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Volunteering ...

In one way or another, I've been involved with images since the early 1980s: from feature film and video, to television and onwards to stills photography and graphics. If you fancy reading a potted history, then swing by here.

The media (well the creative arts in general) is over-saturated, spilling over with raw talent - but let's not even get into the vigorous competition required to win what few jobs are actually on offer. Admittedly I started long ago when gaining employment was far easier. Along the way, I’ve had a great deal of fun, and looking back at it all I've loved every minute of it. Though far from over, it pains me to admit that the busiest part of my professional life is now in the rearview mirror.

Other than filming motor racing for BBC Grandstand in the early 90s, I’ve never really been into mainstream sports - especially football. Over the years, try as I might to summon up sufficient interest, I just couldn’t manage it. There was no appeal whatsoever and the reputation for hoolganism that the sport had at the time was the catalyst behind my disliking it.

I gave rugby a go but soon became bored with the constant stopping and starting. Then I tried horse racing, but the first ever animal I bet on stumbled at the third fence at Aintree and was shot by the course vet. Emaciated individuals running around a track didn't appeal either. American sports beckoned, but their version of ‘Football’ was basically armoured rugby for pansies, and ‘Baseball’ was glorified rounders played by belligerent millionaires. So from the early 90s up to 2021, I wandered the sporting wilderness, incapable of holding a conversation about sport, and avoiding those who could.

In the summer of 2021, as my 60th birthday loomed into view, I suffered what I can only describe as an epiphany. In the corner of the internet, I noticed an ad on a social media platform as Dorking Wanderers, my local amateur football team, was looking to bolster its photography unit with more volunteers. Although a lifelong paid-up member of the anti-football brigade, I still liked the idea of doing something to benefit the local community, so along with a CV and a basic portfolio, I applied.

The club photographer Steve O’Sullivan got in touch and we chatted, after which I was invited to Meadowbank, their home ground, to ‘try out’. Pretty quickly, I realised that it wasn’t the game that had put me off for decades, but the people associated with it. The folk at Dorking were proving to be the living exception to the stereotypical rule as it's the people who make the club. Every club. There is a whole army of volunteers who turn out and they have far more invested in the club than I do.

As the season progressed and I covered more and more matches, I found myself being caught up in the atmosphere of a club that was definitely ‘going places’. The team was winning more and more matches but also lost a few. I began to feel happy when they won but sad when they lost. This former staunch anti-footballer was now becoming involved in his local team and wondering if this could be classed as a midlife crisis.

As the Wanderers made their steady way up the table, the attendance figures at Meadowbank grew accordingly. Each nail-biting game was filmed and scrutinised on YouTube, and as the team won more matches, the excitement around Meadowbank spread. They won a cup, and then the season finale, the playoffs. In a riveting last few seconds, they beat Ebbsfleet to the prize - promotion to the National League.

On the final whistle of that game, we all took part in the pitch invasion.

So now I have another string to my bow, though I never thought I’d ever be involved in football, but here I am - a volunteer through and through.

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