Julie Hamill: Journey to London

Julie Hamill: Journey to London

Back in secondary school at St Margaret’s in Airdrie we had a careers guidance teacher called Mr Banzevich, and he was the only one with a computer. This must have been around 1987/88 and the computer was gigantic. Pupils had to go into his office one by one, and he’d plug our grades into a system to see what job it would match.

As I was good at English, French and secretarial studies, my option came out as “bilingual secretary”. Before I left school to go to Napier Poly, this was the direction I was sent in, even though I had never typed anything in French. I was seriously underwhelmed by my prospective future, and decided then and there to have a different one.

When I moved to London in 1990 the secretarial skills and having had some experience of working behind a bar sent me into two jobs. One was at a tax consultant’s in Victoria, where I was absolutely rubbish and couldn’t focus on the excruciatingly boring letters I had to type (so much Tippex). The other was at the Hornsey Wood Tavern on Seven Sisters Road. This was on the corner of Alexandra Grove, where my friend Elaine and I had set up home in a “studio” (bedsit).

By 1992, I went for an interview at an ad agency, Ogilvy, in Canary Wharf and the rest was history, locking in the next few decades of my life. There are only two things you need for such work: good social skills and half a brain, the first of which I had got from working in a bar. I shot up through the ranks quickly, as “she has a mouth on her” and ended up working across Saatchi’s, BBH and others as a director, followed by a transfer to Ogilvy in New York, with an unnecessarily long job title and a water fountain in my office. It. Was. Amazing.

After moving back to London in 2005, I knew I’d have to pivot again because I had seen that in Adland one must give birth at the photocopier, hire three nannies then return to work immediately. I didn’t want to do that. By 2006, I had had my second child. I kept my hand in consulting with small agencies and marketing for companies (and still do) but at the same time I searched the Open University and found a creative writing degree.

The OU let me start as a second year in 2008, so while my children were at nursery in the mornings I studied at home in north west London and graduated with a first. I then entered my next career as a writer, first working at Sabotage Times, then writing a blog, taking dribs and drabs and scraps of freelance.

My passion has always been music, so I decided in 2013 to curate a live music event in Manchester at the same time as everything else, born out of a Twitter hashtag I’d started. I took all my ad experience into building it as a brand for fans, and eleven years later it’s a thriving community utilised by people all over the world. In 2015, my first book was published, then in 2017 my second, in 2019 my third and in 2023 my fourth.

Also in 2017 I started a working relationship with The Dublin Castle music venue in Camden and we launched the rock ‘n’ roll book club, where I interviewed famous authors and we played music from their books. From that I DJ’d at the venue. And from that I ended up on Soho Radio co-hosting, then Boogaloo in Highgate for five years with my own show.

I attribute all of this portfolio-career-pin-balling to three small things: being a good talker, knowing what I don’t want to do and living in London. Without London I wouldn’t have access to great publications to write for, I wouldn’t have attended so many great gigs and be so immersed in music, I wouldn’t have so many famous and infamous connections, I wouldn’t have had such rich experiences, I wouldn’t be on Times Radio and I wouldn’t have a column at On London. I most certainly would not be a writer-broadcaster-presenter-DJ-curator-host-author-talker-mother.

Children as young as eight years old are asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s such a crazy question, engraining and entertaining a pigeonholed ideal in a young psyche. It’s outdated, conservative and dull. I say, be everything, kids, be daring. Do what you love, don’t listen to computers…and move to London.

Julie Hamill is a novelist, a radio presenter and more. Follow her on X/Twitter. Support OnLondon.co.uk for just £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photo: The author hits the big time, Ogilvy, Canary Wharf, 1993.

Categories: Culture

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