I started at Hollybush in around 2000 as a minimum wage placement to bridge the Schools group and Hollyvols groups. I only considered it as a fill in job when I started, as I wanted to return to wilder parts of Scotland to work and to be honest BTCV job descriptions were pretty dry back then. Little did I know that I would fall in love with Hollybush and working with such a great variety of people and end up staying for 9 years.
I loved the variety of projects and the amazing characters that came out on task. After 6 months, my contract came to an end and JP asked me if I wanted to stay? “Of course I do, but I need more money” I replied. His response was priceless “Ok, justify yourself then” he said. With that, he pretty much allowed me to write my own job description which involved delivering training, sharing some of Patricks schools and venturing into Bradford for work and I became an Assistant Project Officer. When Patrick left, I took over as Schools PO and added Corporate Team Events to my repertoire.
During my time, I worked with some great people; Patrick was a great inspiration to me and always had time to answer questions. Big Dan was my first minimum wage assistant and he was great fun to work with. Phil and little Dougie were next generation and when I left, I knew I was leaving the project in safe hands. Phil was quite problematic at the start getting into trailer altercations with teachers and famously driving a minibus with a wheelbarrow on the roofrack under a low bridge in Ilkley and getting it stuck. Jenny was an absolute legend and started as a VO. She went on to become the administrator and had a huge influence at Hollybush. She really pushed the social scene with regular karaoke nights, bonfire dos, talent night and Christmas parties.
However, the real stars were the volunteers. Who would have thought such a wide variety of people, backgrounds and skills would be able to work together so well. The fact that none of them were paid was always one of my main inspirations. We couldn’t pay them, but we could give them tea and biscuits, experience and above all…..FUN!! There were so many great vols, but I particularly remember John Taplin, David Marshall and his private toolbox, Brian who loved nothing more than to slap me hard on the a**e at any moment and Nicky Berry who simply loved hot tea.
From a personal point of view, working at BTCV gave me so many opportunities to try different things out from after dinner speeches at Otley Golf Club (for a fee of course) to the weekly presentations for Gateway to Work that JP somehow persuaded me to do. This involved trying to convince large groups of unemployed people to work using props such as cuddly toys and spades (toughest audience ever).
Its reassuring to know that Hollybush is still thriving and adapting to the times. I regularly tell people about TCV and volunteering in general and the benefits to be had. After leaving Hollybush, I realised a part of my life was missing. I missed that fun element of being with like minded people and generally acting like a child which can be hard to find when you are self employed. I have now found that again through volunteering with adults with learning difficulties in my spare time and joining an improv group xx