A Portfolio Career…

It might be a Welsh thing but the 2 questions I normally ask when meeting someone for the first time are; where are you from, and what do you do.  I don’t think it’s trying to be particularly nosey or intrusive it’s just an opening serve at the start of a friendly game of ‘introduction’ tennis.  Maybe there’s something in common we can build on.  I ask a question the other person replies and so we go back and fore. 

For example, I recently met someone over in Wales for a few days from the USA.  Realising his wasn’t a local accent I reached for my first question, where in the States are you from?  When he answered Pittsburgh I felt, and here I’m mixing sporting metaphors, I felt I had just hit a home run. 

Later this year I will be performing at the North American Festival of Wales.  This is a fantastic week of celebrating all things Welsh in the ‘land of the free and home of the brave’.  The last festival I had been to was pre Covid and held in Washington D.C.  I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in D.C. but Pittsburgh???

After explaining to my new friends where in Pittsburgh the Festival was being held it wasn’t long before I had a list of places to visit, restaurants to order massive sandwiches served with French fries and Cheese and directions to all of the major sporting stadiums in the city.  It seems Pittsburgh, the old steel town which stands on the intersection of 3 rivers, has redefined itself as a modern city of tech and new industry.

He then asked the question I normally ask next.  What do you do?

Ah…well that’s a bit difficult to answer.  I’ll be going to Pittsburgh to give some concerts.  So you’re a musician? Yes, but I’m also giving some seminars on subjects such as Tommy Farr the boxer and a Keynote speech for the Festival itself. I could see a quizzical look in his eyes.  This probably wasn’t helped by the fact that at the time I was wearing my best suit because I was hosting one of the lounges for Swansea City. 

It was then I explained to him that I had what people now call a ‘Portfolio’ career.

In times past most jobs were jobs for life.  Teacher, engineer, nurse, bank manager.  You chose a career, did you time and waited to retire.  Maybe you had a hobby which gave you extra dimensions but what do you do was a relatively easy question to answer.  Nowadays that not always the case.  I think Covid meant people reassessed what they wanted to do when life returned to ‘normal’ and many people changed their lifestyle and career path completely.

Recently we have also seen the consequences of the loss of heavy industry and big companies downsizing or closing completely.  It seems I’m not the only person these days with a Portfolio of jobs they do.

Whilst that can bring uncertainty, and quite a bit of fear, when it works it’s a wonderful way of life. 

Take the last few weeks. Over Easter I was performing with an Orchestra and Chamber choir in London.  By the end of the week I was back in Wales hosting the Ospreys against Sale Sharks in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

Hosting the Opreys with the lovely Diane.

Each job brings its own challenges and rewards.  The concert in London was fantastic but had me completely stressed out trying to learn the words to my solos.  The actual gig was the easy part.

The trip to the Brewery Field in Bridgend for the rugby was my first visit to the stadium. Having hosted for the Ospreys at the Swansea.com all season I now know each room and what to expect technically and audience wise too.  With a new venue the first 30 mins means getting your bearings, checking the tech to see if the microphones work and then finding out what guests and celebrities we have to meet and greet when the doors open. 

You must always expect the unexpected too. When it became clear there was only one set of cutlery and two courses, it was all hands on deck collecting and washing knives and forks before the main course curry went cold.  I’ve always liked a challenge.

I should say it was a great atmosphere and to win so comprehensively brought its own rewards.  One of the jobs as host is to interview some of the players after the game.  Ospreys captain Adam Beard came in still soaking from the sweat and rain.  It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I have done all year.

Which brings me to today.  It was some months ago I was approached by Stewart McGlashan, one of the trustees of the St Madoc Christian Youth Camp at Llanmadoc. He wanted to know if I would consider being involved in a concert of Gospel music to raise funds and awareness for the camp. 

From a cowshed to a chapel.

During the war the owner of Hills Farm, Llanmadoc went to visit the Mayor of Swansea.  There he also met the Rev. Maurice Charles.  The Rev Charles was looking for somewhere outside the centre of Swansea town where people could find rest from the constant threat of the Luftwaffe.  After the war a school came to stay for a weekend. That proved to be so successful that soon more schools and church groups came for longer stays and Hills Farm became Llanmadoc Camp.

How I remember Camp in the 1970’s

There are 2 reasons I could not refuse. The first is I love Llanmadoc Camp.  30 years after those first kids stayed at camp I spent every sun soaked summer holiday of my teenage years there with my church youth group.  I know how it impacted my life and if I can do anything to help secure its future I will.  Secondly, Stewart and I share a grandson so I can’t let the little boy down can I?

St Madoc’s Camp these days.

Finding a date with so many moving pieces is always difficult. The venue is City Church on Dyfatty Street.  It’s a busy church so finding a free Saturday gave us limited options.  Then there are the artists.

Making plans with Solomon.

Stewart asked me if I could host the event and maybe sing a few songs.  The bulk of the concert would be a gospel choir called ‘Soel Connect’.  The choir is based in Cardiff but draws its members from all of South Wales. One of its organisers is Solomon Simukoko who also happened to be a trustee at Llanmadoc.  It seems that Stewart wasn’t the only one calling in favours for this fundraiser!!!

I had offered a few Saturdays when I was free but none of them worked for the other elements.  It soon became clear that I would be working 2 gigs.  During the day I will be hosting at the Swansea.com stadium in the massively important match against Rotherham.  A win today and I think we are mathematically safe.  That means getting to the stadium nice and early in my best suit again. BUT… on my way to the ground I will need to pop into the City Church to see how preparations are going for the concert tonight. 

Then I’ll jump in the car and head to town for a short soundcheck change of outfit and a night of infectious and uplifting Gospel music. As I always ask at this stage in the proceedings, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

Then next week Monday is hosting a mid-morning Radio Show and Tuesday is a concert in London at a small Cabaret venue just off Piccadilly Circus called Crazy Coqs.

Now you know why when asked what I do I tend to find saying I have a Portfolio career the shortest and simplest reply.


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