We all have a decision to make on what career we want to pursue when our schooldays are done. For some, it’s a difficult decision for others it’s pretty straight forward. Back in the late 1970s, most people in Mansfield would end up in the coalmines or in factory work, but I had bigger dreams!
This is how I became a graphic designer.
I was due to leave school in the Summer of 1979, and I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer. I had always been good at art and for me, it was a real passion – I didn’t want to do anything else! I’d already enrolled in the local art college to move this forward, but sadly after a few weeks I was called into the Principal’s Office and told my exam results didn’t live up to their expectations, so I now had to rethink my future!!
I had to go and sign on the dole which for me back then was £7 a week. At least 2-3 times a week, I called into the Job Centre to filter through the jobs that were available. At least once a month, I had to report in to see the Disabled Employment Officer who was a nice lady called Evelyn Bagshaw, who knew I was restricted to what jobs I could do because I couldn’t stand for great lengths of time because of my artificial leg.
Before you knew it a year had passed and in January 1981, I signed up to join a group of local people looking into problems disabled people had in accessing shops, cinemas, pubs, etc. This did me a world of good because it brought me out of my shell a lot and gave me a chance to get out of the house 5 days a week too, which was a Godsend for both my mum and me ‘cos we were driving each other barmy!!
It was a government scheme that was supposed to last for 12 months, but it eventually came to an end in April 1982, where we finally produced a report with our findings for Nottinghamshire County Council. However, I must say I enjoyed the experience and met some wonderful people too. After that, it was back to the Job Centre and Mrs Bagshaw, to renew my search for becoming a graphic designer!
I remember it was on a Thursday morning, I had another meeting with Mrs Bagshaw at the Job Centre. I think it was towards the end of May 1983. As usual, we’d speak about various office jobs, but I would always end up talking about graphic design. She bluntly told me, as she did on many previous occasions, there wasn’t much call for graphic designers in Mansfield, so I asked her to persevere and she said she would.
I’d caught the bus home as usual and I’d barely stepped through the door when the phone rang. My mum shouted me and said that it was Mrs Bagshaw on the phone. She wanted me to go straight back down to the Job Centre as she had something I’d be interested in!!
So wasting no time at all, I went back into town on the bus to the Job Centre. Mrs Bagshaw saw me coming in and called me straight into her office. She said that she didn’t want to tell me anything over the phone as such, but gladly announced that a graphic design job had come in within minutes of me leaving the Job Centre earlier that day! Who could believe it?
As I took a seat, she announced it was for Mansfield District Council, but it was only a 12-month government scheme. I didn’t really want to go on another government scheme, but it was graphic design and £50 a week – what did I have to moan about?
At this point, I have to mention that a pint of beer was only 50p and a pack of 20 cigarettes were only £1, so £50 a week was a princely sum to me! Mrs Bagshaw got straight on the phone and arranged an interview for me the following Monday afternoon.
As far as I was concerned, the interview could not come soon enough. I had to go to see a certain David Denton, Head of Leisure Services who was based in the Old Children’s Library at the side of the alleyway that leads to Mansfield Museum. My interview was at 1.30 pm and at first, I was a little nervous, but everything went really well.
After getting home later that day, I received another phone call from Mrs Bagshaw at the Job Centre, who told me that she received a call from Mr. Denton who said he was ‘blown away’ by my interview and wanted me to start the following Monday. He also told Mrs. Bagshaw that he didn’t want to interview anyone else because I was ideal. I was thrilled to say the least.