From pet shops to washing up, paper rounds to explaining science, our first jobs are often surprising, sometimes disgusting and always interesting. So, we asked a whole range of successful arts figures, how did you make your first honest buck?
Gary Jarman, bass player and singer in The Cribs: “Ryan [Jarman, his brother and fellow Cribs vocalist] once washed dishes all summer to get his first real six string....”
Paul Roseby, Artistic Director of National Youth Theatre: “My first paid job when I came to London was selling clothes out of a bag, door-to-door. I hated it, but was unfortunately very good at it.”
Comedian and improviser Cariad Lloyd: “My first paid job was working at a local bakery. I had to wear a straw boater with a hairnet, as it was a traditional bakery that kept up its Victorian values. But we did get free bread, pastries and pasties at the end of the day. My brother was absolutely devastated when I quit. “
Theatre designer Jo Scotcher: “My first paid job was doing punting tours along the River Cam. I probably made better money than you do as a theatre designer.”
The Eric Gregory Award-winning poet Swithun Cooper: “When I was 10 I did half my sister's paper round, for one fifth of the money they gave her, for six weeks. I was saving up to buy Happy Nation by Ace of Base on tape.”
Lead singer of Wild Beasts, Hayden Thorpe: “I was in charge of the dairy section of the local supermarket. But, being lactose intolerant and incapable of not vomiting at the faintest whiff of stale milk on my hands, I spent most of the time developing strange OCD habits involving manic hand-scrubbing and frantic dashes for the loos. I lasted three weeks.”
Actor Glyn Pritchard, “I worked in a fun fair back in the early ’70s, to buy Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies album with my first wage. It was a great job until some skinheads came and made me ride around on my own merry go round for what seemed like half the day.”
Telegraph journalist Jessica Salter: “Polishing my dad's shoes... he still lines them up when I go home in the hope that I'll do them for 10p a shoe!”
Mudlarks playwright Vickie Donoghue: “I was the Saturday girl at a shop called Alldays in Billericay. I got frostbite because they didn’t give us protective gloves when we were loading up the freezers. I was saving up to buy a pair of green Fila trainers.”
Costume designer and stylist, Laura Clayton: “My first proper summer job was doing data entry in a portakabin on a giant trucker park. I was the only female and regularly subjected to smirking renditions of "Tell Laura I Love Her". I still shudder every time I see a car transporter.”
Old Vic New Voices’ Roxanne Peak-Payne: “I was an Explainer at The Science Museum in Bristol. It was basically like being an informal guide and chatting to the public. I actually ended up being the schools co-ordinator there, which is how I started doing education stuff.”
Textile designer and illustrator Ellie Curtis: “I found a job in my village pet shop where I had to crawl on all fours among quails, scraping their poos off the floor, or smashing up blocks of frozen chicks from the freezer for owls to scoff. I was paid £1.75 per hour and after a few weeks I saved up enough for a pair of unflattering baggy red dungarees from Camden Market, which was my goal.”
Playwright Joel Horwood: “Aged 15 I took a course and became the youngest Pool Lifeguard in Suffolk – how's that for a claim to fame? I thought it was going to make my life a cold, indoor version of Baywatch. It didn't. I had to wear some short shorts and there was a special sieve on a pole for getting poo out of the shallow end.”
Literary manager of HighTide Festival, Rob Drummer: “Folding t shirts the Japanese way for Uniqlo, just so I could pay to see theatre and buy new shoes.”
Journalist and food writer, Eleanor Morgan: “Working in a hotel restaurant, silver serving searingly hot platters of overboiled, grey vegetables to racist, xenophobic Essex golfers. The backs of the chairs were too high to reach over, so more often than not I just tipped the tray up so the vegetables formed peaks on their plates.”
Writer and independent publisher, Kit Caless: “Cleaning up old people's sick on P&O Ferries aged 16.”
Theatre director and creative space resident, Natalie Ibu: “My first job was as a check-out whiz at my local Somerfield supermarket. My first wage was £2.37 per hour with some sort of discount card for all my grocery needs. The job – all bleeps, bags and bananas – did wonders for my street cred, oddly. The school hottie worked there too so would wave at me at school.”
Illustrator and graphic designer, Nick Scott: “Working on a deli counter carving industrial-sized chunks of corned beef, Billy Bear and slopping out huge vats of coleslaw. I also had to drain the hot fat from the chicken ovens and freeze it so they could sell it to make dog food. I spent 1996-7 smelling of blue cheese and cheap meat.”
Novelist, writer and columnist Kirsty Logan: “Mine was dressing up as Maisie the Mouse for a children's book event.”
Digital storytelling producer and theatre-maker Lisa Heledd Jones: “My first paid job was as a checkout girl at Kwik Save. I absolutely loved it. I was a big fan of the massive freezer where I'd attempt to trap and flirt with Jake the Stacker. After I'd graduated and got my first ‘proper’ job I went back in to buy some flowers. Weird Phil the Freezer was now the manager, earning double what I was earning and driving a sports car.”
What was your first ever paid job? Tell us in the comments section below...
Shop at Katie's Stores 002 by tomylees via Flickr under a (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license.
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