What’s my background?
I’ve lived in Chippenham for 15 years with my wife and our two children. I have to admit that until the start of 2021 I hadn’t even considered becoming a town councillor.
For the last 15 years I’ve jointly run an award winning small business with my wonderful and creative wife. We have a small factory as we grandly call it which we built from scratch in Corsham. We’re perhaps unusual in that for the last six years we’ve run the company in a different way, not focussing on growth, but working to be sustainable.
We’ve been recognised for our Sustainability work and were named finalists for the 2019 South West Environmental Sustainability awards – patron HRH Prince Charles, and were recognised as Impact Founders for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals by University College London. We were invited to join the Doughnut Economics Action Laboratory (DEAL) by Oxford Economist Kate Raworth for businesses working in a new way. We were even invited to talk about our sustainability work at Latitude festival which was a fantastic experience. I’ve recently published a book on our journey to becoming ‘Imperfectly Sustainable’.
We ran our own shop and cafe for five years, opened three pop-up shops and are regulars at Bath Christmas market. Our shop was named Small business of the year and Time Out and Lonely Planet named it in the top five places to visit in the Cotswolds.
It is perhaps telling that we weren’t able to establish our chocolate factory in Chippenham despite trying, and whilst we considered opening a shop here back in 2009, realised it wouldn’t work for us in Chippenham. I’ve even written a book on our experiences running a shop, what we did right and what we got wrong.
So whilst I don’t have a magic wand to revitalise Chippenham Town centre post COVID, I do have a huge amount of experience of starting and running a sustainable manufacturing business, running a shop and cafe and what makes a market work. I also have a vision of how the local economy can evolve in a sustainable way. But it will take time which is why we have to start now.
Prior to running away to the world of chocolate I was an electronics and software engineer. During my career I worked in larger design and manufacturing companies in Chippenham including Westcode Semiconductors (as was) and Lucent Technologies. As an engineer I was fortunate to travel and work all over the world.
I came to electronics design and software engineering via a slightly circuitous route, starting work as an apprentice electrician at Rolls-Royce. I won the apprentice of the year award and became the first apprentice to persuade the management team to sponsor an Electronics degree course whilst continuing to work as a ‘blue collar’ craft electrician. Blue collar shop floor workers and white collar design teams were segregated at that point. I graduated with First Class honours.
I love music and met my wife whilst playing in a band in Bristol. We reached the dizzy heights of having a CD available in one park street record store, played live on local radio a couple of times, and played festivals around Bristol. We’ve supported local music including the Wiltshire music centre and regularly help to setup and run the caravan site for the Chippenham Folk Festival. I’d like to ensure that the folk festival has a successful restart post COVID.
I’m a member of the Chippenham Sailing and Canoe Club and have been fortunate to see the wildlife including an otter from the unique river perspective. I don’t see the river as a ‘long held ambition to be developed’, but an important green corridor where water quality needs to be improved and biodiversity enhanced.
I worked on the Economic Topic Group of the Chippenham Neighbourhood plan and would like to support taking the plan forward to implementation.
And for trivia as a 15 year old I wrote a top 10 computer game that’s recently reappeared on YouTube. I also appeared on TV quiz Eggheads as one of the Corsham chocolatiers. We weren’t successful and were mainly on for entertainment purposes to counter the semi-professional quiz teams. We had a great day out.