21 August 2009

It has been an interesting week. UKFast, finalists in the National business awards, winners of 2 ISPA accreditations, but the icing on the cake for me was a very small event, a dinner party with the Sarah Ferguson The Duchess of York.

I am not one for being dazzled by stars of any type. I grew up in my 20’s with some very famous friends and girlfriends, Ashley Paske from Neighbours, Craig Charles from Red Dwarf and it taught me that fame comes with a very expensive price tag. You loose all sense of privacy and there is literally no where to hide.

And the more famous you become, the bigger the price tag! Michael Jackson is a good example of this. A man who became so infamous he not only lost his personal life, he also lost all sense of reality and the fun that we take for granted of just being normal.

As Jacko found out, the media can flip you in minutes from fame to social famine. And if you are lucky, back-again; sadly a little late as he had already passed away.

Sitting next to Sarah, The Duchess of York at dinner last night discussing Michael Jackson I clearly struck a chord. She asked me my opinion on the funeral service / concert. I explained my point of view about how I feel the press dictate a great deal and that they are quick to forget how much damage they may do, yet they blow hot and cold whenever it suits. To me it was more concert than funeral. But that is what Jackson was a “showman” so why not go out on a positive note.

The dinner was in aid of a community project that the duchess is proactively supporting and she and her team (which includes locals from the Wythenshaw area) are doing a sterling job in Manchester helping to establish a community centre which houses a gym down stairs.

It struck a chord with me as I arrived in Manchester 24 years ago, with a few pounds in my pocket and no friends or real home to live in. I remember the loneliness of standing on your own two feet, too proud to consider returning to my little town in North Wales. My father had always told me I’d be a failure, and funnily enough this probably forced me in to a position where I had to survive.

But yesterday, meeting Simon, a young lad of 25 from the area where they are investing their energy, he is one of the team building the community centre project made me realised how lucky I’d been.

I was lucky, I had had a very good education (yet I managed to fail nearly every academic exam I sat!) and I also was taken in a after a year or so later by relatives who took pity on me; a then skin head in bedraggled clothes.
But not everyone is as lucky as that, how do you rise through the ranks when there is no one to show you the way. These days, I think it is even tougher for people leaving home. University actually puts you in debt so that is almost like a major set back when entering the grown up world. Personally skipping University did me know harm. As long as you keep learning keep striving to become better. I think the important thing is to keep away from trouble. As a young man it is easy to get sucked in with the wrong sort of people. It is almost uncool to hang around positive hardworking folk. Yet it is precisely these types you need as mentors to give you the direction you need.
Hats off to Sarah Ferguson. A megastar with her feet on the floor. A particularly likable one too. And to her team making the Duchess on the Estate documentary. It is refreshing to see others making a big difference, especially high profile ones as they are able to amplify their influence via TV with their relationship with the media.

For me, I wouldn’t swap anonymity for the world.

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