Could you write a brief pen portrait about yourself and your career?
After a few years working as a lawyer in London, I quit my job and spent 16 months cycling around the world. I cycled 13,000 miles through 27 countries, mainly camping or staying with local people. The journey took me across Europe, the Middle East and Asia to Australia, and then back home across the USA. The highlight was probably Iran, because the incredible hospitality of the local people was the opposite of the image we see in the media.
The experience was a life changer. I learned so much about the world and the sheer generosity of its people by travelling slowly, on two wheels, through places that most people wouldn’t choose to visit. When I came home, I founded (and still direct) the Cycle Touring Festival, with the aim of inspiring and equipping other people to make journeys by bicycle.
I’m also involved in several other organisations which aim to encourage people – especially women and girls – to get out there and explore the world through adventure. This usually involves physically (and mentally) challenging yourself. As well as cycling around the world, my other adventures have included walking across a desert in Oman, and swimming across the Hellespont, between Europe and Asia. Adventure can teach you so much, whether it’s physical and mental resilience or the importance of looking out for other people.
I still work as a solicitor, but now specialise in working for charities and social enterprises. I love my job, because I act for really inspiring clients who are trying to change the world for the better. My adventure life helps me enormously in my working life, because the same need for drive and determination applies to both. I also have a well-honed ability to turn any conversation round to cycling, which comes in handy when the legal chat gets too much!
What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?
I attended Bolton School aged 11-18, as did my younger sister.
What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
Visits to Patterdale Hall were always a highlight! My friends and I enjoyed our Year 9 School trip there so much, that we went back several times on our own. It was the first taste of freedom and opened my eyes to the world of the outdoors. I was never particularly sporty at School, but anyone can take part in outdoors activities and feel a satisfying sense of achievement.
Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at School?
The Geography department, particularly Mrs Keenan and Mrs McLellan, helped inspire a curiosity in the world which survives to this day. I recently became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, so I hope I’ve done them proud.
What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?
Bolton School gave me an excellent education, but more than anything it gave me the confidence that I could do anything. In particular, it instilled a sense that we should all aim to be strong, successful women. It also gave me a great group of friends.
What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?
Life is too short to do work you don’t enjoy so try lots of things (in work and outside work) so you understand what fires you up, and what you’re good at.
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
Everyone deserves to have the kind of education that Bolton School provides and I wish the School the best of luck with the 100 Campaign.