Roy Birch is national outreach co-ordinator at Survivors Poetry, a charity that publishes and promotes poetry by and for survivors of mental illness.
The future of Survivors Poetry is in doubt as the Arts Council is to end a £166,000 annual grant – the charity’s sole funding – in March next year. Survivors Poetry is currently seeking alternative funds.
How long in the job? Since October 2004.
Career lowpoint: After spending most of my adult life as a gardener, I realised that my increasingly troublesome back would no longer allow me to continue. At the age of 62, I was suddenly facing the scrapheap.
Career highpoint: I applied for my current job at Survivors Poetry, more in hope than expectation. I got it!
Why did you apply for your current job? I needed a job. However the post at Survivors was an extension of the work I was already doing as co-ordinator of Stevenage Survivors, a voluntary group I helped form in 2000. I had long wanted to do more of the same but was aware it would only happen if I could be paid for the large amount of time it would consume.
Who has inspired you most? My wife Lucia rescued me from a life of crime and showed me that everyone is worthy of love and respect.
Me and my career: My job consists of reading poetry, writing reviews, setting up poetry groups, organising events, delivering workshops and presentations, and performing at festivals. I can’t believe how lucky I am to get paid for doing all the above. The only down side to my job is realising that working for a charity does not mean that my fellow professionals will behave in a charitable manner. The job is undoubtedly challenging. Adjusting to life in a busy office after so many years of solo outdoor work has not been easy. Neither has keeping company with academics and literary intellectuals. But I am becoming accustomed to this and do love my job.
Oct 2004-now: National outreach co-ordinator, Survivors Poetry.
1987-2004: Self-employed gardener.
Before 1987: Spent time in prison, was unemployed and took casual work.