What Would Joe Do?

A short letter on the occasion of Keira’s 17th birthday.

Dear Keira

When I was a teenager, like you, I was fortunate to have many friends who were and in some cases still are, very important people. But when I was confused, angry, curious, the two people who I paid attention to, who guided me, were my Mum, and through his music, the late, great, Joe Strummer.

Mum taught me the power of curiosity, she encouraged me to be myself, and to question authority. The music of The Clash had that same questioning attitude. After Mum died back in 1984 I was left without her advice, so when I needed help I would often ask myself, ’What would Joe do?’ I’ve always enjoyed listening to his music and the messages and attitude of his songs. Whether they were performed with The Clash, The Mescaleros, as a solo artist or one of his other projects, Joe Strummer always had something to say.  

“Authority is supposedly grounded in wisdom, but I could see from a very early age that authority was only a system of control and it didn’t have any inherent wisdom.”

“We’re anti-fascist, we’re anti-violence, we’re anti-racist, and we’re pro-creative. We’re against ignorance.”

When you were born, Mum kindly agreed to let you take the middle name of Joe, and you’ve worn it very well ever since. I’m pleased that among your hugely varied musical tastes, you have found room for him and his work. To your credit, you’ve always been friendly and kind, and you show a wisdom beyond your years. In the absence of Joe Strummer, there’s now another Joe to provide some inspiration to the question, ‘What would Joe do?’

Remember, the future is unwritten, so make it for yourself. Best wishes and lots of love for a very happy birthday, and an excellent year of being 17.

With love : Dad and Mum

Our letter to Keira is enclosed in this card. I spent ages drawing it and the harder I tried, the less like Joe Strummer it looked. Drawing is hard, and in this case the effort was appreciated. Do the work.

Curiouser and Curiouser

I was fortunate to spend time with Year 6 pupils at St Thomas’ School in West London recently. The school were having an ‘Inspire Me’ week and through my membership of the excellent Inspiring The Future network I’d agreed to go a long and give a career talk. I enjoy volunteering through Inspiring The Future – as well as career talks, there are opportunities to spend time with school children helping them with CV and interview skills. Anyone in the world of work can register to join the scheme and I encourage you to take a look – I find it fulfilling, useful, enjoyable volunteer work.

Prior to my visit – I had invited the pupils to send me questions so that I could build a talk around their interests rather than make assumptions about what they might want to hear. On arrival at the school I was given a fantastic guided tour by some of the kids and then we spent time talking about careers. There were some great questions in the mix and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Who inspired you to achieve the career you have now?

Mum Joe Strummer


I talked about my Mum and how first and foremost she always encouraged me to be myself. I told the kids that I try hard to live up to that encouragement and I often don’t come up to scratch – and that’s OK, keep trying. I spoke about Joe Strummer ( #nerdalert – the school was located very close by to where The Clash came into existence) and his strong views on anti-racism and anti-ignorance. The kids didn’t know who he was – but they knew London Calling, the London 2012 legacy lives on.

Tell us 3 cool things about your job?

I picked art, travel and making a difference. We talked together about places we’d visited and would like to visit, artists we liked and didn’t like, and what making a difference feels like.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

I really enjoyed wrestling with this question. We talked about some differences between freelancing and being employed and I pulled together a short list of things which challenge me as a freelancer:

  • Finding interesting work
  • Getting fairly and promptly paid
  • Getting stuff to stick
  • Coping with loneliness

I wonder if you recognise and experience any of these yourself?

Would you encourage young people to do what you do?

Yes – if you are curious and if you can foster a genuine interest in other people.

There were loads more questions – and some lovely unexpected twists and turns too. At one point I passed round some of my art, including a piece titled ‘Sten Guns in Knightsbridge’.

Sten Guns in Knightsbridge

A discussion ensued about the colours in the flag, and other changes I’d made to the design, and the questions asked took us off in all kinds of unexpected directions. There was a real buzz of curiosity in the room – that was a lovely thing to experience.

A few days before this career talk, Carole and I had visited Keira’s school for parent’s evening, and the thing that stood out to us both among all the feedback we received, was how much the teachers appreciated and encouraged curiosity in Keira. I often experience a lack of curiosity in the world of work, which seems to be driven by assumptions that ‘someone else knows best’ and ‘it’s not safe to speak up around here’. A few weeks into one of the first jobs I had as an office junior, I was called into the MDs office and told that I was asking too many questions about things that weren’t my job, and that I was to stop and simply do as I was instructed. I left that job shortly after, and while I don’t recall experiencing such direct instructions to stop being curious since then, encouraging genuine curiosity is definitely something we continue to struggle with at work.

Curiouser and curiouser…


48 Hours in Under Two Minutes

I have a somewhat heavy post about vulnerability brewing, but I’ve seen so much stuff online this morning from people revving up for the weekend, that I’ve put the vulnerability pot on the back burner to simmer a while. Instead, today I’m going old school 1977 to share with you one of the punchiest, shortest and best songs about the weekend I’ve ever heard. 48 Hours, by The Clash, which also happens to contain one of my fave lines of all time, namely ‘Monday’s coming like a jail on wheels’. Love it! Have a great weekend folks.

photo credit