Beccy Speight is a Director of the National Trust. I was delighted to interview her in Keeping Your Spirits Up and we have stayed in touch since. I have life membership of the National Trust, which came to me as part of my grandmother’s will, and which has enabled us to enjoy many aspects of the Trust’s work – not least of which, for us, is our appreciation of the largely unseen work the National Trust does in maintaining footpaths such as large stretches of the South-West Coast Path. So it is with great pleasure that I welcome Beccy as a guest blogger – to find out what motivates and interests her.
What gets me up in the morning
What gets me up in the morning is changing at present. For 14 years I have worked for the National Trust, currently as Director for the Midlands, caring for places like Hardwick Hall, the Back to Backs in Birmingham and huge swathes of the Peak District.
The National Trust is a charity, in existence for over one hundred years, which looks after special places and opens them up for people to enjoy. But back in 2000, I was a Director in a management consultancy, working around the world, often on big mergers and acquisitions. I loved the buzz of the work and being surrounded by bright young things – the champagne flowed every Friday night in our offices in Covent Garden! But I can clearly remember one day deciding that I was simply making fat cats fatter – generating more shareholder value for investors in big business. There was nothing inherently wrong with that – but I was starting to realise that I was a shareholder in LIFE and I wanted to be playing a more active part in making life and the world a better place to live in. I wanted to ‘add value’ in a different way.
So I made a big shift in my own life – and 14 years on, I still don’t earn what I used to earn then! But I have to say I have never looked back. From running the Stourhead Estate down in Wiltshire to my current job looking after the whole of the Midlands, I can honestly say that I have never stopped learning and never, for one moment, felt that what I was doing wasn’t fundamentally worthwhile. Working for the National Trust has taught me to understand and love our landscapes and buildings – above all our own story. To look across a landscape or a place and be able to read part of that story is hugely fulfilling and to see others able to do the same is life affirming.
But it’s all change in May, when I am due to become the CEO for the Woodland Trust – a far smaller charity with an aim of creating and protecting woodland, particularly ancient woodland, for the future. So I am moving from something I know and love into another world – and am currently experiencing all the heebeejeebies that go with that – from being someone who knows most things to being the new girl all over again. Why? I suppose it’s because I believe there are battles to be fought in the coming years – and that those battles are really going to be about the natural environment. From climate change to inappropriate development, the natural environment is under pressure like never before from all sides – and the decisions we make as a society over the coming years, the things we decide to stand up for – will make all the difference to our childrens’ futures. And I’m feeling the call to be a bit more on the front line.
I have a set of New Year resolutions on my kitchen wall at home – written by Woody Guthrie, that great folk singer and social reformer, in 1942. They combine day-to-day existence (‘Change socks’) with the ambitious (‘Wake up and fight!) At the end of the day, I suppose it is something similar that gets me up in the morning – live a full and ordinarily wonderful life, but don’t forget that we all have the opportunity to combine a little of the heroic alongside the mundane.
And more – see what gets other guests up in the morning…
Jo and Mark Beattie, Mother and son artists
Ruth Hyde, Chief executive of Broxtowe Borough Council
Linda Frier, award winning accountant and founder of Coalesco
Giles Croft, Artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse
Suzy Lishman, Vice President of the Royal Society of Pathologists
Simon Hallion, Shared Architecture
And coming soon….
Jonathan Emmett. children’s author
Simon Thompson, headteacher