Karen Diggle – Old Girl (Class of 1976) and Governor

Karen was Deputy Head Girl during her time at Bolton School, before leaving in 1976 to study History at Nottingham University. Alongside studying for her degree, Karen discovered a passion for coxing. She was soon invited to join the British National Ladies Rowing Team and became the first woman to cox at Henley. Surprisingly, it was the now Rt Hon Lord Justice Ernest Ryder, Head Boy in Karen’s final year at Bolton School and fellow Inspiring Mind, who suggested she try coxing!

After three years at Nottingham, Karen completed a postgraduate business course in Manchester. Once she graduated, her ambition was to move to London to pursue a career in the art world. Whilst waiting for an opportunity to make the move, she began working for a temping agency in Bolton, during which time she completed a placement at Chamberlain Doors.
After a holiday in South America, Karen came home to receive a permanent job offer from Chamberlain Doors, which eventually she accepted, despite warning them of her intention to move to London.

Thirty-five years later and Karen is now Managing Director of the company, and her career has not only grown from strength to strength, but it has enabled her to travel all over the world, including trips to Mexico, Canada, the States and more – all far more exotic than London! Three years into her role with Chamberlain Doors and the company achieved its first million pound turnover. Karen has now been Managing Director for twenty-two years and the company has expanded into a group, recognised as the largest independent garage door specialist distributor in the UK. It is clear that the challenge has never diminished; there has always been a new goal to work towards. When you are offered an opportunity such as this, it is not necessarily the location which matters, but the fact you have been given it.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

Karen was the first member of her family to be educated at Bolton School and was a recipient of the Direct Grant Scheme. Her brother, Roger Diggle, attended a few years later and today Karen’s two nephews are members of the Boys’ Division Senior School. Karen has served as a Governor for the past three years, and has recently been re-elected for a second term of office.

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at School?

All the teachers were special in their own right; some were formidable, others filled you with awe, but each was singular in terms of their different qualities and the role model they represented to the pupils. Karen describes her time in the Girls’ Division as a fantastic era for teaching staff, but suspects most Old Girls would say the same of their time at School.

Yet the most inspiring member of staff for Karen was Miss Winfield, her History teacher, who used unusual cartoons to bring historical characters to life for the pupils. In light of this, you can understand why Karen went on to read History at university.

She also remarks on the support her Upper Sixth Form Tutor Miss Chignall provided whilst she was studying for her A-Levels, as well as a member of the Head Girl Team.

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?

Confidence is the most important trait Karen feels she has come away with. She remembers how her first term report described her as ‘diffident’, but by the third term she was Form Captain.

The Girls’ Division provided a safe and happy environment, and she doesn’t remember a single day when she did not want to come to School. Not only did she make life-long friends but her involvement with School has continued in other forms.

Karen blossomed as a result of her experiences at School; experiences which informed the successful woman she is today. This background enabled her to aspire, believing anything is possible if you truly set your mind to it.

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

Karen’s career advice to pupils today is not to have any pre-conceived ideas about what you want to do, and be prepared to do anything because it could be the stepping stone to something special. Whatever it is you eventually choose to do, always do it to the very best of your ability.

Karen describes how important direct grant access was to her and if this opportunity can be replicated as a result of the 100 Campaign for Bursaries, so that other children are lucky enough to have the same experiences and opportunities the grant scheme gave to her, then that is the absolute best the campaign can achieve. She believes the 100 Campaign is fundamental to the future success and longevity of the School.