You rule Britannia, thanks for head-start
Julie Rennison with today's Express & Star Talking Point
I’ve had some weird and wonderful jobs over the years and still work up to six part-time jobs at a time which is equally liberating, exciting, insecure and panic- inducing.
I often think back to simpler days of permanent work and some of the places I’ve learned my random skills.
For example, a recent Express and Star headline made me smile: “Britannia named worst UK hotel chain for sixth consecutive year”.
It took me back to 1994, I’d just graduated in Business Management and Media, with the common delusion that I’d walk into a ‘graduate’ media job.
Entry into this industry often depended on getting the right work experience, but after an unfortunate incident as an intern where I ‘lost’ a prisoner appearing on a Granada TV show, leading to a three-day police man-hunt, I thought it best to get a ‘normal’ job for a while.
My 18-month journey with Britannia Hotels began as an event and wedding coordinator at their Stockport hotel, which wasn’t as tired then as its current Trip Advisor ratings suggest.
At night, I threw myself into Manchester’s BritPop scene and worked in the hotel’s bar and restaurant to top up my salary. I clearly remember a charity Christmas event we held for a function room full of local blind people.
The porters took coats while myself and the other office girls served meals. After the lunch I went to the cloakroom to work, only to find that the porters hadn’t issued tickets to anyone – cue three hours of our blind guests feeling and finding 250 coats by complicated trial and error.
I spent some time at Britannia Head office in Manchester as cover PA to the eccentric director, who wore a surgical mask when close to us office nobodies.
In my time with them I learned to deal with sorting out problems and managing the expectations of the most difficult customers of all – bridal parties: horrendous at the time but invaluable to me later.
On the day I turned 23, when my mum had recently died and I just couldn’t face another day wearing a polyester blouse and neck bow, I marched myself down to the job centre and took the first job available – sweeping up the park at Disneyland Paris, alternating between a cowgirl and Indiana Jones costume.
Armed with a D grade in A level French, my conversation level at interview made me only qualified for cleaning roles, much to the annoyance of my multi-lingual Icelandic flat mates, who were given jobs in a burger bar.
Within a few months of being at Disney I’d been offered a BBC role as Front of House Manager.
They said that being able to sort out daily disgruntled Britannia customers and then to have worked to the impeccable standards of Disney were much more useful to them than a media degree!
So although I won’t be staying with you anytime soon, I thank you Britannia for giving me the tools needed to start a 20-year events and media career!
- Julie Rennison runs entertainment company Cohesion Ltd, booking comedians and presenters for national award ceremonies, as well as promoting charity venues Light House in Wolverhampton and Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. She lives with her two teenagers in Aldridge.