Goodbye to Tim
We said Goodbye to our CEO Tim Hughes on the 8th November. We marked his transition into a life of unpaid work with a Tea Party.
We presented Tim with a booklet of photos reflecting his time at the Charity and a book about the history of Hammersmith. We celebrated with musicians from the Gate art centre and we reproduce below Tim’s farewell speech:
“Hammersmith has been part of my life for 36 challenging but rewarding years. Back in the early 80s, eager and with less grey hair I joined Hammersmith & Fulham Council as Senior Housing Adviser for older & disabled people, responsible amongst other things for letting the new sheltered housing that the council was building. It wasn’t uncommon then to meet older people living without baths or hot water, or with outside toilets.
But to start at the beginning, I owe my career and my calling, working with people and communities, to serendipity – had I been able to swim, I might not have been standing here in front of you today.
Fresh out of university and with a zest for life, I opted to become a Community Service Volunteer. I had a choice, working with kids on the canal in Camden or a role working for After Six, a 24-hour telephone advice line for single homeless people.
As my front crawl was not up to scratch, I chose the latter!
After Six was located in a run down ward in the original Charity Cross Hospital in the Strand. I can still recall the night shift, sleeping on a camp bed in the echoing ward being woken by the telephone ringing, the caller needing somewhere to stay for the night to a sound track of sirens from ambulances and police cars in Trafalgar Square.
In 1989, I left the council to set up Yarrow. Also initially based in a redundant NHS building; a Chiropody Clinic at 706 Fulham Road next to the Durrell Arms, I was the first, and for a while, the only employee. In my damp basement still boasting bore chiropody chairs, metal filing cabinets, and racks with mouldy leaflets, I was so isolated from the outside world that, toiling alone, I was completely unaware of the l the great storm of January 1990 when 3 million trees were downed.
It was exciting to start up Yarrow but challenging; I was lonely, missing my former colleagues and there were initial problems with funding. But working collaboratively with family members, senior NHS staff, Council officers and members, and local housing associations we got it off the ground. It was a significant part of my life for 25 years.
Serendipity was also behind the move to my current role at Hammersmith United Charities. In autumn 2013 I was invited to vist by Rita to talk about whether the charity could offer housing for the people that Yarrow supported. I knew very little about Hammersmith United Charities until then, despite working in an office in the Goldhawk Road half way between John Betts House and Sycamore House!
That visit prompted me to apply for the Chief Executive & Clerk to the Trustees role when the post was advertised in 2014 – otherwise the opportunity would have completely passed me by!
I feel very privileged to have led the charity through its 400th year, and to claim a one percent stake in those 400 years.
But I am merely one of a number of people: staff and trustees, beneficiaries and others; who have collaborated to show to the people of Hammersmith what this charity stands for as a placed based organisation.
I would like to thank the whole staff team, the trustees, and a small and loyal dog called Tilley. And there are 6 special people I want especially to thank.
Rita and Melanie, who have been a joy (and occasionally a challenge) to work with! They occupy key leadership roles in their own right and care deeply about the charity’s beneficiaries. They get things done, both ordinary and extraordinary. They have inspired and supported me, but don’t seek the limelight. For them this work is a much more than a job. It is a vocation.
Mike, who has carefully guided and counselled me about how to work well with the trustees, particularly those whose terms of office have come to an end in the last year or two. Mike and I have had our ups and downs, but nothing like my experience at my first Chief Executive job at Barnet Housing Aid Centre. I discovered on my first day at work that the Chair of trustees was in prison for business fraud! I am pleased to report that Mike has been a scrupulous and good custodian of this charity’s finances.
Jocelyn Ridley, who has worked with both Yarrow and the charity to recruit and find good trustees (believe me they are hard to find – and so my gratitude to my current board all the greater). I have learned from Jocelyn the value of seeing the trustee role as a personal and management development opportunity which works when we can ensure a good exchange between what individuals give and what they get in return. It is a hard and unpaid job.
Sheila Damon, who has worked with the Boards of both Yarrow and Hammersmith United Charities. She is a wise woman; skilled at helping Boards of individuals work effectively together and with staff. I have learned from Sheila that there are always two tasks – the task itself; and the approach to the task.
Roger Felton the charity’s, and Yarrow’s, designer and the genius behind how we now present ourselves. How we communicate with the outside world; to neighbours, businesses, and Hammersmith’s diverse communities. To draw them in to our work. I have learned from Roger that ‘less is more’, and I have learned to be really clear about what we want to say and the audience we want to hear it.
In planning this 400th anniversary year, the charity recognised the unhealthy polarisation that weakens and threatens community ties: polarisation between rich and poor; between old and young; between disabled and non-disabled people; between different cultures and communities; and between newcomers and established residents.
We came up with a simple idea; to bring local people together, using the charity’s history and reputation, its resources, influence and connections, and its convening power. To counter these divisions, to reveal individual talent, bring new energy, and enhance community cohesion.
I hope the charity continues along the path of bringing people and communities together, and in a small but meaningful way tackles this unhealthy polarisation. Richness and learning often comes from meeting people who are different and not like us. We learn an immeasurable amount when we stand in the shoes of others to see the world.
A last few words.
There’s a lovely book, which you may have read, called “A Fortunate Man’ by John Berger about a country doctor, with beautiful photographs by Jean Mohr.
A Fortunate Man is a masterpiece of witness and story telling: a moving meditation on humanity, society and the value of healing. The subject of the book, Dr John Sassall, emerges as an individual deeply committed to inner reflection as well as to his vocation as a physician.
The doctor lives amongst the patients he treats. The line between his life and his work is happily blurred. He is an example of the wounded healer who combines passion and compassion, with resilience and – yes – with joy.
I consider myself to be a fortunate man.
Thank you and fare well.”
See more photos from the event here.