Freelancers for charities

Meet: Norma


Profession: Event management

1)    Tell us a bit about your career to date.

I was never academic in the traditional sense, and I left school without many qualifications. I was working for a theatrical agent, but decided to go back to college in Putney to retrain as a PE teacher. I’d always had a real interest, perhaps not in sport per say but in movement and gymnastics. To cut a long story short, the school I was placed at couldn’t get funding to support me so I ended up looking for work elsewhere. 

I went to work for a peace advocate from there. I started out working as an EA but worked my way through the organisation and was made responsible for international events which involved a lot of travel, which I loved. I moved from London to Brighton with that job and a few years later set up as a freelance event manager. I did lots of work for all sorts of organisations in that role, from the government to Hewlett Packard, which still involved travel all across Europe.

2)    What made you decide to work as a freelancer?

I’ve got four children and I was home educating my two youngest, so there came a point where couldn’t make the balance work anymore. It took me being passed over even for interview for nearly 20 jobs before I realised I was almost definitely being overlooked because of my age and status as a mother.

I knew I had the skills, but I had been knocked back so many times it took me a while to rebuild my self-confidence. Working freelance has been a great way to do that.

3)    What has surprised you most since you started freelancing?

I think for me the greatest surprise was realising that people really trusted me. I’d spent so many years as a small part of enormous organisations that made me feel subjugated and oppressed, that when I started to rebuild my confidence it just baffled me as to how I had put up with that treatment for so long!

I was also really pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that are out there. It can be hard work, but there really are some incredible chances to work with very interesting organisations

4)    What drew you to work with Blume?

I came across Blume when I was researching ways to find work as an individual skilled in my sector but wanting more flexibility about my working day and the projects I pick up. I think it’s a great platform to bring people together.

Things are starting to change a bit for older people, but it’s very very slow. It’s got to be about the person, not their age. That’s the problem: there’s a tendancy to presume older people just won’t be able to cope or won’t manage working with technology.

In Westminster, there has recently been a mass replacement of the tour guides – who were of all ages and backgrounds – with students, simply because they are cheap. What hope is there if the government won’t lead by example? 

Until the government sets out legislation around age discrimination that does more than just giving it lip service, it will continue. I’ve worked for large corporations where ageism was definitely an issue, but just try and prove it!

5)    What kinds of organisations would you most like to work with, and why?

I find event work most interesting. I have a very creative mind, so really enjoy being able to see my visions played out in reality.

I’m also currently working part-time as a guide at the Globe Theatre, which is just incredible. I get off the train and just love the feeling of being there. It’s an amazing place to get to see behind the scenes, and I love the storytelling element of my role: as guides we’re actively encouraged to use our imagination as we show visitors around the space.

6)    How would you describe yourself in three words?

People-person, experienced, creative

7)    What might someone be surprised to learn about you?

A few years ago I did a two-year part time course at RADA. Acting has always been something I have been passionate about so it was an enormous privilege to get chance to study in such a prestigious place!

8)    What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to be an air hostess: they just seemed so glamorous to me, and I loved the idea of all that international travel. I have always loved travelling. In fact it’s probably the aspect of my previous career I miss the most. There’s a real trend towards virtual events nowadays as a way to bring people together from across the world, but I really meeting people face-to-face.