Being a renaissance freelance
HE CAME to the May Branch meeting with a brief to talk about "diversifying your work". Andrew Collins is certainly qualified to speak on the subject: a former editor of Q magazine, he now writes for (among other publications) the Observer and the Radio Times; presents Radio 4's Saturday afternoon film programme Back Row; is Billy Bragg's biographer and writes scripts for EastEnders.
"Anyway," he said, "no one in the media has one job any more" - look at a few examples - Damien Hurst makes pop records and Prince Edward is a television presenter and producer... and, well, let's not go down that road.
The only problem was - but it wasn't really a problem - that he didn't seem to be all that clear about how it had happened. Andrew explained that his life was founded on a lie: at primary school he wrote that his father was a policeman because he couldn't spell "insurance salesman". Then, through what he assured us was a series of happy accidents (but which one suspects were aided by a high level of talent, a gift for networking and a willingness to try anything) he progressed from being an illustrator and designer through to being a staff writer, magazine editor, a broadcaster and, eventually, by way of writing for Channel 5's Family Affairs ("so not many people saw that"), writing for EastEnders.
How did he do it? Putting it down to luck seems a little self-deprecating. His radio career began when, while he was at NME, a Radio 5 team came to make a feature about the magazine. He and colleague Stuart Maconie decided to be friendly and helpful - and he was offered radio work. Since then, he hasn't looked back. Television scriptwriting came after he interviewed the producer of Brookside - and so on through useful encounters enthusiastically followed through.
Now, at 36, Andrew says he still doesn't know what he wants to do when he grows up, but he seems to be having a good time doing it. The trouble is, he says that, with so many different jobs, he feels as if he is carrying a supermarket on his back "and I like smaller shops". He is doing less journalism than he used to "because it pays least well". But whatever he's doing, he always stops work in the evening in time for EastEnders.