Our Event Support Contractors (ESCs) play a vital role in helping our projects and events. Working for Thames21 as an ESC provides valuable, hands-on leadership skills, and experience for those wishing to gain employment in the conservation or charity sector. Our Leading Action for Healthy Rivers training provides a pathway for anyone looking to become an ESC.
We spoke to Jeff Dent, who has been working with us for the past seven years, about his pathway to become an ESC, his favourite memories by the river and more.
Could you tell us about yourself and your background?
I’m 65 years old and was born in Balham in South London, moving up the hill to Clapham when I was 6 months old. I am married with two grown-up children (Rory 32, and Rosie 30). I have one grandson aged 11 months who lives in Tokyo with his dad (Rory) and his Japanese mother Narumi.
For 37 years, from the age of 16, I worked for London Underground, first in rolling stock maintenance and later in operations. I rose to a senior manager position responsible for all the stations of the Bakerloo and Victoria lines and later the Bakerloo line train service. I took early retirement from LU in 2011 aged 53 (aren’t I lucky!).
I am a musician and have been since school, and still play regularly in folk dance band and a duet with an old friend. I have recorded 6 albums over recent years.
How did you come across Thames21?
Having moved to West London (Isleworth) in 1991, I saw and advert a few years later for a clean-up on Isleworth Eyot and thought it might be fun to get involved. With increasing responsibility at work and two young children I found it difficult to give the time. On retiring from full time work, I checked the Thames21 diary and saw the ‘Leading a waterways clean-up’ course advertised to sign up and passed. Subsequently, I was then told I could become a member of the event support team (EST at the time).
What’s your favourite river in London?
Probably the Thames, as I still have memories of the fog horns sounding in the early 1960s while in bed in Clapham. Living in Isleworth, I am also walking distance to the Thames.
How long have you been working as an Event Support Contractor for the organisation?
About 7 or 8 years I think. First as an EST then since it changed to ESC.
What do you enjoy the most about it?
Meeting people from a wide range of organisations (I mostly do corporate work) and seeing their genuine surprise at the state of the foreshore in terms of wets wipes, etc.
Why do you think is important to connect communities to their local waterways?
Understanding how our rivers and other waterways are abused is an important step in changing peoples’ views, especially on the wet wipe and flushing them issue.
Tell us about one of your favourite memories as an ESC.
Working on Chiswick Eyot with Vic Richardson and others and the delight that we have been making such an improvement to the Eyot by doing something creative and practical rather than cleaning up other people’s mess!
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to start a career in an environmental charity?
Volunteer with Thames21 or any charity to see if it’s really what you’d like to do in the longer term.
We’ve really enjoyed catching up with you. Thanks, Jeff.
Hope to see you by the foreshore soon!
If you’d like to become an ESC and support our mission to protect our rivers and waterways, find out more about our Leading Action for Healthy Rivers training here.