Age UK digital guru, photographer, writer, consultant and piano teacher… does Richard Hannam ever go on holiday? He talks to Debbie Marshall from Silver Travel Advisor about his busy life.
Richard, congratulations on being runner-up of the Age UK Internet Champion awards. What did you do to impress the judges?
Thank you Debbie and I guess that the judges recognised my wide knowledge and use of internet technologies and that I am passionate about helping older people realise the benefits. David Mortimer, Head of Digital Inclusion at Age UK, was quoted as saying: “We received so many fantastic applications but Richard really impressed the judges. We are looking for someone who has a passion for the Internet and can help Age UK communicate the benefits to the 5.7 million people over 65 who are still not online and Richard really displayed a desire to help us do this.”
What will you do now?
I’ve already started working in partnership with Age UK to find ways of showing, especially unconnected older people, how safe use of the internet can enrich their lives as much as it has my own. For example, as we get older, our friends and relatives can become increasingly scattered. Internet technologies enable everyone to stay in touch face to face easily, and free too! That’s even more important for those who live on their own or who are at risk in some way. Saving money, learning a new skill and enhancing knowledge are among the hundreds of opportunities the internet offers. And of course, booking a great holiday at Silver Travel Advisor!
You have a very busy life and it looks like you do 3 different jobs in the time that most people do one! Do you have a typical working day?
I’m delighted to say that there is nothing very typical about my work on a day to day basis really. That’s one of the joys of running your own business. And I’ve been doing that since 2003 now. I should have done it years before although I really enjoyed every bit of my career prior to starting the business.
And do you have any plans to retire?
I’ve just looked up that word in the dictionary so I can now answer the question… and the answer is, definitely not! Anyway, I’m only 64 so still very young, but old enough to know that there are even more things to learn and do than I thought there was 20 years ago!
When did you first become interested in photography?
When I thought about that, I realised that I’ve had a camera in my hands ever since I was a teenager, if not before, and I hardly ever leave the house without one. The opportunity to record a special moment in time remains the greatest challenge and joy.
What is your favourite kind of photoshoot?
I love my advertising work as it is so variable. One day, I’m photographing a plate of food in a restaurant and the next, a dog having its hair trimmed in a pet salon! I’m also asked to do sports action, presentations, weddings and family portraits. I would have to say that people remain my overall favourite. It’s a real challenge to photograph someone’s personality rather than just their physical appearance. When that aim is achieved, the person can really relate to their photograph.
What else does your business do?
Initially, the business was based on another of my hobbies, music. Since 2003, I’ve given over 7,000 piano and keyboard lessons. In fact, I’ve been a musician longer than a photographer as I started taking violin lessons when I was 5. When I was 19, I became a pub pianist and I’ve also dabbled with the guitar and harmonica. I’ve taught people from the ages of 4 to 74 and some of those have had mental or physical disabilities. It’s great watching them grow as musicians and as people. They keep me young too, another reason not to retire! I’ve also built my own websites too. Cameraflair.co.uk was built specifically for my photography work. As well as music teaching, I write columns & articles for the press, do some PR & business consultancy and edit/review (and even build) the odd website. Basically, anything I’m asked, within reason of course.
I understand that you do a lot of volunteering work. Can you tell me any more about that?
Yes, I’m a bit prone to volunteer and here are a few of my activities over the years: In golf, I’ve been my club’s Captain & Chairman, chaired a golf league and help teach young people to play. In education, I’ve worked with schools on business issues and was a Council member of a leading academy school until recently. In the community, I’ve helped with business networking, judging business competitions, been a director of the local development company and of course, always looking to help the elderly with internet matters. I’m reigning myself in this year so that I can concentrate on helping Age UK with the important objective of reducing the millions of people over the age of 65 who are not connected to the internet.
Do you have any spare time for hobbies?
Fortunately, the music & photography parts of my business were, and still are, amongst my hobbies, As is volunteering it seems! I also find time for plenty of fresh air and exercise through golf. In between all that, I have a real interest in Italy and its language. And, as I became older, the more I realised how little I knew. So, I read quite a lot, often using the internet to study anything that pops into my mind.
Is it really true that you have not had a holiday for ten years?
Well, certainly of any length anyway. The longest, and only one, I’ve had since 2001 was back in 2007 when I spent three days in Warsaw although even part of that was work related. Thing is that I enjoy my job so much that every day is virtually a holiday. However, I will be taking another three days off soon to visit my old home town of Sandwich for an Old Boys’ Dinner. I left the school in 1964 and never attended a dinner. So I’m a bit overdue and it’s another of those ’99 Things To Do’ I can tick off. Mind you, they have asked me to bring my camera!
Now that you are a Silver Traveller, where would be your dream destination to take your camera?
That’s a tough question. There are so many beautiful places to visit on our lovely planet. My first instinct though would be to return to photograph what I believe to be the most stunning coastline in the world – Amalfi – as well as the surrounding area which includes Sorrento, the Isle of Capri and Pompeii.
It says on your website that you lead a “busy but great life”. That sounds like a philosophy that we should all adopt. Do you have any other tips for enjoying later life to the full?
It really pains me when I hear someone say, whatever their age, “I’m bored.” That’s ridiculous. There’s always something interesting to do. In later life, it’s vital to stay active and not just physically, for some, that may not be possible, but also mentally. I believe it is dangerous to retire from a full time job and then just do nothing. It’s fine for a couple of weeks or so but then, it’s essential to get active again or the shock to the system could be fatal. Here’s an idea for anyone bored out there – sign up to Age UK’s Digital Champion initiative on Facebook. If you only show one person how to send a text message, you will have made a difference. I once used to think I’d been fortunate to enjoy such a fulfilling life. Then I realised I’d worked to achieve that. There have been down moments of course. But the sun has those every night. Then, without fail, the very next morning, up it pops again. I reckon it boils down to this, if you always try and add value to other people’s lives, you will surely add value to your own. And remember, it’s never too late to have a happy childhood!
For some samples of Richard’s work and more information, please visit www.cameraflair.co.uk.