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PeopleCaroline Collett

Caroline Collett

Ron Frampton met Caroline Collett at her home in Lyme Regis. This is Caroline’s story:

‘I was born in Bradford in 1962 and christened at Bradford Cathedral, where my parents had married six years before. My mother’s family can be traced back to Yorkshire’s West Riding – Keighley, Cononley, Haworth – as far back as the 16th century. As a girl, my great grandmother Hannah attended Spelling Bees in Haworth run by the Brontë sisters. My mum’s family were cabinetmakers, school teachers, lead mining engineers. There were artists too: my great uncle was the painter Percy Moore and my great great uncle was Sir Arthur Reginald Smith, the Yorkshire Dales watercolourist. My father’s family, the Hansons, were a Yorkshire family too, though presumably, given the name, of Danish or Viking origin at some point! My only West Country connection comes through my father’s side: my great grandmother Rose Milton was a fisherman’s daughter from Bristol. She married a policeman from Galway and they moved north in 1916.

Bradford’s great industry, the wool trade, played a big role in the life of both families. My father’s great uncles were mohair and alpaca merchants and my maternal grandfather sold worsted goods all over Scandinavia at the turn of the 20th century. My father worked in the wool trade too in the 50s, selling behind the Iron Curtain, before the whole industry collapsed.

When I was six months old we moved to Harrogate and I grew up in the same house my father still lives in now. I was a day-dreamy child and very close to my brother, never happier than playing together in the fields behind our house, weaving through the long grass, counting the rings on tree trunks, looking for frogspawn and newts in the ponds. I was a tomboy too and I loved football. I remember going to one primary school fancy dress party as George Best, a lone footballer in a sea of fairies and princesses!

I came out of myself a lot in adolescence and discovered boys and punk rock – and politics. I joined the Anti-Nazi League when I was 14 in protest at the rise of the National Front. I was then particularly involved in the anti-apartheid movement and in the Miners’ Strike in the early 80s, when I collected money and even picketed power stations. The crushing of that strike broke my heart politically and I was never as involved in politics again.

Academic life came fairly easily to me, especially languages and, when I was 18, I was awarded a scholarship to Oxford to read French and German. I loved the subjects and the buildings and liked my tutors well enough, but I found my co-students quite a dull lot on the whole. The one great exception was my future husband, whom I met there, although we had a long and winding road to travel before we found each other again seven years later!

After university I worked in publishing for a year before getting a lucky break and joining MTV’s press department just before the channel launched in Europe. The channel was run with a work hard, play hard ethos and I had a great time there, helping to plan the launch party and taking two private jet loads of pop stars to Amsterdam and back in one night! I remember sitting at Platform 7 at Victoria Station ticking off the register – Donny Osmond, Boy George – and thinking how surreal it all was.  I went on to write all of MTV’s hourly news bulletins for a while before deciding I wanted to present, which I did for the next couple of years on Channel 4’s Network 7, Motormouth on ITV and The Rough Guide to Careers on BBC2. I enjoyed it all but really I was happier behind the camera in my next job, as a producer/director on BSB’s daily Film Show. I went to all the film festivals – Cannes, Deauville, Berlin – and interviewed many great actors and directors – Martin Sheen, Donald Sutherland, Antony Hopkins, John Hurt, Martin Scorcese, Sidney Lumet. I even met my all-time idol, Lauren Bacall, who was everything she should have been!

The dream job came to an end with redundancy when Rupert Murdoch bought BSB and merged it with Sky. After a spell recruiting celebrities for charity, I went back into PR and ended up as Communications Director of global design company Fitch in 1992. I got married the following year and our two sons, Mark and Harry, were born in ‘95 and ‘98. By that time I had formed my own company as a specialist publicist for creative companies, particularly designers and architects. I have a great bunch of clients now, including the UK’s leading product designers Seymourpowell, who designed the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle, the world’s first cordless kettle way back when, and who are now working with Virgin Galactic on the world’s first tourist spacecraft!

We moved to Lyme from London in 2002 and we love our life here. My mother suggested we come on holiday here when our second son was born and we just fell in love with it there and then. My mum died last year and I love to think she chose Lyme Regis for us somehow. Our boys have settled so well here – one is at Mrs Ethelston’s in Uplyme and the other has just started at Colyton Grammar School. We love the quiet and being near the sea and we’ve definitely become more eco-conscious since we moved here – we recycle, buy organic meat and have organic veg delivered every week! It’s a good life. Dorset people have a nice dry humour, like Yorkshire folk, and it’s wonderful to be connected to nature again. I feel to have come full circle.’

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