Thursday, 31 March 2011

25 Years and 24 Hours

What an odd feeling to be suddenly redundant.
In February the Mayor of Derby was congratulating me and a number of other colleagues for twenty five years of loyal service to the city. In return for the certificate, I thought I'd give him a small package containing just a few examples of the work that I was proud to have done here over that time.

Appreciated: The Mayor of Derby, Councillor Amar Nath acknowledging
staff commitment at a recent long-service award ceremony.

Then yesterday afternoon, after an appalling eighteen day wait following an interview on March 11th,  I was told there was no job for me at Derby Museums any more. That left me just 24 hours to sign up to a local government redundancy package and vacate my office for good.
They'll tell you it's "voluntary redundancy", but I can assure you it is anything but.

Oh, the memories in that office. (Unfortunately most were still there in the form of piles of untouched paper going years back, so they soon found their way to the recycling bin!) I even unearthed  a formal letter of apology from our previous Chief Executive, Ray Cowlishaw for the time back around 1997 when I spent 18 months facing redundancy in the same post before finally being reprieved. On that occasion I was saved, thanks to a massive outpouring of  public support for my post and the award-winning work I've done for Derby. I've felt in debt ever since to the public for their support for me, but was nearly broken by the experience of the prolonged, relentless strain.

But that was then and this is now. Today, everyone expects public servants to do their bit for the economy. (By leaving quietly and turning out the lights as you go, please.) This time around there could be no thirteen year old girls writing in to the papers to save my post, as actually happened. No mass of committed Derby people lobbying ill-informed councillors, or people from organisations around the country putting on the pressure behind the scenes. This time public servants are all expected to go quietly because, after all, "we're all in it together", aren't we?

If, like me, you're foolish enough - or maybe committed enough - to let your work become your life, and to let your life revolve around your work, then you'll probably understand my predicament yesterday. How do you disentangle the various bits of that life from your workplace in the space of just a few hours, and vice versa?

I did manage to find a moment to send out an email to all my local, national and international contacts over the years, informing them of the loss of the last skilled natural historian at Derby Museum, and have so far had 75 responses expressing shock, regret and support. But our museums have least retained three staff with archaeological experience on its staff, maybe four, though in these times when subject specialism is no longer a priority for Derbys museums, that shouldn't matter one bit.
Redundant: Outside Derby Museum on my last day with just a small sample
 of some of the work I've done for the city.

I'm sad to be out. But what a relief too. Relief from shabby management techniques and treatment that I and my colleagues have experienced right across the Council. The appalling disregard for people's sensitivities, the ineptness of some of their actions or inactions which are excused by "oh, it's policy from HR" And of course the platitudes of some of their management speak. This redundancy process has not been handled well. We hear from the unions that management recognises this. They accept mistakes have been made and that lessons have been learned. They've promised they'll do it more sensitively next time around.  Next time around? Yes, you heard right.

So, this evening as I browse through some of the amazing, supportive emails people have sent me today at the news of my sudden departure, I appreciate how lucky I am that people in Derby and right around the world can express their thoughts to me for some of the more visible work I've done for this city. I hear that maybe around two hundred of my fellow council colleagues will also have gone, Many may not be such in such a lucky position as I to receive those direct messages of  appreciation or a chance to speak politely on local radio or in the newspapers as I have done. I hope you will recognise how much everyone in Derby City Council does for its citizens, and how much we all care.

So what now for me?  "Well, you're a maverick", my Head of Service told me a few weeks back, "and there are no places for mavericks inside this organisation."  Well, this maverick still has a lot to offer, and it'd be nice to think that I can still support Derby's great museums in the future, as well as doing other paid stuff without all the stress of the last few years. Maybe another Peregrine webcam project, or another Sanctuary, or another Flora? Oh dear, I've not finished the last one yet.

Better get to work on it right now!

Media coverage of this story for Thursday 31st March:
Derby Evening Telegraph
Radio Derby (Listen Again) (drag slider to 1hr 4mins in)
Derby Evening Telegraph Soapbox (a letter from my former boss)


  1. Ive only just met the guy and now hes free from his job. I say this because I can't think of what to say but I cannot stand to let this go without comment. Ive met two/three people (there maybe more) who might save Derby Museums from going the same way as Curio Shops - (Yes we did have them in Derby - I guess they were started by "Maverick"s, but closed by others who just kept doing the same thing till the public stopped supporting them). Now 50% of them have had their energies redirected.

  2. Mo and Pete Cole31 March 2011 at 13:11

    So so sad....The only time we met was at the talk given by yourself on ''communication'' and seeing your big feet appear in the peregrines nest hehe. We find it hard to understand how such an experienced and eloquent professional person can be ''thrown on the scrapheap''. Voluntary redundancy is an insult. However life must go on and we are sure that you will not have a problem in finding a mutually satisfying position of employment, possibly in the private sector. Hope to see you on the green some time all the very best for the future for you and your family....Mo and Pete Cole xxx

  3. To add injury to insult is the 24 hours allowed to clear out 25 years of your life. I hope some of these managers get to experience similar feelings after the local elections ...

  4. This is so unfair. You have done a fantastic job on the peregrine project. Combining wildlife and IT is a tall order yet it works so well with people all over the world 'tuning in' to Derby. Thanks for providing wildlife education on a global scale and the very best of luck for the future.

  5. Nick,
    Derby will be the poorer for your departure. Your commitment to your work and the enthusiasm you have demonstrated will never be replaced. There will be a new start for you.
    Regards Chris M

  6. Nick, I'm so sorry to hear of your redundancy, and I echo your view on the way the whole thing has been handled by the Council, it has been a mess, and I think only in the next few months and years are we going to feel the full impact of the loss of many experienced and committed DCC staff whose posts suddenly disappeared. I agree completely with Chris M's thoughts above.

    Thank you for enabling me to learn so much about peregrines - we are quite committed wildlife enthusiasts in this house anyway, but the webcam and blog have given us access to information about peregrines that we would never otherwise have picked up.

    Best wishes with your future endeavours.

    Liz, Derby

  7. Unless you were with me at the March for the Alternative event last Saturday we have never met. Thanks and good wishes are comforting, as it the knowledge that you are about to join the massive group of individuals who has put service to society ahead of personal gain-then have been shafted.

    When you feel like you need a couple week break, and this offer is serious, you are most welcome in North Kent. I can guarentee a bed (beds) good coffee and a Tescos nearby. My resident students leave on the 31st May, so there is room. I will be at GLAM on Saturday so we may meet up there..

  8. Hello Nick
    I've only just found my way to your blog, so sorry I'm a bit late, but I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you have been made redundant from your post at Derby Museum. I hope that, once you have caught up on your sleep, you will be able to find your ideal post elsewhere.

  9. Dear Nick

    I am so sorry. What appauling treatment. I did some voluntary work at Derby Museum and Art Gallery before I did my MA. It is really sad that people are treated this way.

    Louise Dennis

  10. A very big thank you to everyone for their kind comments and support. With over 130 direct emails, it has been a challenge just acknowledging everyone.

  11. Hi Nick,

    So sorry to hear of your redundancy under such terms mate and obviously, very sorry indeed to hear that the LRC has gone too. A stupid waste of talent and of all the work you have put in over the years.

    Take care mate and I sincerely hope things improve for you quickly.

    Steve J. McWilliam

  12. HI nick
    Iam just shocked that this has happened to you,
    but I also know that given time you will rebound
    back I have only known you over the last five years since watching the falcons but I came to feel you were a friend though I am so far away.
    I just know there is a new road ahead for you and you will find it, good luck my friend.
    Olive (Pax) Taylor Canada

  13. Nick
    I want to write a booklet about Derby's urban wildlife spectacles. I know this will probably reiterate some of the Derby city council website and a previous booklet by yourself "Wild About Derby" but I think there is room here. For me this will be a summer project. I'd like to meet up to discuss what I have in mind.
    If you think you could make helpful input my email is The intention is that the booklet will go out at cost or free.



  14. Redundancy seems to be the norm these days and a sad reflection of our throwaway society. I would be more concerned that care and attention was paid to process and enabling the process to be fair and not being hood winked or being ripped off. This is an opportunity to hone your breadth of skills and refocus what you can do. You have obviously achieved alot and the benefits are recognised when your post was reprieved last time the writing was on the wall then possibly. See it as a time for reflection, a sebatical and use the time effectively as you will come out a better person than the management team you left behind.