The History of Billy Spakemon
Visiting Research Fellow at Aston University. Academic. Public Speaker. Writer. Singer. Storyteller. Events Organiser. Charity Fund Raising Adviser. Schools and Community Project Consultant. Ambassador for Black Country Bugle. Columnist for Bugle, Black Countryman and Black Country Connections. Host of arts and culture radio show for Black Country Radio.
Born in Oldbury where I lived til 16. I left the region for four years to play professional football with Swindon town. I returned and have remained in the Black Country ever since. I worked in the flooring trade with Allied Carpets for 36 years as a consultant and insurance estimator, spending some periods managing several stories with turnovers in excess of 2 million pounds per annum. I returned to academia around 2005 and have remained connected since working full time at Aston and now taking on many community and school projects on a consultancy basis which come through my visiting fellow profile.
In recent years I have also begun to work as a Health Care professional, through some work with Bridges Cancer Trust I became interested in working with individuals with dementia. I decided to take some qualifications and began working for SCCT. Although I have to fit it in with other project work I enjoy creative sessions and all the other work involved in this field to the extent I am in the process of applying for funding for a major project in this field.
There are pictures of me and Gaz and the bab (Paul) at the caravan in Porthcawl. That was the only holiday we had other than day trips to the seaside now and again when Dad had saved up enough money at Barclays (the paper shop). I don't know where 'biggun was (he spent all his time looking for crabs and stuff while we ate all the food and ice cream). Me and Gaz were joined at the hip... I miss him.
I wanted a picture of our Gazza here for many reasons, but mainly he was a much better footballer than I was. In his baggies kit he looks the part. I was a workoss, he had natural skill and a left foot as good as Zico. I think the picture was taken at Spring Road where I played a few times for Swindon.
The Grammar school team (me at front second right) was taken at Hadley Stadium. I think it was the Grammar schools cup but i'm not sure who we played. The One where I am left at the front was the All England Grammar festival at Bognor. In both I was 14/15 and the rest of the lads were 18. The Swindon Town shot was my first year (15/16) I'm on the floor bottom right, Following a dream.
You will probably see a long gap between my early education and my return to higher education in my 40's. This travelled along the same path as my development as a writer and performer. It was one of those strange things that fate drops on your door. One of my daughters (Gemma) was taking art as an extra subject. Susie, my late wife, knew a lady who ran an art class. I took Gemma for extra tuition she left I stayed and ended up with a PhD after about 15 years of study all part time. The title of Dr sometimes frightens people as they think you are an academic nerd. Folks who know me know I'm a complete numpty. I come from the impractical, half soaked, laid-back world, BUT I also come from a disciplined, hard-working determined and focused world where folks had to work dam hard to achieve anything. That and a passion for the subject matter gave me the ability to reach those goals and I use them now to the very best of my ability to inform my work as much as I can.
I was married for 36 years before losing my wife in 2007. We had two children (twin girls) but lost Gemma in 2016. I have my remaining daughter and son-in-law and one granddaughter. Of my three brothers two are still alive with the other middle one passing away in 2015 also.
All my family lived and worked in industry in Oldbury. My father was a tube drawer at Accles and Pollock, and my mother a lather and driller operator and the same factory before moving on to Clarkes in Oldbury. Theirs and my background have greatly influenced the work that I do and inform the way I see the work. Also the personal experiences and the connections I have made through community work mean I am very selective in projects I am involved in.
I've got loads of photos of Mom and Dad's wedding. What an ‘onsome bloke (what went wrong with me!)
That's Dad holding the trophy and I'm not sure if that would be junior or senior school. He had a teacher called Dicky Reynols who even by Dad's description must have been amazing.
Here's Mom and her sisters, down the club. Her brothers were probably with dad singing as the Murray brothers. Folk called them the Black Country Bachelors. Great times.
Lily is my shining star. She has so much of her Nana Sue in her it sometimes feels like I can speak to Susie through Lily.
We all think our grand-kids are the best thing since sliced bread. Well it's right. It's a strange world for kids to grow up in, So many distractions to take them away from the core values that were part of our growing up. We Ian and Ruth (her Mom and Dad and her other Nan and Granddad, John and Carol) try to instil those codes and practices in her while letting her be a modern child. Sometimes it frightens me just how worldly she (they) are. I wrote a song called 'Er Shames Me Wi' 'Er Worldliness' which compares how I felt at the same age and what I was interested in compared with Lily. She lights up my life and keeps me young and along with the boys Freddie and Archie) they are treasured gifts.
We all have thousands of images and photos from over the years. Most end up in albums or boxes collecting dust. They only come out when we are too old to remember when they were took and why. I am a teckie Neanderthal and hate the idea of photos books logged onto a screen where they can't be held, passed around, smelt. The images here are snippets of my life , brothers, family, images that I look at a lot. Many inspire stuff I write or hold a backstory that i tell when I'm out performing. Each is a part of a jigsaw that made me. Sadly many of the people in the images are no longer here physically, but seeing their pictures only makes their stories more vivid and lasting.