Funny old thing, family. Politicians regularly return to the concept of a strong family unit being the panacea for all social ills. Throughout political history fiscal policies skewed towards the ‘traditional family unit’ of two parents have been used in attempts to reduce youth crime and social inequality and increase educational performance. A recent survey of 4,000 parents and children by law firm Mishcon de Reya found that one in ten children who had lost contact with a father had felt suicidal, a third had tried to ‘ease the pain’ with drugs and drink and 10% had got involved in crime.
My mum tells me that when she fell pregnant out of wedlock back in 1960, it was the norm to abort the pregnancy so as not to heap shame on a person and her family. When it became known that a young resident of small-town Morecambe on the north-west coast of England had become pregnant by the heavyweight wrestling champion of the world and a fully fledged Red Indian (now it’s politically correct to call this side of my family ‘First Nation’) Billy Two Rivers – just look him up on Wikipedia if you want to find out more – can you imagine the stir it caused? Thankfully my mum, as she has always done, didn’t follow the accepted route, and I am here to tell the story of how family has been, and continues to be, the key to my happy and productive life.
My dad was only around till I was three. The paternity pittance my mum got and her determination to keep dressing me and herself in the latest 60s fashions (you should see the pics of me dressed as Elvis, a Beatle and a Rolling Stone) meant that she supplemented her office day job at Post Office Savings with an evening croupier job, then as a fashion mail-order catalogue saleslady at weekends.
We lived at my nan and pop’s house, and they more than made up for the absent Billy Two Rivers. It’s not hard to see that those that champion ‘family’ as being the base for a good life are spot on when it comes to me. Pop taught me to dig for bait in Morecambe Bay and then catch a fish or three on the Stone Jetty. He taught me the basics of kicking a ball and holding a bat. As Mrs H. will testify, I may not quite have acquired Pop’s DIY skills, but his wonderful ability to make do and mend have instilled in me an ethic that has and is serving me well. Nan’s ability to run a household thriftily, to celebrate her ability to reuse just about everything and her tenaciousness are traits that continue to help me both personally and professionally. My mum’s financial prudence and ability to get jobs done, and her unquestioning love for her boy, have given me the basis to be a decent dad, husband and businessman. As has my former stepdad’s coaching, turning my sporting basics into excellence, and his ability to make me prove him wrong when he said I was underperforming.
I can’t think of any experiences at school or university that came near to having the positive influences that family have had.It was in meeting my wife that the opportunity arose to start our first business, Red or Dead. It was by having kids young that we were able to keep a sense of perspective, maintain balance and avoid all the partying that destroys so many start-up companies in the creative industries. It was having a steady stream of teenagers moving through our house that helped keep us close to the market. With our new upcoming summer festival, Vintage at Goodwood, having grown-up kids (they will always be our ‘kids’!) working with us we, as a family, are ensuring that this annual cultural festival will stay as relevant to their generation as it is to ours.
I’m lucky enough through my work to meet loads of interesting, funny and inspirational people, and many are good friends. But my best friends, the ones I speak to every day, wherever I or they are in the world, the ones who I feel most comfortable, secure and happiest with, are my family.