that Liz go on to pursue her dreams; showing how supportive and encouraging they have always been of each other’s dreams. 

Pre-covid Kelvin and Liz were all set to embark on a new life in America, but when covid put the brakes on that dream they decided to set out to undertake a new adventure in the countryside when they bought a 120-acre farm. At the time they were a family of 4, before quickly becoming a family of six when their gorgeous twin boys, Maximus and Mateusz joined their brood. As if juggling four young children and running a working farm wasn’t enough, both Kelvin and Liz have continued with their acting careers, and they have just released their very own book – ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ a follow-on from their successful TV series. 

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Front Cover of Brood Magazine
© BROOD MAGAZINE. KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER
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Kelvin and Liz Fletcher on Careers, Parenthood and life on the farm.

We had the pleasure of seeing Liz and Kelvin, their gorgeous baby boys and their adorable cavapoochon Ginger at their wonderful family home and amongst lots of giggles, we delved into what drives them, their plans for the future, and how they manage their daily juggle of having of 4 kids and a farm! Even though managing all that they do is clearly not for the faint hearted, the endearing way they talk about their family life would be enough to tempt anyone who has a sense of adventure to don a pair of wellies and get stuck into life on a farm! 

“If you know you’re capable of it, then go for it!”

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher - Life on the Farm
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE

So firstly, was life like pre-kids? 

Kelvin – “Happy, wasn’t it?” [he turns to Liz and they both start laughing]

Liz – “Yes, relaxed!” 

Kelvin – “I was in really good shape, I ate really well, did what I wanted, when I wanted! Loads of Holidays..!” 

Liz – “Aww. What-a-life!” [continued laughing]

Kelvin – “We was looking at pictures the other night from before we had the kids and you look different pre kids, young and full faced! 

Liz – “We looked well slept – well rested!”

We can definitely relate to that! So at what point in your relationship did you decide to take the plunge and start a family together?

Liz – “We had been together for nearly ten years, and my dad said Kelvin was ‘freewheeling’” [Liz erupts into laughter!] “I had secretly called him up and said ‘Dad, what do you think about Kelvin?’ and as he’s quite traditional he replied with – ‘I think he’s freewheeling!’. So, I told Kelvin, my dad think’s you’re freewheeling – we’re not married, we’re not engaged, we’ve been together all this time. And I’d started thinking about it because we were coming up to our thirties, I wanted kids – although Kelvin didn’t think I was very maternal!” 

Kelvin – “That was the reason I was freewheeling! I used to think, Liz is great but she’s just not into kids and I want loads of kids – I wanted a big family. So, I just thought I don’t know if she’s going to be my wife because she doesn’t like kids!” [We all laugh]

Liz – “Yet, at the same time I’m thinking I want kids”

Kelvin – “We should have probably talked about it!”  

Well, yes especially after 10 years! [We all laugh again] So, how did you finally broach the subject then? 

Liz – “Well, I just said one day, ‘If you’re thinking of having kids, and you want this to go further, I just need to let you know I’m not going to have kids unless I’m married…so there you go! I’ll give you until the end of the year!” [she laughs] “So, I left him with that information, and this was the beginning of the year and then it took him until November – he left me hanging until NOVEMBER – and then he proposed!”

Kelvin – “Yes, 28th November!”  

Liz – “I had no idea it was going to happen, and he took me away for this amazing weekend in Anglesey. He’d done a full on reccy before he proposed, there was certainly a lot of effort involved. He’d designed the ring and everything!”

Kelvin – “The ring you don’t wear?” 

Liz can’t contain her laughter – “I know! I don’t even wear it! Well, I’m a farmer now I can’t wear it!”

“Yes, she literally keeps in a mug over there! It’s worth more than the kitchen and it’s sat in a mug over there!” [We are all in fits of giggles at this point] 

Liz – “And then from a year to the day later, we got married!”

Kelvin – “And then almost 9 months later, Marnie was born! And then suddenly that’s when things changed, and your life becomes so different.”

In what way did you feel the changes? 

Liz – “Well, a month before I gave birth, you left Emmerdale didn’t you?”

Kelvin – “Yes, I had been working my two-year notice, as I knew I wanted to leave. And I left really happy as I had a job for 20 years that I loved, but I was ready for a new challenge. I was 32 years old, and I wanted to figure out my next move. I did question if I even wanted to act anymore, as from being 6-7 years old it was all I had ever done and I suppose I wanted to know, ‘Could I do anything else?’ So that was a big transition anyway, as well as becoming a father for the first time. But that helped me too. As obviously becoming a parent is amazing, but also because I suppose it’s like when sportsmen retire sometimes, they can lose all sense of who they are. Who am I? What am I? And I think after 20 years of working that could have happened to me, but that void was quickly filled by having our daughter. So, I didn’t have time to start worrying as to whether I had done the right thing or not, so in that way the timing was really good.”

Liz – “I had started doing voiceovers at this point, so it worked well for me too, as I could do the odd job but most of the time I could be at home with the baby. I was also teaching dance at a little school down the road a couple of hours a week too”

Kelvin – “I took six months off from Acting but I was doing other bits in the background, figuring out what to do next so I never really stopped completely.”

Kelvin – “I guess first and foremost we’re actors, that’s what we are. But you’re somewhat at the mercy of other people’s decisions, so to fill that void and take some control back, we did it with a baby, with Marnie, and then we had a few more children and now we’ve become farmers. And that’s our attempt to create some continuity and consistency through family and our work life, and to make this our little world. And I think it’s healthy for us to have that. I’ve seen so many actors when things are not going their way and it’s all they know, it’s all they are, that it then consumes them in such a way that they can become resentful of themselves and the industry, and it’s understandable that people can find themselves in that position, but I will never allow any skill set, any job, any career to define me. To be the whole me. Because there is much more to life. And it’s easier said than done when you’ve got to put food on the table but I’m never going to allow anything like that to take my happiness.”

What’s the biggest positives of having the farm, for your family life? 

Kelvin – “I think one of the positives is the variety it gives us. For me I personally seek variety and I think that is key. I think that’s healthy, it’s not for everyone but it’s certainly right for us. And I’d like to think that’s something we’ll pass onto the kids. And Liz shares those views as well. It gives us new scope; fresh ideas and it expands your imagination. I also think it makes you more accepting of different people and different situations, and I think it makes you more rounded as a person, which is important.” 

Was the farm always a dream of yours? 

Kelvin – “No, I just woke up one morning and thought let’s get a farm!” 

Liz – “Yes, this was typical Kelvin! We were supposed to be in America! We were sorting a visa out to move to America, and we were 18 months into that process but then the pandemic happened, and all visa’s got stopped. But that had been our mission, and Kelvin had said ‘Well, we’ll just wait for covid to go and we’ll start it back up.’ Little did I know that Kelvin being Kelvin, was like ‘Right well that’s done – what’s next?’” [she laughs] “Then the next minute he’s on a train, he’s on right move sees this place and he say’s ‘Right Liz, how do you fancy going looking at a farm tomorrow?’ I was like ‘Whaaattt!’ [she continues laughing] “And because I can’t say no to anything, I just said ‘Ok, go on then!’ (It was kind of through gritted teeth because I was thinking farming?!”)

Kelvin -“But it wasn’t to farm originally, it was just to live here. I just wanted a different set up for us. Whether that was on a beach in California, or we even looked at New York, and central London, but I just wanted to change things up. Going back to that again – yes, as actors we want to act, and I love the hustle, but we’ve got a life together as parents and as individuals and there’s just so much more to life than just your career. So, I was just like lets just have a change of scenery, because I didn’t want to us to find ourselves in our fifties or sixties and think we’ve never had an adventure, so I just thought let’s bloody do it! And we looked at everything from Castles in Scotland, honestly as random as that, and I’m that kind of person where if I want to do something it will happen – it’s as simple as that! It can be scary and it’s not always that easy, but I think making decisions like that can give you a rebirth. It’s a new chapter and you’re creating memories and having new experiences. It could be the wrong decision; you could drop a bollock and think ‘Ah we shouldn’t have done that.’ But you can always go back.”

Liz – “Although it might seem we do things completely off the cuff, everything we thought about we researched, and we made sure it was possible. We didn’t just move to a farm with no thought behind it.” 

Kelvin – “Yes, I’m sucker for detail!”

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Is that something that you want the kids to take on board?

Kelvin – “Yes, for me that sense of adventure. If Marnie is 18 years old and she says ‘Dad, I want to go and live in America for three years’ it would kill me, but I absolutely would encourage that. But I would also encourage anything they want to do. She might want to stay here and work on the farm, but whatever they want to do but I just want them to have that sense that anything is possible. If you fancy it, you only live once go for it!”  

Since moving to the farm you have gone from having two children to four with the arrival of the twins, how have you found that transition?

Kelvin – “Hard work! It’s hard for me but it’s even harder for Liz!” 

Liz – “Well, every time I have a baby Kelvin gets a job working away! So, I’m not having anymore babies now then he might not get a job away again!” [They start laughing]

Kelvin – “I’ve only had three jobs! Three pregnancies, three jobs!” [He declares, laughing]

Liz – “Just being told we were having twins was an absolute shock. I was filled with worry. I just kept thinking ‘Oh my god two babies, how am I going to do it with the other two?’ because two weeks after they came along Kelvin had to go working away in London. So, I had two new-borns, it was the school holidays, Kelvin was working away – it just all came at once! But do you know what, we got through it, and I always just think – I’m here, we’re in it, I can’t sit here and moan about it, I’ve got to get through it. Obviously, there are days where it was horrendous, I felt like I didn’t know what was happening – I even fell asleep stood up once! But we got through it and now it’s not that bad, plus now Kelvins home again it can only get easier!”

Kelvin – “It is mad, but it’s a good crack, isn’t it? We’ll look back at this and think God we were crazy. 9 out of ten people will think I wouldn’t be doing that – they’re mad.”

Liz – “Yeah, I’ve got friends who say to me. I’m having a breakdown just listening to this story Liz! Because we live in the moment and if someone said, ‘Can you be in London tomorrow?’, we’d be like ‘Ok, yes no problem!’. We’d make it happen, whereas some of my mates are like ‘Nooo, I’d need a full two weeks of organising everything!’

You recently recorded ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ how did that come about?

Kelvin – “I was developing shows with the BBC, and this was just an off-topic conversation, and I told them what we had been up to, (moving to the farm) and I said, ‘I’ve got an idea for a TV show’ and then suddenly that process started. So that in turn gave us more of an appetite to live off the land, to grow our own food and get an understanding of animals and where your food comes from and the more, we delved into that, the more we just found it fascinating. Then we started to look at how we could commercialise it and look at the farming industry in detail. And it is an industry that everyone tells you not to get into, as there isn’t any money in it, but after looking at it we wanted to take on that challenge, because we thought it was something we could do.”

Liz – “Oh if you tell Kelvin he can’t do something, then instantly he’s going to find a way to do it!” 

Kelvin – “We want to build something here and we’re 18 months into that, and although we’re on a long journey, the aim is to make this an enterprise; something for our children, and for their future. We’re mainly a livestock farm so we’ve got sheep, pigs, chickens, we’ve got horses in the stables. We’re looking at going into cattle but as anyone in farming will tell you, livestock farming can only pay you so much really and that’s dictated on the ground you’ve got. We’ve got a 120-acre site so there’s instant limitations there, but you can diversify.”

Liz – “It’s given us a lot of purpose really, because now we’ll do the school run and then we come back, and we get stuck into all the jobs that need doing on the farm. And even at weekends, Marnie and Milo are coming to that age where they really understand it and they want to get involved too, especially Marnie. And Milo isn’t as dangerous now, as when we first moved here, he was only two, so we had to run round trying to stop him licking everything!” [she laughs] “It’s been amazing really; they’ve seen lambing season recently and I get a lot of joy seeing them get involved in it. Also no day is the same which is great.”

Kelvin – “It is full on, and it can be stressful but it’s good fun too. And whether it ends up just being a chapter of our lives or something long term, who knows, but while we’re in it we’re putting everything we can into it, and we’re excited to see where it goes. But I feel it’s the happiest and most settled we’ve ever been.”

What tips would you give to other parents who are looking to change course and take the leap into something new?

Kelvin – “If you think you can do it and if you know you are capable of it, then go for it! For me that’s what I do and if I come up short, then I come up short and I can live with that, but you’ve got to give things a go. I’m used to no one else believing in me. We can come up with a plan, and there might only be me and Liz that believe in it and that’s it – maybe our parents or our agent too, whoever it might be, but you’ve got to have that mentality where you have to think ‘Well if I think it can work, then that’s all the validation I need and if that’s different to other people and what they’re doing then so be it!’ However, you do have to put the work in, some people might have the dream, but they’re not prepared to put the work in, so you’ve got to have a good understanding of yourself and having a frank chat with yourself. You need to ask yourself, ‘What are my skills? What am I really prepared to do? That’s what I do, and I know my limitations so I don’t take on tasks where I don’t think I can do it”

Do you have a structured process to achieve your goals? 

Kelvin – “Yes, I always have a clear list of goals which I want to achieve. For example there are three/four things that I want to achieve by the end of this year and I’d say 50% are completely on our terms, and the other 50% need things to happen elsewhere to, so there’s a little bit of jeopardy there. For those goals I will do everything I can to get it as far as I can and that last part has got to come from somewhere else in order for it to succeed. Whereas the things that are 100% on us we will get them done. We have some longer-term goals too, so we have 3–6-month plans and then we have a 2–3-year plan too and we just work towards it.”

Liz – “Me and Kelvin work well together because if you’ve got a plan and it doesn’t go right that can really throw Kelvin, whereas I can help us to adapt. It’s great to have the goals and you need them, but there are always hiccups along the way and you have to find a way to adjust.”

Kelvin – “Yes, and sometimes those things can be out of your control, like market change in a business etc and you’ve failed. You take a knock, but I’ve not got a fear of failure, I’ve got a fear of regret.”  

If you want to read more about Kelvin and Liz’s incredible journey, then you can buy their new book ‘Fletchers on the Farm’ at all high street bookstores or click here to purchase  

Kelvin and Liz Fletcher
KELVIN AND LIZ FLETCHER © BROOD MAGAZINE
Simon Wood
Written by
Tom Pitfield and his daughter Iris

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

Rob Stubbs

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CHEMMY ALCOTT

CHEMMY ALCOTT

CHEMMY ALCOTT © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

“I vowed never to lose myself when I became a parent.”

Inspirational Mum of two, and BBC Ski Sunday Presenter, Chemmy Alcott, went down in history as being the first British Ski racer to win a world cup run, and she is widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest ever skiers. Chemmy is no stranger to adversity having broken 49 bones in her life, and still returning to the slopes against all odds, so it’s no wonder that when she was offered her dream job as BBC Ski Sunday feature presenter at the same time that she was due to give birth to her first child that she chose to take on the challenge of both roles; returning to work only two weeks after giving birth!

Alongside her successful career as a BBC sports presenter, Chemmy is an inspirational speaker and also runs her own business – CDC Performance – with her husband, 25 Time British Champion Dougie Crawford, providing world class ski coaching and experiences. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chemmy at her lovely family home that she shares with Dougie and their two boys, Locki 5 and Cooper 3, to discuss how she does it all, and why maintaining her own identity is so important to her.  

CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
CHEMMY ALCOTT IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

You returned to work very quickly after having both your boys, did you always plan to return to work so quickly and was it important to you that you kept your own identity outside of being a mum?

“I think I was quite lucky as a lot of my friends had kids before me, so I saw them really change through parenthood and lose themselves, and so I vowed to never let that happen to me when I became a parent. But I then went completely the other way, as both my babies were born in the January, and I went back to work skiing only two weeks after, with both babies. In fact, our first labour was really complicated, and they were said ‘Look this isn’t going great…’ with my reply being, ‘Don’t even think about a c-section, because I’ve got to ski in two weeks – I’ve got to work!’ Maybe I felt more pressure being female, but I was about to start my dream job at the BBC doing Ski Sunday, and I remember thinking, ‘I can’t give up this role. I don’t want them to give this job to anyone else, this Is my job! I’m going to make it happen!’ So, when they initially offered me the job my naive plan was, I’m going have the baby, I’m going to go straight back to work, Dougie’s amazing at supporting me so we can do this! Although it was crazy, it was just epic, because people just lose themselves so much and it can be so hard to find yourself again, but I never got chance to stop being me. Actually, in skiing they say that if you’ve skied your whole life and then you become a parent, but then you don’t ski for 5 years then you’ll never ski again! It’s because the fear of being responsible for someone else and the danger of the sport just crushes you so much that you never allow yourself to have that play time again. I hoped that wouldn’t happen to me though, although looking back I think it’s pretty mad that I was skiing only a few weeks after having a baby, but I was really fortunate in how my body held up.

It was also quite empowering returning to work so quickly. I remember when Cooper was born and two weeks later, we were at the World Championships, and I was working, interviewing the guy who had just won the World Champs downhill. It was a great interview, and when we finished the interview, the producer said ‘Woah, that was epic! You’re on a buzz!’ And I replied ‘Yeah, I am, and do you know what?’ and he was like ‘What?’, and I put my hand in my bra and I had one of those silent Elvie pumps on and I had made almost half a litre of milk whilst I was doing this interview! Throughout the whole interview I knew I was doing that, I knew I was smashing new motherhood and it just made me feel amazing, I was firing on all cylinders, and no one knew! You’re throwing yourself in at the deep end, and it’s hard but you just feel this overwhelming sense of achievement. But I remember going back to work that first time and I was so sleep deprived, and as an athlete I had this massive superstition that I needed 9 hours sleep a night but then suddenly you become a parent and that is just completely unrealistic! Then obviously two weeks after having Locki I was given this script, I’d barely slept, and I remember questioning myself ‘I can’t even remember my own name! How am I going to remember this script!’  But somehow, I did it, and I think you’ve got to keep challenging yourself and that’s what helps you to keep being your very best self. I think that’s how we’ve been able to maintain this mental crazy lifestyle because we never stepped away from it.”

You spoke briefly about feeling the pressure about being a female and not wanting to lose your dream job role, but was that the only reason that you felt so determined to maintain, being you? 

“I mean there was definitely the element of proving people wrong, because a lot of people said I couldn’t do it. And all my career when I had multiple injuries – when I broke my leg and neck – people said she won’t be able to come back, and it was always a motivating factor to me. It shouldn’t be but you’ve got to look at it one way or another and it either pushes you down and the pressure is too much, or you go ‘Hey, I’ll show you!’ and it was kind of the same with parenthood.

I just feel like if you can do those first few years of being a parent and not lose your own identity, then you will come out of parenthood incredibly strong and incredibly grateful for your kids. At times you can miss the old life that you used to have prior to having kids, you might have single friends and you see them going out and at times you can resent that, but if you stick to still being you and defining who you are away from being a parent, then in the long run it’s just magnificent!”

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“This is my dream job and I’m going to make it happen!”

Did you experience any parent guilt with returning to work so soon and maintaining your own identity?

“Oh yes, the other side of it is certainly that, I suffer horrendously from parent guilt, I’ve suffered from that since becoming a mum, and I used to not want to admit to having a nanny because even though I was back at work after two weeks I didn’t want to admit to having help. But my mum is no longer around, and my dad is unable to help, and Dougie’s parents live in Scotland, so there was no other option really, but for some reason I wanted people to think that we were doing it alone. I think it had always been drilled into you that you were ridiculously well off if you had a nanny, and you were judged for it. It took me a couple of years of people saying, ‘God it’s amazing what you’re doing’, before I could say, ‘well yes, it is amazing, but I have got help too and that’s why I can do it!’ And I realised I needed to be open about it.”

You’ve obviously been a topflight athlete and you’ve been a mum for over 5 years now, which role would you say is harder? 

“Definitely parenthood! Being a parent can be unbelievably hard! Being an athlete is very easy, it’s very simple, your goal is yourself – it’s me, me, me, me. Whereas being a parent is ever evolving, it’s ever challenging, your child is constantly changing and trying to define who they are, and you have to change with them. I fight the urge to read a lot of books about parenting and how to talk to your kids, because I think ultimately you learn through your mistakes. I feel like I’ve already made mistakes that I felt were a good idea at the time and then as they get older you realise that it maybe wasn’t the best approach. For 8 years during my career as a ski racer, when I had the opportunity to win and I was healthy, I chose to underperform, because I had this horrendous fear of failure and I couldn’t manage everyone else’s expectations of me being this very talented athlete, so I chose to perform at 80% and I kept 20% in my back pocket to self-validate why I wasn’t winning. So, I never took risks, and I was never the best that I could be, and it was good on the world stage, but it was never my best and it was a very unsatisfactory way to live; so, when I became a parent, I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to let them charge! And be 100% and make mistakes.’ So now I’ve created two absolute nutters who don’t have any fear of failure and who don’t have a fear of making mistakes.”

When your second came along, yourself and Dougie were obviously running your business and you were presenting how did you find the shift from one to two children?

“Well, you think one’s hard but then you have two and it’s just another level of hard! I always wanted three but no, we are done at two!” She laughs “Because we’re just about managing! We’re like the swans on the lake they look like they’ve got everything together, but their feet are going like crazy to get upstream! I do think I’m a much better parent second time around though.”

You spoke about having to deal with horrendous Mum guilt, what tips would you give for working through that?

“Yes, mum guilt is really hard, when you’re at work you feel like you should be with your kids, and when you’re with you’re kids you feel like you should be a work! So, what I did, as I’m really good a goal setting, so for the 5 hours I was at work I would set my goals as to what I want to achieve whilst I’m at work and I’m at work properly the, focused and head down. Then when I’m at home that phone goes to the side, and I am present. I find that is the best way, because I see a lot of people trying to do it all at the same time, but if you’re only giving 50% of yourself then everything is going to start suffering. So, you know, you into your work guns blazing – be there, be present make an impact. Then go home and enjoy quality time with your family. Because the kids notice it when you are distracted, because when I fall foul of my own rules, they’ll say ‘Mummy, you’re not here!’”

 

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Emma Neville – Philanthropist, counsellor, WIFE and doting Mum of two

Emma Neville – Philanthropist, counsellor, WIFE and doting Mum of two

Emma Neville and her two daughters she shares with football legend Gary Neville © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Philanthropist, qualified counsellor, wife, and doting Mum of two

“the first big thing that I did for them was a fundraiser which was 3 days, 3 countries and 3 mountains, I was quite nervous going as it was with a group of ladies that I didn’t know bar two of them, but collectively, we raised £178,000 ”

Philanthropist, qualified counsellor and doting Mum of two, Emma Neville, has always kept herself out of the public eye despite her husband, Gary Neville’s, extremely high profile and widely documented career; meaning that a lot of Emma’s personal achievements and her incredible dedication to support so many charities have gone under the radar. Emma is exceptionally modest about her charity work and what she has achieved already in her career as a counsellor. It’s a journey that she embarked on around five years ago; after spending many years embracing her role as a full-time mum and taking the lead with the family’s home life to counterbalance Gary’s demanding career schedule. But as the girls got older Emma realised, she wanted to do something for herself, consequently pushing herself out of her comfort zone and pursuing a lifelong ambition of becoming a qualified counsellor. Emma also accelerated her contributions to several charities through volunteer work, rather than ‘just’ making monetary donations. Emma volunteers for many charities including Destination Florida, Bury Cancer Support Centre, Girls Out Loud, Child Bereavement UK and she is very passionate about enhancing the amazing work that these charities already do, as well as helping to raise awareness for them. 

When you meet Emma, you can instantly see why she is so well suited to her chosen career path, as her warm and endearing nature shines through. It was an absolute pleasure to chat to Emma and listen to how she has carved out her new career path, whilst making a difference to so many people’s lives, and to hear how she balances that alongside her role as Mum. We chatted away to Emma before the girls, Molly 13, and Sophie 12, returned home from school and joined us for our photo shoot; that we managed to squeeze in between school finishing, teatime, and netball practise!

So, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about what you have been up to since embarking on your new career.

“I qualified as a person-centred counsellor in 2019 – I never thought I would actually finish it as lockdown came along and it was really difficult as I’m very much a classroom learner and without the classroom, I didn’t think I would have been capable of doing it on my own. But I got there, and I passed, and I was really proud of my little self! I gain my 100-hour client learning at two placements; one was at the Simeon centre, and one was at the Bury Cancer Support Centre. They were two very different organisational structures, I enjoyed both ways of how the client process worked. After my placement finished at Bury Cancer Support Centre, they asked me if I would like to stay on and continue in the role, and I was so happy that they had asked me as it was such a special place that I accepted straight away!

Emma Neville
Emma Neville and her two daughters © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Emma Neville
Emma Neville. IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY for BROOD

I’ve completed numerous other courses since looking into different modalities, such as transactional analysis, working with children and adolescent counselling course and trauma and PTSD. It is really important to me that I make sure I’ve learnt as many skills as I possibly can, so that I can offer people the best support possible.”

What made you enter the world of counselling, to take the first step and start the course?     

“Well, I had always wanted to do it, I remember contemplating it when was working at wholesale jewellers in my twenties, and I was obviously quite young then though so I’m really glad that I didn’t do it at that point in my life, as I feel like the life experiences I have had since have actually helped me become a better counsellor. So, even though it is something I’ve always wanted to do, I feel like I’ve done it at the right time in my life.

It was actually through working with a charity that I decided to take the plunge and start the course. I was at a ladies lunch at the Hilton in Manchester and Gary Barlow was speaking as an ambassador for Child Bereavement UK and I got chatting to Liz Taylor, who had put on the event, and I asked who the CEO was, and Liz introduced me to Anne Chalmers. I had a really good chat with Ann, and she gave me her card. I left the event with an overpowering urge to be involved with them somehow, I wanted to help them to do more; hearing all the stories and watching the videos had really touched me. But I didn’t want to just make a pledge and give money though, I wanted to do more than that, I wanted become hands on with the charity. So started doing some volunteer work for them on their family support programmes, which run from a centre in Widnes. I would do one weekend on and one weekend off there. We would read bereavement books with the children and do various craft activities with them and talk about the special person that they had lost. These children would have lost their Mum, or their dad, or their brother, or their sister. People used to say to me ‘How can you do that it must be really depressing?’, but for me those Saturdays were my favourite Saturdays out of the month. I would leave there feeling so privileged that these amazing children had let me into their lives. And as the weeks went on, it was just so wonderful to see the children’s personalities grow and develop, and to watch all the friendships form between the children. They were making friends with other children that they could relate to, as they had all shared similar experiences. So, it was through doing that volunteer work that gave me the push to become a qualified counsellor.”

 

Destination Florida Charity

“…I explained some of the children that I’m working with have lost their mummy’s and daddy’s, or brother’s or sister’s, so I was needed there to help those children.”

So how long had you been doing volunteer work before you decided to enrol onto the Counselling course?

“I did it that for a year and I did some training with them whilst I was there, and then I just thought right it’s time for me to take the next step and I enrolled on a part time course, at night school for my Level 2 qualification. I hadn’t studied for a long time, so it was a big thing for me to go back into the classroom. Then I progressed onto my Level 3 and then Level 4 – which is a two-year course with 100 hours placement. So, it took me three and half years in total to become fully qualified.”

 

During those three and half years of studies and placements, how did that impact your mum role and how did you find the juggle?

“I did feel guilty doing the work on the Saturday at times, because obviously the girls are at school all week, but I looked forward to sharing how my Saturday had gone with them once I got home. I’ve always been open with them as well and explained that some of the children that I’m working with have lost their mummy’s and daddy’s, or brother’s or sister’s, so I was needed there to help those children.”

Are the girls proud of you now that they are that bit older, and they can understand more about what you do and what you have achieved?

“I think so!” she laughs, “They’ll often ask me what I’ve done that day – sometimes they’re not listening to me (she laughs) but other times they really do take an interest and they’ll ask about the books that I’m reading etc. When I’m putting on a charity event though I like to try and get them involved, so I will ask them to come up with ideas for fundraising etc. I actually did a placement at a hospice in Radcliffe, and they did a stall and was selling toys to try and raise money for the hospice. I think it’s really important to get them involved and I hope that they themselves will go along the path of getting involved with doing some aspect of charity work too.”

 

Did you feel like you had to wait until the girls were a bit older in order to start your education and career?

“I definitely wanted to be with the girls when they were younger and be that mum that can do every school pick up, but as they started to get a bit older, even from the age of about 7, they would start taken themselves off to do things for themselves and it just felt like it was the right time as a whole for us all. In hindsight I think I would have liked to have started this journey earlier. But I suppose everything happens at the right time in the end, and I still had and do get, those feelings of mum guilt, even though I know that they are fine. I would have struggled to have started my studies now as they have so many activities and commitments after school, but back then they had only just started playing netball, so it wasn’t too intense at that point trying to manage everything. I am also not very good at delegating and that came from my own feelings of wanting to do everything for them, so I’m lucky that the career I have chosen actually fit’s in really well for us a whole, as it’s quite flexible, so I’m lucky that it didn’t add too much pressure. It was very important to me when I started it that I could schedule it into my family life without it affecting it too much.”

 

Has having a career helped you to find your own identity outside of the parent role?

“Yes, definitely. I felt a change around the time I was thirty-five and I really felt that I needed to do some for myself and to see what I could achieve in my own right. I realised that I do want to feel important and valued as a person, and not ‘just’ as a mum. When I only had that mum role, I would drop them off at school, come home do the housework, get the shopping in etc and before I knew it was time to pick them back up again, and I can remember thinking the days just go so fast, ‘how do people do it?’. So, I always really admired working parents. I think because Gary’s work life has always been so full on, I never know his schedule and when I do it changes that much, that was why I never really pushed myself because I felt like I had to fit around that and take the lead with the girls. And I know Gary would have supported me if I would have wanted to do something back then, but I felt like it was the right role for me at that time. When I started my course and I was one of the older ones on the course and I had a lot of self-doubt, where I questioned whether I was capable or not, but I really felt it was really important to keep going and push myself. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew if I would have just given up that I would have been so angry with myself, that no matter how much I was struggling and doubting my capabilities, I made sure I turned up to every class and got through it.”

 

 

Obviously, Gary has very high profile and has had a very successful career, so you didn’t necessarily need to build a career of your own from a financial point of view, so your driving force has been to help a number of charities elevate their services, raise awareness and funds. Tell us a little bit more about that.  

“When I started volunteering with Child Bereavement UK the first big thing that I did for them was a fundraiser which was 3 days, 3 countries and 3 mountains, I was quite nervous going as it was with a group of ladies that I didn’t know bar two of them, but collectively, we raised £178,000 and it felt incredible to give back and I felt really proud. Then a few months later I connected with Mike Hymanson (Chair of Trustees) from Destination Florida (A Children’s Charity that takes children with life-limiting conditions away for a once in a lifetime magical holiday) I knew Mike through friends, and after we chatted, he asked me to go on the fundraising board for them and I said yes. When I started on the board, initially it was very much about how I could encourage the connections I had to contribute and pledge money and that alone just didn’t feel like enough, I wanted to do more. So, I started to thrive when I was able to tap into my creative side and come up with ideas. So, I’ve worked with them for two years now, helping them organise events and fundraisers. I’m really looking forward to going on a trip with them to Disney in 2023.

Emma conscientiously checks back to her notes at this point to make sure that she includes all the charities that are close to her heart. We’re very impressed with how organised she is, (it’s not often BROOD interviews are organised!) and she jokes that Gary always says, ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!’ so she has done what he’s always telling her to do!

“So, then I heard about another charity – Girls out loud (a social enterprise designed to empower girls to channel their potential and make better life choices), so I joined their big sister programme and that was life changing for me! It was working with year 9 girls, going into to schools to see them for an hour, outside of the classroom. They would give you a structure, but you could choose how you approached each week yourself, as it always depended on how open the girls would be with you, because some days they wouldn’t want to talk, so you couldn’t just pull this worksheet out and start trying to go through that with them. It was amazing to meet my ‘little sister’. She was such an open and honest girl, and she was trying to build her confidence. We would talk a lot about resilience, and we made mood boards, vision boards and mantra jars, things like that. The hour would fly by, and I always wanted to give more time. I did that for 12 months.  I really enjoyed the programme and I found it really interesting to see just how much social media influences their lives. I absolutely love that charity and I can’t wait to do more with them.”

Do you think having teenage daughters of your own helped prepare you for that role?

“Because I know that I’m a bit of a rescuer I was conscious not to take on that mothering role, and I definitely didn’t want to talk at my ‘little sister’ because I’m the ‘big sister’ and I’m meant to know more. But it wasn’t like that at all, it was a two-way street, I learnt a lot from her about life as a teenager at school and what they do after school. It did make me feel relieved that it wasn’t me at school! It also made me realise that I might need to give the girls some slack sometimes, as it’s a lot to deal with being at school. Working with Girls Out Loud gave me an insight into life at high school and what children go through, so that’s something I will be mindful of when it comes to the girls. We did a study around screen time and there was one girl had been on her phone for 16 hours and that just blew my mind! I couldn’t understand how that was even possible? But she explained that she was up until 2am most nights on her phone. It was eye opening to see just how much social media influenced their lives.

I remember one of them saying when she discussed not taking her phone with her when she went out, she said, ‘I was just able to ugly laugh without my friends taking a picture of me’ This was a 14-year-old girl! It’s just frightening to think they have to think like that because everything is documented and before you know it someone has posted your picture on social media whether you like it or not.”    

 

What advice would you give to the BROOD readers who are parents of teenagers?

“I would say just listen to them and try and just keep conversations going. I know that can sometimes be difficult, but just asking how they are is a good start. I also think a big thing for us, as parents, to make sure we own up to our own mistakes and learn to say sorry, because when we’re in the heat of the moment and we’re stressing at them and complaining, sometimes just saying ‘I’m really sorry about this morning, I wasn’t in a good place, and I was rushing and I shouldn’t have stressed at you’ that can make a big difference. Sometimes we put a lot on them, especially when I think about the morning chaos and when parents get stressed, it makes you wonder does your child leave the house or the car and take that stress and negativity into their school day?  So, I think holding your hands up and owning your mistakes is very important. Children can read you; they know when you’re not yourself, so being open with them can put their mind at ease that it’s not on them. Just letting them know that we’re not perfect either. That it is ok to not be ok.”

 

Have you had any ‘BROOD moments’ since embarking on your career, where something has happened with the kids, and it just turns chaotic, and you end up plagued with the dreaded mum guilt?

“There are loads of things that have happened!” she laughs, “but there was one time that stands out, right at the beginning of my starting this journey and it was when I went on the charity hike for three days. Basically, Sophie had an ingrowing toenail, and it was something I had meant to get looked at, but I didn’t get chance to before I went away and then whilst I was there Gary sent me a picture and half her toe had gone blue! I’d just climbed a mountain; I had another one to climb the next day and the day after that and I remember thinking ‘Oh my god! What am I going to do!’ I felt terrible, and then Gary rang me – not in the best of moods!” she laughs, “and he said, ‘I thought you’d dealt with this!’” We all laugh at this point, understanding this exchange between parents all too well. “We had the normal exchange that we have, and I said to him ‘well you’re a parent too, so you’ll have to deal with it’. But then I got off the phone, I went into this room, and I just cried my eyes out, I felt terrible for not being there and I just felt like I needed to get home. I was imaging the worst and I just felt so bad, but this lady really helped me to calm down and she was from the medical profession, and she was like ‘ring Gary, tell him to draw a line on her toe and as long as the blue doesn’t go below this line it will be fine’. So, I rang Gary to ask him to do that so I could have piece of mind, and he had already spoken to a doctor that had said it was going to be fine, which was huge relief, because when I first spoke to him it felt like it was the end of the world, like she was going to end up having to have her toe amputated and it was all my fault!”

So, what are your plans in terms of your own personal development and within your career?

“Well, the Bury Cancer Support centre has been open for nearly 20 years now, so they are doing a big fundraiser for their anniversary next year, so I will be helping with that, which I’m really looking forward to. I will also continue to volunteer with them because they really are an amazing charity. It is a cause that is close to my heart, and the work they do is just invaluable. I will also continue my work on the fundraising board with Destination Florida, and I’m looking forward to working with Girls Out Loud again.

For me personally, I just want to keep looking out for different charities that I can volunteer for and help with. I want to continue working with teenagers and get more involved in a teenage charity, as it really feels like that is the right fit for me and somewhere I can help to make a real difference. Working with teenagers can be challenging, but it’s a challenge that’s worthwhile.

I will continue to keep doing courses that are going to add to my skill set, so that I can continue to keep improving my skills as a counsellor. I’m currently doing a menopause coaching certificate and I’m hoping this will help many ladies and clients that I have and it’s a subject that I’m really passionate about.

I have achieved certificates in Holistic therapies, such as reflexology, Indian head massage and Hopi ear candles over the years and I’m really interested in these therapies so I will also further my skills in this area, as I feel it goes hand in hand with counselling and client wellbeing. My love of learning has definitely come back, and I just love learning new things.”

 

 

 

Written by
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Inspirational mum in business and events guru, Laura Wolfe

Inspirational mum in business and events guru, Laura Wolfe

Laura Wolfe © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Inspirational mum in business, and events guru, Laura Wolfe, is unsurprisingly one of the most well-respected women in her industry. Alongside her flourishing career, Laura, is also a doting mum of two boys, aged 11 and 16 – and one very cute cavapoo, Teddy!

“I always say ‘the juggle-struggle is real’ – and it absolutely is!”

With a long-established career in events – particularly renowned within the footballing industry, Laura is also the driving force behind the NWFA (Northwest Football Awards). She took on the prestigious awards over 10 years ago – back when she was just a fan, but this didn’t deter Laura from her vision and desire to carve out a successful career path in a field that she loved. It’s no surprise that Laura is now working with Women in Football, who champion female talent in a bid to bring about change in attitudes to women working in the industry.

Laura’s story is a compelling one filled with incredible highs and devastating lows. Personally, she has gone through the heartbreak of a divorce and the loss of her dad, and it was only just over 5 years ago when Laura lost everything as her business went into insolvency. Consequently hitting rock bottom. Plagued with overwhelming mum guilt and consumed by the excruciating feelings of failure, Laura initially wanted to hide away, bury her ambitions, and get a job working in a supermarket. But then, with the support of her incredible family; her mother, her brother, her sister, and her partner – who have supported her no matter what; Laura courageously coached herself back into a stronger mindset, and she inspirationally jumped back into the world of business! And thank goodness she did, as it was only two years later that she embarked on an 18-month journey, that would become the highlight of her entire career. That career highlight being that Laura was appointed to manage Manchester City’s captain Vincent Kompany’s testimonial season; seeing her work alongside Vincent Kompany himself, and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, to raise over £850,000 for a homeless charity. The fact that Laura is a lifelong City fan meant that this amazing opportunity had added meaning to her.

As a loving mum and daughter (as Laura also helps to look after her mother) and several formidable business ventures, it’s no surprise that Laura’s schedule is jam-packed. So, we asked the question so many people want to ask – how does she do it?

“I literally get to a Friday night, and I don’t understand where the week has gone!” she laughs.

We all know how hard it can be to achieve that ‘work life balance’ when you are running a business and juggling life as a parent, do you allow yourself any ‘me time’ and how do you fit that into your hectic schedule?

“I love going to the gym. The gym for me is my time – my hour. And to fit that in I have to do the 6am/7am class. It’s not always possible, like recently I’ve been too tired to get up and do it. But I do try to incorporate it into my routine as much as possible. Last week for example, I was in London on the Tuesday, my partner Daniel was away on the Wednesday in Newcastle, the kids were at their dad’s and the dog has gone to his doggy hotel – which sounds ridiculous, but because we’re all away and out, we just know he’ll have a lovely time there with all the other dogs and that’s obviously an extra weight off your mind. So, it was just me and I could have slept until 8am, but instead I got up to do my gym class. I could have used that time to catch up on my sleep, but I just know on the days that I do go to the gym; I feel much better than the days I don’t. Without a doubt. And I love it! It’s changed my life – so for me it’s a massive thing. And most of the time it’s doable until it’s half term or other school holidays, or my mum needs something, or my kids need something – then something’s got to give and usually it’s your ‘me time’!

“I always say ’the juggle struggle is real’ – and it absolutely is!”

Laura WOLFE IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD

With such a hectic schedule how do you manage to fit in your ‘mum jobs’ alongside the demands of your business? 

“My children are split between me and their father. They are with me for 8 nights and then with him for 6 nights. It’s not my choice, but it’s what you have to do, because their dad loves them too, there’s no doubt about it. But I’m still their mum whether they are with me or not, and the organisational side of things still falls to me. I’m naturally a control freak and it took me a long time to let that go, but I still need to make sure everything is done and that everything is in place so that they can do what they need to. So, whether they are with me or not they will still ring me, and you still have those ‘mum jobs’ to do. I’m so lucky my partner Daniel is brilliant. He will take my youngest to football on a Saturday and Sunday. He loves that, he played a lot himself when he was younger. So, he’s brilliant, but of course it’s still challengingly. I can be in London at an event, like I was on Tuesday. My eldest calls me and he’s stressing about something – which is fine because I’m his Mum and he needs me – so obviously I have to take that time out to sort things out things like that. The kids always come first. No matter how busy I am, there are moments I don’t want to miss because they are important moments, and they need their mum there.”

Laura Wolfe and MCFC player Vincent Kompany
Laura WOLFE with x-MCFC PLAYER vincent kompany, TAKEN FROM LAURA’S INSTAGRAM account

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You have an extra role to juggle in looking after your mum, how do you manage to fit that into your busy schedule.

“Mum is 84, she’s fantastic, she’s been there supporting me all my life. So now it’s my turn. My father passed away in 2015. My brother lives in America and my sister lives in Israel. We’re a really close family, but geographically we are massively dispersed, so the day-to-day falls to me. So, during Covid again, it was down to me to look after my mum – we live 5 doors down from her – which has brilliant benefits; she’s got an incredible relationship with my children, well all of her grandchildren really, but obviously with us being so close by, she does a lot with my kids and sometimes I couldn’t manage without her support too. But mum can get herself in a bit of mess with things like her phone etc and she needs me to go and help her, which I had to do yesterday and before you know it, it’s two hours out of your working day.

I grew up in a Jewish household with a mum who gave everything to her family – and I mean everything! Before my mum had me, my parents lived in Maidstone, and she was about to be made Mayor of Maidstone. She was a woman in her twenties, with all these men in a room smoking and she was sat there looking glamourous – and this was in the days where women didn’t do that! But then Dad’s job brought them up here and since then she gave her life to family and the community. She’s got an MBE for her services to the community. So, she’s a force. At 84, she’s still a total inspiration and as involved as ever, which is just amazing!”

And you’re also a mum to a gorgeous little cavapoo, Teddy, which is obviously another responsibility that you have to manage. Tell us a bit more about Teddy and how you make that work. 

“Our puppy Teddy is a lockdown down puppy. We love him, he’s like another baby to me. I would have wanted another baby – as I’m one of three and we’re so close – but it just wasn’t to be for me, as my life went in another direction. So, we love our pup, but because he was a lockdown puppy, he’s not good on his own. So, obviously we have to factor him into our schedule too. We’ve organised it really well now, he goes to doggy day care, and he absolutely loves it! It’s like playgroup he’s got a ball pit, slide paddling pool – I mean it sounds ridiculous, but he loves it so we know he’s happy when he’s there.”

Obviously, the events industry was hit incredibly hard through covid, that must have been tough, and you would have obviously had the boys the home-school too. So how did lockdown impact you professionally and as a parent?   

“Lockdown was an absolute nightmare! I mean for all parents it was just so hard. My eldest was 14 at the time and he slept all day and gamed all night. He only really came out of his room to eat and grunt something, but I just went with it because I had to. He couldn’t swim or do any of the things he would normally be doing, so it was awful and it was hard emotionally. My youngest needed home schooling and at the start school didn’t actually give them that much to do and he is so ridiculously conscientious that he would get it all done straight away. And as you said my businesses then was events and football – there were no events and no football. I remember the day they said it was all happening and we had to shut the office, we thought we would all be back in three weeks. We were really busy at the time, we were gearing up to do the PFA Awards etc and obviously none of those events went ahead and lockdown went on much longer than we all anticipated. I was running – a lot – but also eating – a lot! I was baking bread – in fact my youngest will say mum you never bake bread anymore! And I’m like ‘When am I meant to fit baking bread in now?’ (she laughs)

But as time went on and I realised that this wasn’t going away quickly, I set up my concierge business – looking after footballers primarily. Like helping them find a place to live if they’re moving from overseas, or to help them find a school etc. So that was great because that kept me busy setting that up. Then I’m really friendly with Brian Horton, ex-football manager and brilliant guy and he had written a book and I said to him ‘Who is doing the media for you book? I don’t do PR, but do you want me to help you?’ He said yes, will you speak to the publisher. Which I did, and I did the media for the book for him – just because I wanted to – and it went brilliantly, and the publisher asked me how much I charged! I didn’t know what to say as I’d never really done it before. But that was October 2020 and now we’re in May 2022 and I have provided the media relations for all of those books. (Points to an array of books displayed with pride in her office) I generally do the personality led books and so it’s great to work with so many inspiring sports personalities.

Then in February 2021 Women In Football got in touch and asked if I would meet with them as their head of events was really unwell with covid. It went really well and I’m still working for them now and we’re doing some really great and exciting things.

As much as covid was incredibly hard, it gave me was a chance to rethink things and look at things differently, and without that happening I would never have done the media side, or the Women in Football and I love it, and I’m good at it!

And of course, fast forward to now and the events industry is booming again. A lot of people have left the industry too and so there aren’t as many companies or freelancers around, so its crazy busy at the minute. But I’m not complaining as I’ve been on the other side where I lost everything! I’ve made some bad choices, put the wrong people around me, thought I knew how to do it and listened to people I shouldn’t have, and I lost everything!”

That must have been extremely hard. Do you think that’s almost part of the process though, to be successful? To make the mistakes, to endure the struggles and then grow through them.

“Well, I feel I have a lot of catching up to do because my divorce took its toll on me, I lost my dad, and having kids is really difficult. And when things are going well it’s great, but without going into it too much, like all kids, my kids have had their issues, and as a parent you find yourself dealing with those too, both emotionally. And sometimes that has been really hard and heart-breaking. Kids can say things they don’t mean because they’re hurting and you just want to make it all better for them, and sometimes you can’t.

At the end of 2017 when everything went, I was made bankrupt and my business went into insolvency and there were lots of different reasons for that and I remember sitting at Oddfellows in the park in Cheadle, with my brother who over from the US and Daniel, my partner. And I said to them I’m going to go and work in Marks & Spencer, and I was serious and do you know my reason for that was that they give you 20% discount on the food! And Daniel was so angry, to hear me be so defeatist like that, but my brother said just let her go through it. I just thought I can never show my face in Manchester again! No-one will ever want to work with me again! It was just horrible. I was let down by some people, but ultimately, I take responsibility for what happened. And then I ended up starting up another business, but it was completely different to the business I had before in that it was me front and centre, it reflected me and that’s what people wanted and always had, but I had tried to make the other business into something it was never going to be.”

It’s very inspiring that you went back into the world of business despite going through that and it obviously takes a lot of strength, how difficult was it to get back out there and start over again?

“I had a really lucky break in 2019, it was Vincent Kompany’s testimonial season at Manchester City and he came to the NWFA to present an award to Brian Kidd with Gary Neville and I met his business partner and the guy that manages him and I got on really well with them an then after we had had a coffee they gave me the gig to run his testimonial season so I worked with him for 18 months. And as a city fan that is like your ultimate dream, like I can’t even tell you what that meant, it was incredible. And when it was over, I was kind of like what do I do now? And he said good things will come to you, just trust the process.

Then when I started working with him the trolls came out and I remember sitting at my desk and Amy, a colleague and friend who had been with me throughout it all said ‘Laura don’t look at Twitter, don’t look at it!’ and obviously I did and it was just disgusting, the things they were saying about me, about my mum, there was antisemitic stuff, there was stuff about what happened with my old business and there was stuff about my partner and this was all because I was working with Vincent Kompany and Andy Burnham – because we were raising money for the homeless. And it was just horrific and because I wasn’t expecting it, it really knocked me. Honestly?  It made me not want to be here anymore.  It’s tough to admit that, but it’s true.  And I remember Andy Burnham rang me and said I signed up for this, this is part of my job, but you didn’t, the only reason they are doing this is because you are actually doing something positive. I know its horrible but just keep doing what you’re doing. And Vinny’s team were like, we’ve got you, if it carries on, we’ll sort it but for now let’s just ignore it. And when I started working with them, I had told them everything, so they knew everything, you know ‘This has happened to me, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, this is what happened, and it was a part of my life.’ They didn’t care, in fact they already knew about everything anyway, but the fact that I told them without them asking me, I think that showed them that I’m ok, you know. So that was extremely tough, and I blocked my account for ages and was then like sod it! And I got to the point where I though ‘I actually don’t care’ It’s actually something that we’re trying to stop through Women in Football, because unfortunately it’s something that is prevalent for women in football. I just don’t understand why, but it happens.”

Obviously 10 years ago in Football you didn’t see many women involved in football, have you had to fight even harder to carve out your career because of that?

Oh yes! Most men have probably never been asked to explain the offside rule, but I have many, many, times! We were talking about this at an event the other night and we all agreed that you don’t have to know everything, because men don’t know everything either. And I don’t know everything, and I didn’t know everything ten years ago, but I never pretended to know everything. But when you’re going into a room full of men and who already have preconceptions about you, it can be intimidating. Even going back to when I moved to Manchester, and I went to work at the Institute of Directors, I was the youngest and only female regional director they had, and that there had ever been before! I remember thinking to myself we’ve got to change this. I’ve seen some awful stuff over the years and heard some awful stories, I’m fortunate to not have experienced it too myself but it definitely something that happens. We have come a long way, although there is still a lot further to go. I’m a firm believer in women supporting other women to pave the way forward.”

What advice would you give other mums who are also striving to achieve success in their careers?

“I think you always strive for more. You always think that you’re not doing well. You always think that you could have done something better. I have the worst imposter syndrome. But I think firstly, you can’t regret anything – and that’s something I’ve had to really work on – learning not to regret things, because it nearly finished me! Secondly, know that you’re not on your own. The more you can open up and talk about things the better. I used to have this outward facing thing, particularly on social media, that everything is brilliant, everything is fantastic. Always saying, I’m fine to anyone who asked. So, no one ever knew that underneath my world was crumbling and falling apart. That I was losing everything. That I felt like the worst mum in the world, because I just couldn’t be there for my kids in the way that I wanted to be because I wasn’t emotionally strong enough, and I didn’t ask for help. But everybody struggles. Everybody fails. I failed very dramatically and very publicly.  Get yourself a girl gang of cheerleaders too.  Everybody needs their girl gang.  Mine is ace!

And thirdly be kind to yourself, I am not kind to myself – I need to listen to my own advice on this one. I’m always telling myself I should be doing better; I should be doing more. And it’s constant and I’m always on the go until I remind myself that’s not sustainable and I’m a human being, and that something has got to give. Oh, and learn to say no as well – it’s ok to say no. You can’t be the best friend in the world, the best mum in the world, the best partner in the world, the best person in the gym, the best businessperson etc… I can’t do it! Nobody can and you just need to remember that.”

 

Laura Wolfe

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Interview with Adrian Adair COO – The Morson Group

Interview with Adrian Adair COO – The Morson Group

ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP AND HIS DAUGHTER. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

“It’s really important for kids to see where their parents work and what they do.”

Dad of one, Adrian Adair is the COO of globally respected, recruitment and engineering organisation Morson Group and has been a senior leader within the company, for over 10 years. Adrian is renowned for his expertise in coaching, his in-depth knowledge of the recruitment market and his innovative ways of motivating colleagues of all levels to create positive and enthusiastic atmospheres within their teams. We sat down with Adrian, to discuss how different life is now that he is juggling a successful career alongside the demands of family life. It was clear throughout the interview just how passionate Adrian is about creating the best working environment possible and we were in awe at how forward-thinking the Morson Group are when it comes to supporting working parents, and how this ethos has helped them to build a loyal and thriving work family. Adrian’s wife Leanne – who runs a successful business herself, and their beautiful little girl Alana joined us for the shoot and consequently added some wonderful BROOD-esq moments to the interview.

Morson Group
Adrian Adair Morson
ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
Morson Group - Find your next job

How long have you worked in recruitment and why did you decide that Morson Group was the right company for you to achieve your career goals?   

“Well, I’m a recruitment lifer, I started in recruitment when I was a graduate. I’d been looking for the right company for a number of years, I’d met with a number of CEO’s and then I met Ged (Ged Mason OBE, Morson Group CEO). I had already decided in the lift that I wanted to work for Ged. He’s a well-known, well-respected leader, a family man himself and he was proud to be running a family business – Ged’s father founded the company 52 years ago. And I think what clinched it for me in the lift was when he said, ‘recruitment is all about the people’. That’s one of the tag lines we use now ‘placing people first’. Whilst it’s en-vogue for businesses, this has been the recipe that’s been in existence at Morson for over 50 years. I think I knew when I joined the company that it had the right ingredients for me to continue to move the business forward.”

How long had you worked at Morson before you became a dad?

“Well, when I met Leanne, I had always said I wasn’t going to get married, I didn’t like pets and I don’t want children – she said OK to all three. Then we got married, we’ve got a dog and Alana arrived 3 years ago! (We all laugh) So, I’d been here for about 7 years before she arrived. I think because we are a family business there’s always a kid in the building. Alana after this (interview) will go up and see Ged, sit in his chair and he’ll spin her around. I think even though Morson is a big organisation it’s still a family business and you look after your family, don’t you? We think new arrivals to the family are great and kids are always encouraged to be around, and I think that’s fantastic. I think it’s really important for kids to see where their parents work and understand what they do.”

Morson have quite an innovative approach to supporting working parents, can you tell us a little bit more about how the company do that so successfully.  

“I think a lot of organisations are still figuring out how to handle working parents, whereas it’s been baked in here. Simply, we look after them in the different ways that they need. That might be a part-time return or a full-time return with flexible hours, there’s no set solution it’s about each person as an individual and their specific job role, we try to understand what is going to work best for them and the business. I think the average time for an employee to work here is 7 years – which is amazing for this industry. And the average tenure for our directors is 15 years, so again lots of people are here for a long time, because we support them.

It was evident during Covid how important this (to support working parents) is for Morson. We talked as a board about what we could do to help our working parents – as it was just crazy wasn’t it?”

We all agree it was a very hard period – especially for working parents.

 “So, we put on some kids shows during the day, we sent educational toys out to all our colleagues’ children as well. I think it was the little things that helped, and again I think what was interesting was that a lot of organisations during that time finally got to see the kids on the video calls, but obviously it’s something that we’ve always encouraged.”

Has becoming a parent changed your managerial style at all?

“I think you do become more understanding as a parent, because whilst the theory is great, you don’t know until you do it yourself. I’ve always admired working parents, but when you’re doing it, yourself you just think ‘wow!’. I’m definitely more of an empathetic leader since becoming a father.

Adrian Adair Morson Group
ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP AND HIS DAUGHTER. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

How did you personally adapt your life after you became a dad?

Adrian – “I used to be at the gym early every day for example, and I can’t do that anymore. And obviously, you sleep less – bet everyone says that. One thing that stands out is that I don’t read anymore. I used to read a book a month…”

Leanne adds “He used to read the paperback to front by 6 am, then read a book – you were like Johnny 5!” We all laugh.

Adrian  – “…yeah, but you have to adapt your routines, and it can take a bit of time to figure out how to do that and of course that can change and evolve as your child grows and evolves too. Another thing I don’t really do anymore is either is watch TV – if I do watch it, I fall asleep! We’re very lucky in that we’ve got a gym in the garden though – so I can still fit ‘going to the gym’ into my life as much as possible. Leanne’s a bit of a night owl and I’m an early bird, so that combination works well for us. We’re a global operation, so for example I was doing some work with Australia this morning and some days I might need to be on to North America at night, so being flexible in your approach is important and that can help you in terms of balancing being a parent with work-life too.

One thing I do try and do, which I think is important for all working parents, is to make time for yourself, you’ve got to fit that in when you can. So, for example, because I’m an early bird I will go biking in the mountains at the weekend, but instead of making a day of it like I used to, I’ll do it early in the morning, so that I can be back in time for breakfast. I think it’s important to find the balance, because that’s your escapism from work and the pressures of life, and I think for me that really helps me in terms of staying energetic, productive, and happy. There’s a bit of a joke in the office if I’ve not been to yoga, ‘Have you not been to Yoga this week, Adrian?’ Because you can tell!”

“I’m actually missing a yoga class today! We do corporate yoga here actually, in the building. We’ve done it here for several years now and I think that’s something I encourage as it’s great from a well-being perspective. Yoga is something you can do collectively. You don’t have to be super fit, you don’t have to be super flexible, everyone can do it and that’s something else did through covid, we put the yoga class online. It’s great that we can now practice it in the building again, as it’s a great way of interacting with the team out of the office setting. We’ve got graduates that come to the classes, right through to people who have been here for years, everyone benefits from it massively. This is something that other companies are starting to implement, but we’ve always been the first to do things like this. It’s so important to us that we’ll often talk to our clients about their staff and let them know what we do here and what the benefits are. We were one of the first companies to have a well-being manager and things like that are important whether you’re a parent or not. It really does help to create a productive and engaging environment and that obviously links back to people staying here for so long.”

Self-care is obviously very important to you and something that obviously has great benefits, is it something you continued to do right from the moment Alana was born or did it take you some time to figure out how to maintain that? And if so, did you feel guilty at all for having that time?

Adrian turns to Leanne laughing, “Do you want to answer that?”

Leanne – “When Alana was first born, we were members of a local gym which do games every year where everyone has to compete. You get points for going to classes etc and he basically was there every day! So yes, right from the beginning!”

The room erupts into giggles – Oh, so no guilt in having time to yourself then, Adrian?

Adrian – “Well, I didn’t want to let the side down. We were in a team, and it was probably a bit for my ego too, as I was in the 25–40-year-old category, so you’re competing against 25-year-olds, so it was good to beat a few of them!”  

Leanne – “But, then we saw the benefits, that even when you’re so tired, the more you exercise the better you feel! And we got into a good routine with that, so, no guilt never came into it.”

Brood – “That’s such an important message, as for some people, where exercising isn’t the ‘norm’, they will think that sounds crazy, but once you tap into to it and integrate exercise into your routine you can see the benefits. It’s great that Morson makes that so accessible to their employees.”

You spoke earlier about needing to be flexible due to working within a global company and as anyone who has a successful career knows, it can be demanding at times, so how do you switch off when you’re in Dad mode? Can you switch off?

“I think my ground rule is to be present when you’re there. So, whether it be bedtime or when we’re having breakfast in the morning, I won’t pick up my phone and I am strict with that, so my engagement with Alana is good. We’ve got a great relationship. Don’t get me wrong there are times when we need do need to go on the laptop, so we’ve got Alana her own little laptop, so she can sit there typing away with us at the times we do need to jump onto something. When you talk about work and kids I think about my parents and their work ethic, and I never remember my mum sleeping. She would be sewing in the morning when I got up and as I was going to bed. She went out to work, she would drop me off for my paper round etc, she never ever stopped, and I think that’s the work ethic that’s ingrained in me now.”

Adrian turns to Leanne and continues, “You’ve got that with your dad, haven’t you? And I feel lucky with that as Leanne’s dad worked away a lot when she was younger, so she’s used to that kind of busyness. You can see the impact that is having on Alana already and the things she’ll notice, like when Leanne is off to a meeting and she’s dressed up Alana will say, “Oh look at you mummy! Look at how you’re dressed – you’re not in leggings!” Once again, we all laugh. “We’ll encourage all parents, dads especially, to some of the school drop-offs or pick-ups, as you’ll never get that time back. I’d encourage all organisations to do that.”

Leanne – “Some weeks the balance is tipped so far towards work that it’s just too hard to get that balance.”

Adrian – “Yes, I was listening to Jay Shetty on Steven Bartlett’s podcast recently, and he was saying when he was setting up his business, he was working 16–17-hour days. There were spells last we where we were acquiring new business etc where I was doing the same and you feel bad as a parent for doing that. But equally, you have that mindset that takes you back to your parents and when they were working hard and actually, I only have fond memories. One thing my parents did, was no matter what they were doing they would have dinner with me. Even when I started working and they had dinner earlier than me, they would still sit at the table with me when I ate my dinner. So again, we try and sit at the table and it’s not always practical in terms of timings, with work, but it’s something we’re always striving for.”

We’re thrilled to welcome you on board as one of our contributors, where you’ll be interviewing different working parents from within your vast group of clients. What are you most looking forward to about that?

“I think it’s sharing stories. The more people that hear that it’s the norm (being a career parent and being an organisation that supports that) the better. A lot of the organisations that we are working with are doing some great things and I think it will be exciting to share that. A lot of other senior people that I interact with, are all in the same boat, I won’t spoil some of the stories that we’ll tell but everyone’s got a funny story from when they’re on the phone to the boss, with the kids in the background. I think it will give people inspiration, as it’s always interesting to listen to successful people and to hear how they have done it. One of the last interviews I did was actually with the body coach -Joe Wicks and he made me feel a lot better actually. You just see him on Instagram and TV and people presume, he’s got an army behind him, and that’s how he does it – but he’s not – I had a bigger entourage with me!” We all burst into laughter again before Alana then politely proceeds to offer us all a snack that she carefully pulls out of her rucksack. “And you know he’s got two kids, with one on the way, and I was talking to him about exercise and balance and he’s good at being strict with it.” Alana, who is obviously more than ready for the photoshoot now, interrupt’s Adrian in the sweetest way,

“Daddy. Daddy.”

“Yes, Alana?”

“This is your office.”

 “Yes, this is my office. Do you like it?”

“Yes!”

“Are you going to go and see Uncle Ged after this?”

“Yes.”

Alana then returns to sitting on Leanne’s knee.

Adrian -“So yeah, that’s good, to kind of go behind what you see on social media, which is obviously something you’re doing with BROOD.”

Talking of funny stories, have you got any standout moments?

“Yes, I haven’t told this one. There was this one time that I was working at home and I was on a call and Alana was going absolutely mental and Leanne just came in and said I can’t deal with her anymore.”

Leanne – “Yes, it was during those early stages when they just don’t stop crying sometimes and I’d just had enough. So, I just said you’ve got to take her off me. So, he took her upstairs put her on the bed and did this conference call.”

Adrian – “I was on this conference call; I had my laptop open, and I had a dashboard up and it was just crazy!”

Leanne – “There’s a picture of her on the bed next to all these papers.”

And finally, do you have any hints or tips for career parents?

“I think don’t be harsh on yourself. Just do your best. Also, you’ve got to make sacrifices. There’s lots in social media now around manifesting, vision boards, and it’s great to do all of that, but you’ve still got to graft. I think it’s perceived at times that a lot of people have made money easily but everyone who has done well has made sacrifices whether that’s been short term or long term and you do still need to do the work.”

Leanne – “Early mornings and wine in the evenings!”

Adrian will be featuring each month as a contributor so watch this space and sign up to our mailing list to be the first to receive all the latest articles.

My ideal routine:-

  • Get up at 5am
  • Have a coffee and a little time to myself
  • Go into the gym
  • Read my emails
  • Wake Alana up, get her breakfast and then get her to Nursery
  • Go to the office.

 

Morson Group - Find your next job
Interviewed by
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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