I retired from my professional career in academic administration 12 years ago but I still go to my office after breakfast every morning. The main difference is that now I have no car journey to make before logging on to my computer!

I check emails and texts and then consult my GTD (Get Things Done) list for the day. More often than not I have a meeting which could be related to any one of my activities which, in the main, are arts orientated. I don’t really do lunch unless it’s as a part of a meeting but occasionally sneak away for a ‘girly’ meal with a friend.

My most demanding voluntary role is that of chairman of the Chester Mystery Plays (CMP), something in which I have been involved since 1962. I joined the acting company as a school girl and my commitment has spanned almost 55 years. I have been chairman now for 12 of those years and never had a dull moment. If my day were to end with a CMP board meeting then I would spend at least two hours preparing for the meeting.

I am also a vice-chair and a director of The Hammond School - an amazing and inspirational place. One of my responsibilities is the audition process which is very hectic between November and Easter. This September we have our first intake of degree students who will graduate with a University of Chester BA Honours degree in Musical Theatre and Performance.

In 2013 I was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Cheshire, a great honour and an enormous privilege. I have also been involved with the Cheshire Community Foundation (CCF) which raises money through local philanthropy to help change the lives of people who need support: the vulnerable, lonely, socially excluded and disadvantaged to name but a few.

Early this summer I spent time organising an event at the Hammond to support their funding and to raise awareness of both organisations, thus combining two of my activities.

I was recently awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for my services to the Chester Mystery Plays and many other things arts related in Chester, which brings with it new challenges. There is, however, an underlying sense of a responsibility to continue to make a contribution in these areas and I am often asked to write references for sponsorship and funding bids for various organisations.

Most days, unless I have a meeting, I try to complete all my tasks by late-afternoon and spend time in our garden. I do have to remind myself that I have officially retired and make an effort to have some personal time although I don’t often succeed. However, we do have a very full social diary which is great fun but at the end of the day there is nothing nicer than dinner for two in Rossett.

Dress:

I still wear my business suits when chairing meetings – old habits die hard!

What is the favourite part of your job?

The people I meet.

What is the least favourite part of your job?

Reading papers for meetings.

What would be your dream job if you weren’t doing what you do now?

Garden designer.

How do you relax when you are not working?:

Gardening, theatre, eating out and an occasional cruise!

What is your favourite film?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

What is your favourite book?

Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

What is your favourite song?

Always love to hear Moon River.

If a film was made of your life, who would you like to play you?

It would have been Audrey Hepburn, when I was young. I was compared to her by a journalist writing the review of a Rattigan play I was appearing in many years ago. However, probably more appropriate for my age now would be Shirley MacLaine!

Have you had your 15 minutes of fame yet?

Receiving my Honorary degree in 2009 from the University of Chester in Chester Cathedral at a ceremony I used to be responsible for!

Fact File:

  • Name: Jo Sykes
  • Job: Former director of registry service at what is now the University of Chester, chairman of Chester Mystery Plays Limited, vice chairman of The Hammond School
  • Born: Ashton Hayes
  • Lives: Rossett
  • Education: Christleton School, University of Chester Honorary MA
  • Family: Married to Professor Kevin Sykes, two step children

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