What it is I do

This is a new page from our website, explaining what I’m now doing for my work. But I thought I’d also issue it as a post, just in case you might want to take me on for anything, you know?

So, recently a friend said to me ‘You know I never know quite how to introduce you to people, to tell them what it is that you do. Obviously you write your blog, all about Liverpool and your opinions. So that’s one thing. But the things that earn you money seem harder to describe don’t they?’

Me with Sarah Horton. Out walking in recent days.

Me with Sarah Horton. Out walking in recent days.

So that started me thinking of writing something down, to help my friend and to get things straight in my own mind. But then some other people who are thinking of taking me on for some work asked me for a ‘C.V.’ So here it is, sort of. With occasional links.

What I do 

Now that our joint work as ‘a sense of place’ is done I’ve changed the balance of the work I now do to make the best of my own experience and interests. So I’ve stopped making films now and am working on coaching and mentoring small teams and individuals:

  • On what they stand for
  • What they want to do
  • Ideas on how they’ll go about doing it
  • And a continuing role asking awkward questions about how it’s all going

So, conversations and planning sessions – some in rooms, some in cafés, some on walks – based on what’s now over 40 years of experience of what I’ve always thought of as making the world a better, kinder, fairer place.

Over the last year or two this has led to working with boards such as the JMU Students’ Union and an educational charity here in Liverpool; a large social enterprise bus company, HCT, who are based in Hackney and work all over the country; The Florrie, board and staff, a heritage venue and community centre in Liverpool 8; another community organisation in Waterloo, Sefton; the development team of a housing association: an NHS team coping with constant change; plus coaching and mentoring several individuals, on what they want to do next with their lives and jobs.

So then, not something that can be easily summed up like ‘Dentist’ or ‘Nuclear Physicist’ say. But there’s a life going on here, not an elevator pitch.

As well as the paid work I’ve also been working with the people of Granby, helping them to sort out a dignified future for the last four remaining original streets there. Unfinished business as far as I’m concerned from my housing career, about which, more in a bit.

And there’s the blog of course. Two years ago I began writing ‘a sense of place’ the blog. Everything that interests me about living and working in Liverpool. Over 350 posts and counting now about Liverpool, its stories, its history, its people, our society, politics and possible futures. Walking around my wider Liverpool, both sides of the river, up and down the coasts, around its parks and edgelands, its hidden corners, its high days and quiet days. In my own way, taking responsibility for the place, looking after it, raising questions where they need raising, and celebrating what might otherwise be overlooked.

I love writing the blog. And to my great delight its readership has built steadily so that many thousands of people each month are reading it now, and contributing their own opinions directly to it and on social media.

So get in touch if you think we could do some work together: Ronnie Hughes 07989 416 545 or email me

But how did I get here? To this mixture of work and activities that make up what I do? Read on.

Early days

I’m from Liverpool and, as it’s turned out, I’ve always lived here. I began my first job in housing in 1972. Working for Liverpool City Council in Scotland Road and Everton. I enjoyed it so much I thought seriously about not going to University. In the end I did though, doing Sociology, Politics and Philosophy at Liverpool. And continuing my housing work in the long university holidays.

In fact, long before I finished my degree I was working as a volunteer for a housing association, Liverpool Housing Trust. In those days working mainly around Canning and Granby in Liverpool 8.

A housing career

With the LHT computer and team, 1979.

With the LHT computer and team, 1979.

In 1976 I started working at Liverpool Housing Trust full time. LHT were a Shelter inspired housing organisation working only in inner Liverpool then. We were a small team housing homeless people and those in the most desperate need. Keeping people out of the hands of exploitative private landlords, saving and improving houses and flats and campaigning for changes in how housing was funded. In fact in these early years it was more like a campaign than a job.

In the end I worked for LHT for 20 years. In all the departments as they grew and developed. Development, Housing Management, Research, installing one of the first computer systems in a housing association, being a union rep and negotiating our terms and conditions. Ending up as a Director of the organisation, responsible for a department running strategic forward planning, staff development, personnel, IT, marketing, equal opportunities and industrial relations. All very well, except I missed the campaigning, missed working with small groups of people on what could make their neighbourhoods and their lives work better.

So in 1995, along with my partner Sarah Horton, an artist, we started our own company ‘a sense of place’. To see if we could earn our living out of doing the work that interested us the most.

a sense of place

There’s a whole section of the website telling the story of a sense of place. But here it is in summary.

We began as ‘Forward planning using art, for teams and individuals’. Something even some of our friends said ‘would never work’. But as well as local and individual work we started getting taken on by some big organisations and charities, like Granada TV and the Guinness Trust. We also got ourselves involved in the early development of social enterprises. Real businesses but with social and environmental aims as well as financial ones. The Big Issue in the North, working with directors, staff and vendors; Furniture Resource Centre/Bulky Bob’s – board, senior team and everyone else; Create; Blackburne House – eventually helping to run national and international events for social enterprises to learn from each other.

Forward Planning, with art, 1995.

Forward Planning, with art, 1995.

And our involvement with housing continued, including several years of working with community groups at the National Tenants Resource Centre near Chester. Helping residents and communities from all over Britain and Northern Ireland get involved in designing and running their own neighbourhoods, rather than sit mutely by while the ravages of regeneration were ‘done ‘ to them. It was great.

Along the way we both learned how to make films. So our customers could explain what they were doing, what they were for, tell their stories, even secure funding or investment – by working on their films with people who already understood them, us. We were never a film company for general hire. All of our film work was organically part of work we were already doing with the various people and places we’d come across.

‘a sense of place’ ended up working with clients all over the UK. Working in social enterprise, housing, health , education and other public and private enterprises. We always judged our work on whether we thought we’d love doing it and whether it could be shown to be good for the people and the place we’d be doing it with. Whether it would help to make their part of the world a better place. We’d often turn work down.

Then a few years ago Sarah was diagnosed with a life threatening illness. And this of course changed everything for us. I continued to run ‘a sense of place’ part time while Sarah went through years of treatment and recovery. After which, successfully treated as far as we can ever say, she decided she’d found a new vocation along the way.

So Sarah now follows what she’s found to be a deeply satisfying and fulfilling path as an Independent Funeral Celebrant, we’ve brought our joint enterprise, our ‘a sense of place’ to a close, and I’m also now off on my own fulfilling path coaching and mentoring.

We still sit here and talk most evenings about our now very different working lives and what we have going on. Still happy together and happy that ‘a sense of place’ is now just the name of our blog, rather than our business.

Which brings us back to where we came in, to what I do now. As I said earlier, not an elevator pitch, more like bringing a whole life’s experience to what it is I do.

So get in touch if you think we could do some work together: Ronnie Hughes 07989 416 545 or email me

2 thoughts on “What it is I do

  1. robertday154

    I wouldn’t disgrace you with the job title “consultant” (a friend of mine once said that it was a word with two ancient roots – “con” and “insult”), but perhaps you could best describe yourself as a social activist/organiser at large!


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