Having always been a rebel in one way or another, I must start by saying that I have never felt the need to make excuses or apologise for having a career history that moves along multiple paths. As we know, life often heads us off at the pass, but I regard all my experiences as a constant ongoing curriculum and the chance to learn and grow. As an older woman, I strive to make new achievements and re-establish old ones as I go, with the knowledge that neither age nor gender should be accepted as obstacles to doing what we love and are good at.
I realised at the age of 19 that journalism was the profession to aim for due to my passion for writing and as I had always had a tendency towards feminism even as a teenager, I was drawn to women’s magazines. My youthful enthusiasm therefore (over some more qualified applicants) landed me a position as an Editorial Assistant on a magazine called Modern Mother. I loved all aspects of magazine journalism and even though I was in a junior position, I always tried to become involved in anything that showed I had a ‘way with words’. I was even allowed to concoct some so-called ‘readers letters’ when there was a serious lack of the real thing, what a giveaway!
The publishers, Plant News Limited, had various magazines on their list and subsequently I was promoted as a feature writer for Popster, a teen mag whose gimmick was a full sized fold-out poster of major popstars of the era. With pad and pen clutched in an almost steady hand (no tech in those days), I was sent to interview bands such as The Bay City Rollers, whose full on Scottish accents made it almost impossible for me to decipher the answers to my questions! Subsequent interviews included the band Mud, whose lead singer’s generous offer of accompanying them on tour I had to turn down due to my knowledge of the less than scrupulous motives of musicians – or indeed men for that matter! Just to raise a smile for my readers, I will tell you that after both the aforementioned magazines became obsolete, I was moved onto two other more specialist magazines published by my employers, assisting the Art Editor, a man of vast experience. My duties included assisting him in selecting photographs on a ‘light box’ and shall we just say, these were the kind of pictures of women that left nothing to the imagination – yes –they were ‘girly mags’ – I had to earn a living!
Due to the eventual lack of success of these publications and also the absence of suitable vacancies elsewhere, I had to put a hold on my career as a journalist. However it turned out that there had been a connection between Plant News Ltd and a budget record company called Pickwick Records, who were in turn owned by Phonogram, a major record company and so began my next career phase. Now an assistant in the TV and Radio Promotions Department, where the majority of promoters (known as ‘pluggers’) where men, as well as assisting in the promotion of our ‘artists’ via broadcasting media, I had to become an expert in dodging the somewhat unethical advances of my colleagues! In those days the music business sometimes felt like one long party. Major record companies organised lavish events to promote big name artists. As in many companies, our promotions people wined and dined radio and TV producers to encourage them to give our artists ‘air’ time. Expense accounts seemed to know no limits and the most creative skill one needed was the knack of persuasion coupled with cordiality all washed down with good food and alcohol. With music constantly playing in our offices and famous musicians and singers wandering in and out, working life often seemed not to feel like work at all! Although I enjoyed the atmosphere, I began to feel that there were no genuine opportunities to further my career and I succumbed to the urge to move on.
With its vast choice of departments, the BBC beckoned and with competition easier to handle in those days rather than gargantuan as it seems today, I managed to land a job as a Production Assistant in first BBC Radio 4’ s You and Yours, a consumer programme. After the odd night shift on The Today Programme, I spent a year or two in Radio 4 Drama, assisting in the recording of radio plays and meeting actors whose ‘A’ or ‘B’ list status tended to be reflected in their nature! During this time I joined the BBC’s amateur dramatic group Ariel Theatre Company partly to make new friends and indeed to re-kindle my love of performing which I had harboured as a youngster. This love grew into a passion as I realised I had a talent for both acting and singing. I felt strongly that I wanted to be a professional actress and left the BBC to try my hand and voice. Having put myself through evening classes in acting skills and achieving a gold medal in ‘The Speaking of Verse and Prose’ as an external candidate at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, I began auditioning for professional work.
Life sometimes has a cheeky way of distracting us from our goals. Whilst falling back in love with acting and singing, I had fallen in love with and subsequently married a BBC colleague. This was my second marriage, having discovered at age twenty two that a marriage for the wrong reasons is a big mistake. After settling into our newly acquired house, I made an unexpected decision. In late teens I had declared that I did not want children, but when we feel we have found stability and happiness these declarations are sometimes reversed. So it was that I became a mother of three all before the age of 40. Being an actor requires 100% commitment of both one’s time and energy neither of which is in good supply when a mother of very young children so I took a long sabbatical.
Whilst my children were all under 6, life suddenly took an unwanted turn and I became a divorcee – a learning curve you’ll agree! I will say at this point that there are numerous skills required for motherhood that would transfer to all kinds of outside careers!
Now with a professional musician of long standing as a partner I became a professional singer in a covers band, performing at all kinds of social events and even a backing singer on occasion in theatres during his tours, one of which culminated at the London Palladium. At the tender age of 51, my love of acting then began to beckon and I embarked once more on this extremely over populated career path. After several years, a few fringe theatre performances and musicals under my belt and a wealth of auditions that provided good experience but no paid work, I now stand before you.
Before I became a new member of the WomenUp team, in fact before I was one of the guests, I took care to be honest and say that I do NOT come under the heading ‘businesswoman’. I haven’t created a ‘startup’, I am no-one’s boss, I have no staff, no office, no business plan, no ‘spreadsheet’. But when I was training to become a professional actor, a tutor told us that we should regard OURSELVES as a ‘business’. So although I don’t necessarily follow the same path or speak the same jargon as businesswomen or entrepreneurs and at times I may seem to be a proverbial fish out of water – I have become a part of WomenUp Radio and WomenUp Global because I hope to use my talent with words and my somewhat uninhibited personality to help our reader/listeners to be confident and proactive in whatever life choices they make.
My vision of women’s empowerment encompasses all of you, regardless of occupation, age, background, colour, or creed. For me the only qualification that is essential is a good heart and self-belief. Women have the absolute right to CHOOSE what happens in their lives and this to me is the true meaning of feminism.
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Don’t miss: Jules also writes the WomenUP Sunday Column ‘From Me to You…’
Jules Bannister was born and bred in London, is married and a mother to three adult children. Jules’ career history is a colourful mix of journalism and professional acting and singing with production work in BBC Radio and the music business in between.
Jules is passionate about women’s rights and at 63 she continues to defy any suggestion that age is a barrier to being and doing whatever we aspire to.
Jules’ social media:
Blog: Soc Drawer
LinkedIn: Jules Bannister