West Midlands board member profile: Neil Jackson
We hear from WM regional board member, Neil, whose links between housing and acting make for an interesting mix.
When I was interviewed for my position as CIH West Midlands regional board member, I described myself as a hybrid: you see, as well as a chartered housing professional I’m also a professional actor.
I have been fortunate enough to have all kinds of wonderful experiences as an actor. I have performed in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2012 Open Stages production of Pericles, and written and directed sell-out pantomimes for established theatre venues. My theatre work has taken me across the country: Birmingham, London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxford, and even across the sea to Dublin. I’ve done everything from barbershop quartet to Gilbert & Sullivan light opera, used puppets and prop knives, worn fat suits and dresses (though not at the same time!), and am constantly adding to my experiences and skills with every new production.
Of course, the same can be said about my housing career since joining CIH and the West Midlands regional board. I’ve attended awards evenings and presidential dinners, debated the future of the organisation at OneCIH, and reported from seminars dealing with everything from housing legislation to the future of frontline operatives. Just like my experiences of being an actor, my experiences as a chartered member and regional board member constantly improve my skills and knowledge base, push me to be a better professional, and have introduced me to a wonderful mix of passionate people who have and continue to enhance my life. The value of my chartered membership in this regard cannot be overstated.
People ask me how I balance being a full-time housing professional with being a professional actor. Honestly, I don’t think too much about it – I just do it. I don’t take conventional ‘holidays’ – instead, I use my annual leave to pursue my acting projects. A change is as good as a rest, and taking a few days away from the office to shoot a short film, direct a play, or travel as part of a theatre tour is just as refreshing for me as someone might find a sunny getaway. My weekday nights and weekends are often very busy, whether with acting jobs or work for the regional board; I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I feel fortunate to be part of the CIH West Midlands board at this time. I was among the first members to join under the ‘selection’ rather than ‘election’ criteria, and there is a real sense of change as the board tries new events, shakes up old ones, and does its best to deliver an increasing range of activities and information to the region. Our current chair, Nirmal, introduced me at our recent 'legal review 2016' event as the board’s ‘social media expert’. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert, but I think it’s great that our board – and the sector overall – is increasingly embracing social media as a means to connect people, not just broadcast PR statements. The conversation about housing is so important we can’t afford to ignore any potential medium.
And of course, some of the oldest communication tools are the performing arts – theatre, poetry, dance, song, storytelling, etc. There are really important stories about housing to be told, and if we only tell them through reports and spreadsheets we risk that message being lost. Squeeze made headlines recently by blasting David Cameron with a modified song in support of social housing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. How wonderful! What other opportunities for exploring, highlighting, and connecting people with important housing issues might be found in the performing arts? I’m excited to say the board has given me permission to explore these possibilities in future regional events – make sure you follow our Twitter account (@CIHWestMidlands) for the latest news.
So, that’s me! Or, at least, a bit of who I am today. One man in his time plays many parts…
Exit, stage left!