Monday, 23 September 2019

Former singer hoping to hit top note at town hall

Former singer hoping to hit top note at town hall

THERE is certainly more to Sheridan Jacklin-Edward than meets the eye.

The new Henley town clerk has also worked as a professional classical singer and a theatre producer with his own burlesque show.

And only weeks ago he donated a kidney to an anonymous recipient.

Mr Jacklin-Edward will take up his post on September 2, moving from Burnham Parish Council, near Slough, and taking over from Janet Wheeler, who left to join Didcot Town Council at the end of May.

The 37-year-old from Wallingford has spent more than 10 years in local government and is looking forward to his latest role.

He says the council’s priorities are car parking and highways issues, housing and reviewing the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

He said: “Henley is very lucky in that it is asset-rich. It has a lot of reserves, which is wonderful, but it’s also very ambitious.

“Unlike a lot of town and parish councils, it is very keen on looking outside its statutory obligations.

“Helping the council achieve its very ambitious plans is a challenge because it means working with the district and county councils, a lot of different community groups and businesses. It needs somebody who can look at the bigger picture.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge. 

“Parish and town councils are the most local tier of local government. The work that you do can have a direct tangible impact in the community and you can make a real difference.

“You’re in contact with the people you’re helping and you’re part of that community.

“I also love analysing systems, finding out how they work and saying, ‘How can we make this better, more effective, better value? How can we do things in a better way so what we deliver to the community is the best we can do?’

“The councillors are not volunteers, they are public servants but on an unpaid basis. Nobody comes on to a town or parish council for the power, they do it because they have a real interest in making things better.

“People have different ways they want to try to achieve that but, ultimately, everybody is working towards the same goal, which is to improve things for the community and I love that I can be part of that.”

Mr Jacklin-Edward was born in Essex to Brian and Julie Jacklin- Edward, one of four boys. The family moved briefly to Humberside and then to rural Derbyshire where he spent his time between the ages of seven and 18.

When he was 11 he started at the independent Abbotsholme School, near Rocester in Staffordshire, where he and his family lived on a farm that was part of the complex.

He explained: “My dad ran the farm and was also one of the teachers. My parents had a difficult choice to make — to buy a house or send us all through the school.

“It was a wonderful education. It was about getting life skills rather than being academically focused.

“I loved the fact that I was spending lots of time outdoors. You spent lots of time working as teams and doing activities like hiking, camping, river swimming or canoeing as well as conservation work and really getting back to nature.”

After gaining his GCSEs and
A-levels, he attended Oxford Brookes University and studied for a BA in publishing followed by a masters’ degree in English.

Mr Jacklin-Edward said: “At the age of 18 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but there was never any pressure to find out then.

“I was never one of those people who was career-driven and knew what they wanted to do from the age of seven. I enjoyed finding out about a lot of things and being a jack of all trades.

“A good thing about publishing is I got to do some English, marketing and business.

“I also did some theatre studies and I really loved that aspect of it, so I decided to do the MA which focused on 20th century British theatre.”

After graduating in 2004, he turned his hand to theatre production. Mr Jacklin-Edward said: “I was really passionate about doing theatre and there were events I wanted to put on that people weren’t doing so I thought, ‘I’ll do it myself’.

“I started doing various productions, some at the Edinburgh Fringe, and lots of student theatre productions, mainly around Oxford.

“My interest was putting them on but I did a bit of acting and singing and that sort of thing and lots of character roles.”

While studying, he also had a part-time job working in adult services for Oxfordshire County Council and when he left university he was given a permanent role in social services doing administration work. He worked for the council from 2000 to 2006.

He then got more involved in the theatre world and produced a show called Burlesk.

Mr Jacklin-Edward recalled: “I was at the Edinburgh Fringe as the musical director for Galileo, the Thomas Stoppard world premiere.

“This was right at the beginning of the rise of the new burlesque movement and we went to see a show.

“The entire company that was doing the Tom Stoppard play absolutely loved it. We were going back night after night after night.

“By the end of the run I said to one of the people I was in the company with, ‘This is brilliant, we should do something like this in Oxford’.

“This was August and by September we were running auditions, setting up the venue and getting everything ready. The show opened in January.

“I did that for two years. We were doing weekly shows in Oxford.

“I’ve never had any interest in directing, creating and doing the artistic side. I very much enjoy doing the more technical aspects of being able to make it happen and turning what’s in my head into a reality.” However, there was a drawback, as he explained: “When you’re doing it for the love of it rather than the money, it’s just too much work in the long-term.”

In 2006, he became office manager at the gallery Modern Art Oxford, which involved administration and financial duties.

He stayed there until 2012 when he became a full-time professional tenor performing at concerts.

He had learned to sing at school.

Mr Jacklin-Edward explained: “I did A-level music and you have to do two instruments. I did piano and viola but unfortunately my viola playing was absolutely awful.

“My music teacher said, ‘You’ve got to find something other than the viola’ so I had singing lessons and it started from there.

“It wasn’t until about 2006 that I started having proper singing lessons. It was something that I had always enjoyed but only as a hobby. 

“Then my teacher said, ‘You want to do this professionally, I assume?’ I had never thought about it but thought that it sounded interesting.”

In 2010, he had a chance encounter with the producer of an opera company called Opera Holland Park and managed to get a gig doing chorus work.

It was here that Mr Jacklin-Edward met his future wife, Freya, a professional classical singer.

She teaches but has also done session work for a number of Hollywood films, including the Hobbit series and several Marvel films.

Mr Jacklin-Edward was in a production of Don Giovanni and from there began getting more concert engagements and working for touring theatre companies around Britain.

In 2009, he also started working part-time as the parish clerk in South Hinksey, near Oxford.

“It was a part-time job to bring in some extra cash,” he said. “I didn’t know much about parish councils but it looked really interesting.”

He worked there for six years as well as doing locum work at Risinghurst and Sandhills Parish Council and part-time work at Stonesfield Parish Council, both near Oxford.

In 2015 he became Burnham parish clerk after deciding to give up singing professionally.

Mr Jacklin-Edward said: “In essence, the main problem was that I got performance anxiety and the more I was singing, the more professionally I took it and the more I found it was crippling my performance. What I could achieve at home rehearsing I couldn’t replicate in concerts.

“The singing took very much a back seat and Burnham was very much my number one priority. It’s much nicer being able to do it for fun.”

When he began work at Burnham Parish Council, he found “a lot of difficulties”.

He said: “It couldn’t pay its bills, its finances were in a mess and staff turnover was high — it was in a  lot of trouble.

“In four years I’ve managed to turn it around and I’m pleased I’m leaving it in a wonderful position. The finances are stable and the assets are in a wonderful condition. 

“It’s doing some wonderful projects, staff turnover is extremely low and the councillors now in place are constructive and community- focused and are really there to do the best for Burnham.”

Mr Jacklin-Edward, who also enjoys long-distance running, swimming and baking, was offered the job in Henley the day before donating a kidney under the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme.

His interest was sparked when he was listening to a podcast featuring Dr Alvin Roth, the 2012 Nobel prize-winner for economics.

Dr Roth’s work has included a revolutionary new system to match kidney donors with patients.

Mr Jacklin-Edward said: “It just sounded like a really interesting experience.

“I thought, ‘I’m relatively fit and healthy and I’m in a supported job. I don’t have people who are dependent on me and if I don’t do it then how would I expect anyone to do for me?’”

He underwent four hours of surgery at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford on June 11.

He said: “It’s very rewarding and I was very lucky. I didn’t have any major side effects or complications and nine weeks later I’m absolutely fine.”

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