2021 - A 'turbulent' Year!
As we draw near to the end of 2021 I am reflecting on what was the worst year I have had in a long time. In early 2020, the Covid-19 virus reared its particularly ugly head and being a largely public facing business, work came to a standstill. I guess there was some solace in the fact that we were all largely in the same 'global' boat. and much of 2020 was taken up by exploring my creative side and doing things I had not had the time to do. Archive stuff, paint and do radio. being three such things. In early 2021, there was light at the end of the tunnel - things were starting to open up again as the vaccine was doing its job.
For me though there was more stress to come as our landlord notified us of his plans to sell our lovely rented cottage and this put us in a quandary. Rental prices had gone up considerably in the south and my business had just been through its worst year since I started in 2004 so after looking for somewhere new to live in the South East and realising that everything was likely to get more expensive we came to the conclusion that we could not afford to remain in or near Surrey.
My family lived near Stoke-on-Trent and were in need of more support so we decided to move nearer to them and cut living costs at the same time. I was confident I could find work in the north west as it was a heavily populated area and rich in businesses and after some time we found a tucked away cottage in Cheshire, in a perfect spot for reaching places like Manchester, Liverpool, and Stoke and less than ten minutes away from the M6, knowing that I would need to commute to Surrey, at least initially for work, besides I did want to continue working with some of my existing clients where possible.
I had a plan - of sorts, to use this opportunity to specialise in the Charity case study area of my work which I found rewarding and it gave me a sense of worth. I also wanted to continue with my civic type of work, I had been quite busy with Royal visits, Lord Leiutenancy stuff and managing the High Sheriff's media needs and cutting out some of the other stuff would enable me to have a better work life balance. I would also travel to Surrey a couple of times a month to do as much as I could when feasible. I was also developing a radio character - Barry Clegg, which gave me something to focus on and which would keep the black dog at bay.
Then in June - just a few weeks after arriving in Cheshire my Father passed away suddenly leaving a complicated mess to clear up. I was becoming tired from the long journeys south
and the shape of the photography industry was once again changing making it difficult to gain new work. I was lucky that some of my regular clients were happy to keep working with me but the cost of commuting and staying in the south near to where I was working meant my profit margins diminished. I also struggled mentally with these and other things that were going on and now as the end of 2021 is in sight and the prospect of not only the quietest time of the year coming up (Jan-Mar) but a new variant of Covid - Omicron was looking like it may put us back into a possible lockdown situation.
So here I am in the North of England - not too far from where I grew up and surrounded by the gorgeous Cheshire countryside like in Tatton Park (above), where deer roam freely and the views are beautiful. I am now looking to work with a charity on a part time basis, hopefully with flexibility so I can continue looking after some of the valued clients that have helped me survive the past two years. Time perhaps for a new challenge and also maybe I can put my past experience to good use and make a difference along the way.
I kind of slipped away quietly from the south, partly because I wanted to continue undertaking work there to some degree and partly because I was unsure of how the future would pan out. I have survived thus far because of the kindness of people like Alison Cohen who worked around me to continue our Bakou clothing shoots, to Caroline Breckell of the Surrey Leiutenancy office who has allowed me to continue covering Royal visits in Surrey, to the Rainbow Trust Charity and Transform Housing and support who gave me case study work, to Dick Jones, Peter Syrett, Dave Smith, Robert & Patricia Nalpier, David Munro, and other friends and remaining family who put up with my rants and frustrations, but also to others who employed me whilst many stepped away - usually because they themselves were struggling and had to make cuts.
Photographers all over the place are going bust or on the verge of closing down in favour of more regular work. Being self employed has been tough, even with the government hand outs but I am still around - well I am pretty determined to be - this time of change could provide me with an exciting new direction or enable me to work with a team again (and a salary). In the meantime I am still available for work and especially from my new area and hopefully the show will go on. Before anyone asks - Yes I did do the Royal Variety again (a superb show this year - my 11th time - spot the goon with the camera in the background at the end) and No I did not cover any parties in Downing Street.
I hope you all have a great Christmas and the 2022 starts to see life improving for everyone.