Where did you grow up, Neil?
Carkeel. I lived there throughout my childhood. I went to what is now Brunel Primary, then Saltash Comp.
How did you get into journalism?
When I finished my A-levels there was a good opportunity and I took it. The Daily Mirror training scheme was based in Plymouth and it took on graduates from all over Britain. Competition was very fierce for places on the scheme. But it also for some reason accepted a couple of local school leavers each year, and competition for those places was much lower. I’d written a couple of pieces for the Cornish Times while at school, and that clinched it.
Have you ever worked farther afield?
Not really. I did a month training on the Worcester Evening News. I never wanted to work in London or Manchester as many others in journalism try to do. You’d have to live in a shoebox of a flat, and work weird shifts. I can’t see how that would improve anyone’s quality of life.
Where did your interest in business come from, and what advice would you give to people wanting to start businesses locally now?
I’m interested in what makes communities tick. And how could they tick more profitably? Do you wonder why wages go down as you go west from say Exeter? In 1998 I actually won a Royal Television Society Gold Medal for my work on the closure of the South Crofty tin mine, and its impact on the local community.
One piece of advice only: if you’re thinking of accessing EU grant funding in any of its forms, be quick about it.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a journalist?
Good question. I often think about that. Journalism is a weird trade that churns out little of lasting value. You can’t imagine society without it, but arguably it has certain destructive tendencies. I think if I were 16 again, I might be tempted by becoming an architect. That might be seriously hard work though, all that study. And to give journalism its due, it’s never really boring.
What do you do away from work?
My main hobby is playing the banjo. I love bluegrass and old-time country, all that Dueling Banjos/Man of Constant Sorrow stuff. I’m in a band called The Kit Hillbillies – in fact, we’re at Saltash Essa Club on September 2nd. We made a video which has had hits into the thousands on YouTube. It’s quite silly but it’s worth a couple of minutes of anyone’s time. It’s also packed full of local references. Not many songs mention Botus Fleming and Antony Passage, but ours does – it’s called I’ve Been Everywhere Too.
On Tuesday September 19 at 6pm you can meet Neil in person at Saltash Guildhall, over drinks, and then hear him speak about life, work and journalism in Cornwall today. This is a Special Event organised by Community Enterprises PL12 and is open to everyone – individuals and businesses.