I work for North Hertfordshire District Council’s Museums Service, where I am the Archaeology Officer. Much of my time is spent bringing The Baldock Project to publication. This was a major series of excavations that took place on the Iron Age and Romano-British ‘small town’ of Baldock (Herts, UK) between 1978 and 1994. I happen to have worked on several of these excavations, so I’m fairly well placed to edit the texts that will go into the volume that was sent to the publisher in December 2006 and ought to appear early in 2008.
As well as editing the volume, I am involved in display work at the Council’s two musuems at Letchworth and Hitchin. There is also community archaeology work to be done – the North Herts branch of the Young Archaeologists’ Club, talks to local societies, identifications of objects… In short, I’m a rather busy person!
My murky past
My previous job was with Chester City Council, where I worked in the Archaeological Service, part of the authority’s Cultural Services division. I was part of a team of ten, which is large for a centrally funded Local Authority department. This is largely because Chester is the model post-industrial city: its economy is based on service industries, especially tourism. Tourism in Chester consists largely of visiting Roman remains and shopping in the medieval galleried city centre properties known as Rows (many of which are actually Victorian, but don’t tell the tourists!).
I was with the City Council September 1990 to February 2003, a time which saw a lot of changes to the Service and which saw my career change in unexpected ways. After 1994, the service no longer tendered for developer-funded projects, which means that stopped doing what I was originally employed to do – field archaeology. I enjoy running excavations and field surveys and it’s something I believe that I do well. To me, there is little point in being an archaeologist if one isn’t generating primary data, but the opportunities for me to do that virtually disappeared (and they don’t exist in my current job, either).
The biggest impact that the changes had on me was that I became increasingly involved with Chester College of Higher Education (now the University of Chester) and was lucky enough to design the courses for a degree in Archaeology. The course began in October 1999 and it went so well that it has now become a Single Honours degree and the department has changed its name to the Department of History and Archaeology. It made me have to think about things I had not needed to for a long time, but it was worth it! I now feel much more in touch with high-level thinking about the discipline.
I haven’t always been an archaeologist. My first job was in a hospital library, where I worked after leaving school. I spent some time in the ‘general library’, which contained a mixture of books for patients and staff (mostly fiction), and some time in the medical library. After graduating, I found it impossible to get a job in archaeology, so I drifted back to the hospital library, where I spent several months doing some research into the business (I suppose that these days we’d call it ‘writing a business plan’). Then, after nine months of doing odds and ends (for a while I was a cook in a wholefood restaurant), I got a temporary job in the library of S Martin’s College in Lancaster. That lasted for a year. For a while, it looked as if I might turn into a librarian…
While I was working at S Martin’s College, I started doing some DJ work. For a while I had been going to a club in Lancaster called Styx, which had an ‘alternative’ night on Wednesdays – remember that this was 1981, so ‘alternative’ meant New Romantic, Punk, Electronic – and after the old DJ left, the new one asked me if I’d like to help. I jumped at the chance and thereby began a career of night-club DJ. This turn of events surprised everyone, not least me!
I left Lancaster in 1982 following the rapid break-up of an intense relationship to live in Manchester, sharing a flat with my DJ boss and his girlfriend for a while. During my stay with them, we began working at a club in the city called Berlin (which is long closed down). Once that took off, we gave up on Styx in Lancaster and concentrated on building up the business in Manchester. Doing this meant that I became a virtually full-time night-club worker, getting up around mid-day and not getting to bed until 4 am. It wrecked my social life. After 3½ years of this I was thoroughly fed up: my boss was treating me badly, he was cheating on his girlfriend and using my flat to do it… I was so angry that I just walked out one day, moved back in with my parents in Hertfordshire and within four weeks was working as an archaeologist. I’ve been at it ever since.