I am about to embark on a new phase of Beyond Work. I've discovered over the years of working on this project, that the most important question for me is 'how do we end up doing what we do?', and this comes back to something very personal and I think it's at the heart of this project for me.
It comes back to me wondering how I have come from a small post-war council estate on the outskirts of Brighton called Bristol Estate, leaving school with no qualifications and yet somehow I have managed to 'work' in fulfilling or interesting jobs for most of my life.
It makes me wonder what tiny moments, luck, conditions, people, chance, timing, skills I've had in my life that has brought me to this place in time. It makes me question the examples of work I grew up with that have maybe influenced the path I have taken.
How I have ended up here is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I have some hunches. A few things happened in my childhood that changed my path. I went from being a failing GCSE student to setting up radio stations, signing record deals, having music played by John Peel on Radio 1 and managing global music radio projects in the space of a few years.
It is possible those things would not have happened if a school teacher had not shown a real interest in supporting me outside of school. He mentored my twin brother and me, and this lead to us receiving a Princes Trust grant. There were a couple of other mentors along the way that helped, but that teacher was key.
So I want to create an intervention that would have helped the 15-year-old me.
The next phase of Beyond Work will see me going back to the place that I grew up to observe, photograph and unearth the needs of people there now. I want to see what it is like to be embarking in the world of work, to be looking for work or be in a job in a place that’s been unfairly stigmatised over the years. It turns out that if you are a man living in Whitehawk, your life expectancy drops by seven years compared to the average in Brighton. That needs to change.
Once I have done my observing and research, I am going to set up an alternative Job Centre. The alternative Job Centre will be very different to the one you find in the back alleys of the UK right now. It will take a long-term approach to work life instead of just being interested in getting people off benefits.
It will look to unearth latent talent in people and support them to make the most of that talent, and it will consider well-being, fulfilment, health, family life, dreams and other things outside of work.
It will look at all the new possibilities in the world of work that at the moment might be reserved for people with different backgrounds. And it will bring together a bunch of artists, mentors and teachers to inspire and make this happen.
I know it sounds slightly utopian at the moment, and it is early days for the project, but it is important for me to use the kind of work I do for good and to make some changes in areas that need it. Work and life are better when there is diversity, it opens up perspectives, challenges pre-conceived ideas and creates opportunities for amazing new things to happen.
This project is now being updated here.