Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life

Imogen Tinkler – turning personal loss into career growth

September 03, 2023 Naomi Mellor/Imogen Tinkler Episode 82
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
Imogen Tinkler – turning personal loss into career growth
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
What is it like to truly reinvent yourself? To take the twists and turns of life and turn them into an opportunity for growth and reinvention? Imogen Tinkler did just that. From her unique upbringing in Pakistan, her work in the charities sector, to her leap of faith into food and foraging, Imogen's story is a testament to the power of resilience, hard work and staying true to your values.
In this guest episode of Naomi Mellor's Smashing the Ceiling podcast, Naomi explores Imogen's story of turning personal loss into fuel for career growth. Imogen shares candidly about the loss of her daughter and how the therapeutic benefits of swimming helped her through the darkest of times.
We dive into the significance of finding support and connection in times of tragedy and the role of community in healing. So, if you're in for an inspiring conversation full of courage, transformation and resilience, this episode with Imogen is just the one for you.

Smashing the Ceiling

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Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi emilyportnoi.co.uk
Photo: Ella Pallet


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Speaker 2:

Hi, I'm Claire, founder of Creativity Found, a community for creative learners and educators, connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so with workshops, courses, online events and kits. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or re-found their creativity as adults. We'll explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love and consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits and how their creative lives enrich their practical, necessary everyday lives. I have invited some podcast shows that I admire and think you might like to make guest appearances on the Creativity Found podcast feed. I have chosen an episode from each show that communicates something of the Creativity Found ethos. Please enjoy and I hope you're inspired to listen to more episodes by today's guest podcast.

Speaker 1:

I think for me, especially as a woman, it's a plan your career. We plan a holiday, but we don't often plan our career. And I don't mean, in saying I have to be like I got this a bit wrong, saying I have to be here at this time but it's working out. What makes you happy is your career still making you happy and being able to reflect on that.

Speaker 3:

Hello there, Welcome to Smashing the Ceiling, the podcast that showcases the lives of women who've achieved amazing things in their careers, some who've got a really cool or unusual job, and some who've just had a really interesting life. I'm your host, Naomi Mella, and each week I'll be sitting down with one woman to hear about the ceilings they've smashed through in their lives. The glass ceiling isn't all about corporate boardrooms, international skyscrapers and towering stilettos Although, don't get me wrong, I love a good high heel. There are women breaking down barriers everywhere, shattering stereotypes and forging their own unique and wonderful career paths. We're here to share their stories with you, to let you know how they got where they are and how their mentors, mistakes and motivations have led them to achieve the things they have. We're an independent podcast, so if you'd like to support us, please follow, rate and review wherever you listen. Everyone asks you to do this, I know, but it really does make a difference and we'd love it if you could.

Speaker 3:

When you're in a box career-wise, it can be hard to get out of it. Sometimes it's pressure from others or from society that keeps you in that box, and sometimes it's your own internal monologue telling you that you can't do anything else, but sometimes life events get you out of your box and send you on a different path. Imogen Tinkler is a case in point here. After an adventurous childhood in Pakistan and studying Russian with politics at uni, Imogen thought she was going to be a lawyer. After losing her mother, though, she reconsidered her priorities and subsequently forged a successful career in the charities and not-for-profit sector, becoming a director at the age of 31 and working with David Cameron and Gordon Brown. After her dad became ill, though, Imogen reinvented herself again, quitting her job and starting a food business bangers and balls with her husband, Duncan. Imogen and Duncan are aiming to start a revolution from your kitchen table. They began with pop-up restaurants, but now take foraging expeditions telling the tales of food surrounding you in the natural world. They've written a new book, Foraging Fairy Tales, which has just gone straight into the Amazon Top 10.

Speaker 3:

As well as being a successful businesswoman and master marketeer, Imogen is also a keen wild swimmer with a love of the ocean and being in water, and she told me here about how swimming saved her after the loss of her eight-week-old baby daughter in the midst of the pandemic last year. Her positivity and infectious enthusiasm, despite everything she's encountered, made me just want to be her friend and move to Kent immediately to join her gang of swimmers. As a trigger warning we do discuss grief and loss in this podcast, but listen in if you can for warmth, energy and lots of great advice from Imogen. Imogen's audio is a tiny bit muffled in the middle of this interview, but do stick with it because it gets better, Cool Well, thank you, Imogen. So much for joining me on the podcast today. I'm so excited to have you Now.

Speaker 3:

I heard you saying in another interview that you gave that you're parents are Irish and you grew up in Pakistan, which sounds very exciting. Do you want to tell us a little bit about growing up and your kind of childhood in moving around the world? Yes, definitely.

Speaker 1:

People always ask if my dad was in the forces or if he was a spy. But my dad worked in a banking and my mother was a nurse, and so it was amazing that we got to travel. They came from Ireland and they settled in Essex for a little while. And then one day dad came home and asked me how I'd feel about moving schools. And it was in the middle of a recession, so I assumed that my parents couldn't afford to send me to the school. So I said, oh, as long as I can see my friends every day. And he was like we're going to Pakistan. I was like, oh, and he showed me on the map and then he told me that I had a swimming pool. So then I was like that's fine and off we went to Pakistan. But I was about seven when we went there and I came back to the UK when I was 11.

Speaker 1:

But for me it was one of the most magical places to grow up. There was so much from like the mangrove swamps. We drove up into China. We went through to Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass one of the last people foreigners to do that. We just explored so much and the culture and the food and going to the markets.

Speaker 1:

It really became part of who I was and obviously you've seen some of the politics as well. They often say the 92 was the bloodiest time in Karachi and people often think from insurgents, but actually it was from a lot from drug trade and you'd see it coming down from Afghanistan. So it opened your eyes up to the world. But I think it gives you a really different perspective away from your local kind of quite idyllic Essex childhood that you saw and my parents definitely had an Irish twist on the way they seem things and then they went off to Australia, which I got to go to for a little bit as well. But we really travelled a lot around the Middle East and went to Jordan and Israel and Palestine, to all these different places, and I think it expands your horizon so much and you use that as you build your career, I think.

Speaker 3:

And it sounds like your parents were very adventurous people. Did they kind of instill that sense of adventure into you as a child as well? Imogen, oh, definitely.

Speaker 1:

My dad. It's funny, he came to England by boat and grew up in Ilford. Yeah, he got this job in banking and worked his way up and he hadn't heard, he said, of a lot of these countries before he started going. But it opened his eyes so much and the stories he would tell. And my mum, she didn't expect to go to the Cameroons at the 22 as a blonde-haired Irish woman it was completely different for her in the 70s, but they just got the taste for it and loved new cultures and meeting new people. Yeah, it definitely gave me that thirst to want to explore and see the world. But also actually I realised I'd never been up north in the UK until I started university. So also wanting to explore more was on my doorstep. Because sometimes we're running so fast to see the rest of the world we forget to think, wow, where do we live, what's around us as well?

Speaker 3:

So funny that is. I find that such an irony that quite often you meet people who are very well-travelled outside of the UK and then they'll say, oh, but I've never been to Scotland or I've never been to the West Coast of Wales or somewhere that's not that far away. But we have this tendency, like you say pre-COVID, to hop on a plane and be seeking adventure and excitement everywhere else in the world, but actually not really looking at what's kind of on our doorstep, I guess. Yeah completely.

Speaker 1:

And that's when I went to university and I realised whenever we came back to the UK we'd always go to Ireland because that's where my mum was from, it's where her family is and her friends. I mean, we went to Scotland but we drove to Perth to drop something off to someone and drove back again because my mum wouldn't have thought that was a long journey. She'd be like oh well, off we go. So I grew up a little bit like that as well.

Speaker 3:

Love that, I love that. And also I think kind of instilling that sense of freedom, whether it's travelling or just in general, is so important, particularly to young girls, and I know certainly other friends of mine who've gone on to solo travel have always said that actually having that kind of sense of freedom and adventure and bravery instilled in you as a norm when you're a child actually is majorly helpful when you become an adult in terms of pushing your own boundaries and actually kind of just enjoying what you're doing, I guess as well.

Speaker 1:

Definitely, and I think also one of the things which is I use across everything is also instilling risk. So you are understanding what risk looks like. When you travel in different countries as a woman, is that risk going to be higher, or? I always remember I was staying in Thailand on my gap year and I'd been sharing rooms with people, but on my last night I didn't want to share with anyone because I was petrified if they'd put something in my bag or you didn't. The lady was like, but I'm a nun, and I said, yeah, that's the perfect cover. I said I think you're more of a risk and she was just laughing so much.

Speaker 1:

But it was learning that risk and you apply that then to everything that you do. And I'm already teaching my three-year-old that and I can see her as she assesses the risk, because sometimes we do. You know there's lots of studies in psychology where, if it's a boy or a girl, the dad will actually let the boy and the girl do more, but the mum will reduce how steep the slide is for a girl versus a boy. So it's to ourselves that we do it and I'm like, oh, I don't want her to do that. So if I can teach her the risk, but also I'm noticing that for myself I think it really helps, and it helps you when you go to work and in everything, in everything you do really.

Speaker 3:

And I think that's such a hard balance to tread as a parent. I mean, I don't have children of my own, but treading that line between risk and being overly risk averse is actually, I imagine, very difficult as a parent, and picking the places that and the things that you'll allow versus the things that you know are too worrying, I reckon, must be pretty tricky.

Speaker 1:

Definitely, especially with like the work that we do. But it was funny when we went camping my husband was like no, you can't go near the fire. And I was like yes, you can, we're going to have 20 hours of fire lessons and when you've done your 20 hours then you can. And she was like okay. So she kept asking every day, can I have my fire lesson? But now she knows it's hot, that it's dangerous and she's still not allowed close to it. But she can gather the woods to help do it or toast her marshmallow, and I think, rather than just being scared of something that's made her, she's excited to be working towards being allowed to tend the fire, even though I know that's going to be when she's five or six. But those 20 hours she's, she's aware of it and she's moving towards it. I think it's how you approach it sometimes.

Speaker 3:

Yeah that's incredible. I love that. I love that. And so you. You mentioned that you went up north for university and you studied Russian at university. What was it that drew you towards doing that? Because that's quite an unusual degree, Do you?

Speaker 1:

want the honest answer, because I just love an honest answer. I didn't get the A levels I wanted. I wanted to do straight politics and so I thought, oh, I'm going to have to go to a different university. But then I realized if I did politics in Russian I only needed two Bs in a C versus two A's in a B. So I thought I'll get into university on politics in Russian and then I'll just drop the Russian once I'm in, because I've got in the door and I thought that was genius. The school didn't necessarily agree with me, but I remember my dad going that's great and so I did that. But when I got there, russian became the favorite part of my. I did a lot of Russian history and Russian literature and that became actually one of the favorite parts of my degree. So I didn't drop it, but it was purely so I could get in the door of Leeds, which is where I wanted to go.

Speaker 3:

Did you spend a year in Russia as part of that degree?

Speaker 1:

I was meant to go to Russia for a year but my mum became terminally ill so unfortunately I didn't get to go and spend that year with everyone else in Russia, which actually made my degree a little bit harder. But I have been to Russia and my dad used to do a lot of business in Russia in the 80s, which is why a lot of people used to think he was a spy. But it was very so. I have learned a lot and I spent, and I also then found a lot of. I don't know if it's a bit odd, but I found a lot of people who were Russian to go and speak to them to ask about it, because I knew I couldn't immerse myself in the culture that everyone else could for that year.

Speaker 3:

But yeah, I'm sorry to hear that about your mum, but it sounds like you made up for it in your kind of indomitable way. It seems to be quite evident with everything you do, Imogen. And so how did you kind of get on into the world of work? Because I know you started in kind of branding and marketing and working in charity work for a long time. You spent sort of 10 years with multiple different charities, including the RNIB and NSPCC. How did you kind of do that? How did you decide on what you were going to do after you finished your degree?

Speaker 1:

Well, first thing I did when I finished my job, I wanted to work in events and PR and I remember I sat with my father and I wrote to 100 companies and then he told me that wasn't enough. I needed to write to support. So I wrote to all of these companies and I got three replies, which doesn't sound very much. But from that I got two job offers. But I remembered they offered me £13,000 a year, which I was like that's great, it's what I want to do. And I remember my dad going but that's not going to cover your rent, your train fare, you're just, you're going to have to get another job for a year before you go and do that. I was like you could help me and he was like, no, this is you working out your path? I'm not sure if I agree with him, but so then and my mum was still terminally ill then, so it was also if I was doing events, how would I help to look after my mum? So there was balance. So I went and took a job in recruitment for a year which, to be honest, at the time I was like oh God, because people do judge you for working in recruitment. But I had a great year. I got jobs for all of my friends who were finishing uni. I got them into 10 places, got them some amazing jobs like a Michelin guide and things. It was great. I also earned good commission that helped me to buy my flat in London. But I also learned how to apply for jobs and what people were looking for. So actually that year really taught me so much and then I thought, okay, I'm going to build the money up and then go and work in events because I don't need to rely on anyone else.

Speaker 1:

But I think losing my mum changed my mindset and I'd always wanted that university. I was part of RAG, which was raised and give, and I wanted to stay on for a year and run it and I'd always done a lot of charity you know work and volunteering throughout my whole life. It was something that was important and then I realized I could do it as a job. I was like wow, and I remember I applied for a job at the Variety Club Children's Charity and it had the events part, the like events like the doorchester and we did one with Muhammad Al Fai and girls allowed at Harrods. It was one of the first events I worked on. I was like, oh, and we did. You know, this was just amazing. But it wasn't so much the glitz and glamour of the event, I just enjoyed making people feel special and pulling that together.

Speaker 1:

But then I also got to do things around policy, so using my politics, and we worked, for example, like David Cameron and Gordon Brown because they had children with disabilities about how we could raise more funds. And then I also did the fundraising side to the events like the marathon, and I realized that I loved it so much and you got to connect with people so many ways, from building strategic partnerships like with the cooperative group, and I mean I remember being so excited because we'd got our logo on all of their plastic bags and at the ATM machines and that was like, wow, people are going to see our logo everywhere. But you also got to work with the trustees, who all ran their own successful businesses. So you had all of these mentors as well you were learning so much from. So it was really interesting to be in the charity sector. And then, because of the age I was, you know Facebook was brand new. So I remember going, oh, I'll set up Facebook. So I got to do a lot of the digital and marketing and kind of.

Speaker 1:

I was quite lucky at work. They'd often let me carve out my own role. I didn't realize till I looked back that I must have been sometimes a bit difficult in the fact that they were like, let's just let her make her own role because she brings in the money. And that's when I but I just loved doing something that had a sense of purpose and that I really believed in. Sometimes it was hard because when you work in the charity sector people go oh, it's easy, because every corporate wants to support you. You have to remind people there's 180,000 charities out there, so you're all fighting for that space. But also for me I would have. If someone else was going into the charity sector, I'd say do a year or two in corporate first, because people just respect you more and it's not fair necessarily, but it does. It does really help. But I loved building that career throughout the sector and as I went on I changed what I was doing and obviously moved up a bit.

Speaker 3:

So much to unpack there. Just going back to one that you said after you lost your mum, that it really kind of changed your mindset. Can you just expand on that a little bit, imogen? Like how did what did you change kind of from to, and how did you kind of shift what you thought you were going to do into what you actually did? Do you think?

Speaker 1:

I think never know the PC way around this, but it is about my mother. My mother was Irish. She'd come from Ireland as an immigrant and to my mum I did law, medicine or engineering. Those were my choices and I didn't really that always would see, I wasn't really what I wanted to do, but I always felt that probably what I should, I should do a law conversion course. So partly after she died I had a bit of freedom where I went God, I can do what I want and I'm not going to upset her and I'm never. She would always have been proud, but it's what we tell ourselves sometimes. And I thought I can do what I want.

Speaker 1:

And my dad always said to me you're in a career for a long time, it's about being happy in what you do and it's not always chasing the money, because I always felt like I should be earning X amount to be comfortable. But once I got my flat and I had a mortgage I kind of felt again I had a lot more freedom. But that sense of purpose became important. I couldn't just go to work and do something I didn't believe in, and even in recruitment sometimes you could get spoke. I remember one day they shouted at me for something. We had to sit in the middle of a room and we got shouted at and I just was like why am I putting up with this? I don't want to be shouted at like this, no, and I think I quit.

Speaker 1:

Like two days later was told not quit without another job. I thought I've got my own money in the bank, I'll do what I want and I'm not being spoken. So I think it was important to me about the culture of an organization and how we were spoken to really changed. And life is short, isn't it? And you think, god, if my mom died at 50, I might only have 30 years left. I'm going to make every moment of it count and no one else is going to tell me what to do. That makes me sound a bit difficult, but it is how you begin to think of it.

Speaker 3:

Oh, no for sure I'm all over that. Like I love that kind of ethos is. You know, I think life is short and you know, thank you very much for being so honest about your mom. But, like you say, you never know when it is going to be your time and actually you might live till you're 95, but you might not, and actually it's. I think embracing what you think you want to do where you can is so important. And you know, I think we talk a lot on this podcast about going into things that you think you should do, sometimes because of parental pressures or societal pressures or even internal pressures from within yourself. But there's a lot of people out there who follow a path at the age of 18 or whatever, who, because they think they should, not because they actually think they want to, and I think being honest from you know you being honest about the fact that you felt that you had more freedom to pursue something that you wanted to do is very refreshing to hear. Imogen to be quite honest.

Speaker 1:

Definitely it's that freedom, isn't it? I think your parents invest a lot of time in you and your education, and I was the first one. You know my parents go to university. I remember even in my first term I was like oh, I'm not sure if it's for me, and Dad was like Imogen, this is your only chance in your life that you get to read something for yourself for three years. He's like, even if you don't enjoy the degree, this is teaching you how to budget. It's teaching you how to go out and party but still be in your lecture the next day and work. He's like those are things that you need for the workplace. I think that's. My dad is a bank. I did a lot of drinking as part of his part of how he did this, but it's kind of true and I'm glad that I did, you know. So you're glad that you get the push from your parents sometimes, but then other times they just want the best for you, don't they? But no one else can make those decisions for you.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and so you now have your own company with your husband, duncan, which is bangers and balls. I love the name. First of all, where did that come from?

Speaker 1:

We were sitting. We went to one of my cousins' weddings in New York and we were sitting in Williamsburg, which is quite similar to kind of like Bermond's in London. It has that kind of so trendy, so trendy. So, yeah, it's that as well. We lived in Bermond's in.

Speaker 1:

My cousin was in Williamsburg because we were laughing and we were just sitting there having some meatballs and we were talking about how, you know, if we could do anything in the world, what would it be? And my husband had left his job and we were discussing it and we just came up with the name bangers and balls. So that was in 2013 and we loved it and it was going to be that we were going to sell meat, balls and sausages and then you could choose whether to have mash or pasta or what. That was our kind of concept and we wanted to have these beautiful restaurants and we wanted to be bigger than McDonald's because you could have thriving. But it was this.

Speaker 1:

We love a bit of innuendo and I guess the bangers is me and the balls is Duncan. I think that's a bit rude, but we're both from Essex as well, so we wanted to have a bit of fun with it. Our business looks quite different to that now, but bangers and balls people always remember the name. And guess what? No one else has got it. We haven't had any issues with trademark.

Speaker 3:

I love that, I love that, and so how it was, but it was a while before you actually launched that company, after having the idea in 2013. Which is that right. What happened in the meantime?

Speaker 1:

Definitely I was kind of petrified. We got married in 2013. I was 30 years old. I went to work for the. My dream was that I wanted to be a CEO of a charity so I could drive change, you know, at an international level. So I went to work for the Institute of Fundraising so that I'd know everyone in the sector for great networking. And I worked in particular at Remember a Charity and it was around behaviour change and getting people to talk more about death and to write will and remember a gift in their legacy. And I got to do some amazing work with the cabinet office and with co-op around behaviour change. That could raise an extra one billion for the UK market. And it just blew my mind.

Speaker 1:

And then, all of a sudden, behaviour change became so important to me. I'd always known it was there but didn't really understand it. And then in my head, as we all do, I had this self-internal pressure I wanted to be a director by the time I was 30. I kept thinking I haven't done it yet. But just before my 31st birthday off, I went to become a director at a family childcare trust. I went in there for business development but ended up also becoming director of marketing and fundraising and I thought, wow, but do you know what? It didn't make me happy and I thought, actually I want my own business, but I was nervous just to go and start. So I went to work for a startup who had really good venture capitalists. They were on Hoxton Roundabout all of the things. They had a fridge full of drinks something we never had in the charity sector and they wanted me to build strategic partnerships and also do the marketing. And it worked perfectly because it was also building these partnerships with charities, so it was something that I knew how to do. I went and worked there and I mean they were amazing, but the hours you work are huge and you're doing it for someone else. I learned a lot about growth and about hacking, but after, I think, about four months, I was kind of like I've learned a lot. Now I think I feel ready, but also I feel like I'm like the death fairy.

Speaker 1:

My dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer, which was terminal. So again, I was young and with my mother, I worked through it. I can start to look after her at night, but I still go to work with my dad. I was like I'm not doing that, so I quit my job and I just spent the time with my father, spent a pretty poor step. My poor step sometimes must have thought, does she ever go home? But I just spent that time with him and spent the time in the hospital. And when he died, again there was that thing. My dad, you know, he was so excited to see me as a director and to do this, but it was after he died. Then I realized that he sent me a message saying set up your own business, do your own thing. You can do this. I know what you want to do. Don't feel like you have to do anything for anyone else. This is your chance. And I was like, wow.

Speaker 1:

So I went away to America for a few months. My husband stayed in the UK, but I just needed that kind of headspace. And then when we came back, I just went right, let's do it. Bangers and balls, we've had the idea, we've done nothing with it. And I phoned up and I got a pop-up supper club. I got the date for it. I didn't tell my husband and I said, right, we've got a date.

Speaker 1:

And then, when I got that one, I phoned up little nams, which was a top timeout bar in London and said can we come every Tuesday and pop up? We do pop-up things in Kent, because I could say that now because we had one and went to see them and they said yes, and all of a sudden our business was kind of bored. My husband was a bit like great, we're doing this, because he was the foodie and was doing all the food and I was doing the marketing. But it was pretty scary just to do it and we didn't have a strategy or a plan, which is what I'd normally tell everyone else to do. But marketers can be the worst for that sometimes.

Speaker 3:

Do as I say, don't do as I do. Hey, Imogen, that's it. That's it. And how has your business kind of grown since then? There's so much I want to touch on. I want to talk about foraging and I want to talk about fairy tales and everything else that you do, but tell me how you've developed bangers and balls, for being a kind of it was essentially a pop-up restaurant in the beginning. How have you kind of taken it in new directions? You've had some very novel ideas. The foraging is amazing and I think this ethos of getting people to eat food from your environment and eat locally is obviously a big part of your business. Can you just talk me through how you've kind of developed those ideas and worked them into your business?

Speaker 1:

Oh, definitely, because when we first started we were doing pop-ups and we were trying to do it in pubs that didn't do food so we could drive traffic into those pubs with them. That was my marketing head how can we help drive people in and make conversions? And but straight away my husband was using like nettles and foraging and we really enjoyed that part and we realized it set us apart. Actually, in pubs that weren't already doing food, were we just working really hard to direct people in there that wouldn't normally go there but enjoyed what we did and followed. So we kind of thought and we approached a place called Edible Culture, who we just loved because it's where we bought a lot of our plants from. They were organic, they don't use pesticides, and that's when we started to realize what our sense of purpose was.

Speaker 1:

I think coming from the charity sector, not just because of that, but it was so important to me and it was the core part of it. So I see a lot of businesses doing it now or adding on sometimes, and I think it has to come from your inner heart, you have to be attentive. And so we then started to pop up outside and we loved popping up outside and in greenhouses and much more with where the food came from, and we've seen people's excitement and they started to ask us more questions. So like, well, where did? How do you know what seed beet looks like to put it on your menu? How do you know what this is? And a lot of this was knowledge that we just had. But we also were learning and we've made a commitment to learn one new thing or week. So we thought why not start sharing that with our followers? Because everyone I know, like people have mental health and everyone has mental health. Like I say, when people say they want a diet, like we all have a diet, so we all eat certain things, whatever that is, we all have mental health, and we found that by going out to forage one thing a week, it really helps with overwhelm and not doing too much, because whenever people learn, whether it's a crooked, so they want to learn everything at once.

Speaker 1:

But motivation goes up and down. They say that the New York Times said that if 10 people start a course, only one of them finish it, and we obviously want to bring people on that journey. So, if I'm honest, we didn't have a true strategy when we started. It started off doing the pop-up events and then we realized how much we engaged with our diners and we weren't a typical restaurant where we're just driving people to get sales, but we were interacting with them and started doing experience days like pick it, cook it, eat it. So we took people to the farms, picked their own weird and wonderful veg, because we were so amazed by these local producers and we thought, wow, we can show other people how amazing that you can get an electric daisy. I don't know, have you ever had an electric daisy?

Speaker 3:

No, I've never even heard of an electric daisy, imagine if I'm honest.

Speaker 1:

I'm like a pop-up and one of the farmers came across me. I thought this was a farmer, but she's 23. She has the wonky parsnip and she gave me an electric daisy and I asked her what have you just given me? And pregnant? And she said oh no, it's natural and they grow in Peru and they used to be helped with if you had two-faces.

Speaker 1:

But they basically made your mouth tingle and it's quite amazing that for Halloween we made like nettle cakes that were green and then put this tingling electric daisy through the icing. So it was like a Frankenstein gave you a shock kind of cake. And when you start to see the magic behind these things, it's just amazing and I get really excited and passionate when I'm talking about it. But we wanted to show more people this and it doesn't just have to be if you live in the countryside and you were going to a farmers market, because it's not accessible for all, because farmers markets are normally not all. I hate saying they are more expensive, but certain things are and actually other things are not more expensive. They're cheaper than the supermarkets, but it's how we pay value on things sometimes.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. And you said you go foraging for one new thing a week. How do you guys learn, like, where do you get your knowledge from? Is it books, or have you got people that help you? Have you had someone kind of mentor you through your foraging journey, as it were, or have you done that?

Speaker 1:

We read a lot of books where we get a lot of information, and also from podcasts. But also, like my uncle is in his 80s and he has foraged his whole life, so I learn a lot from him. And actually, when you speak to people locally, they always have a huge local knowledge and people are quite happy to share or to swap knowledge. But, for example, like I'd never foraged violence until last week, I know what violence looks like, but I hadn't gone out to get them before. So we went out to get them and it was raining, but we set up a membership group so we actually do it together, so it's locked down. Obviously, you know our supper clubs absolutely stopped because you couldn't do them and again, I sound like the deaf girl, but we also lost our daughter and I just needed a sense of purpose to got a three year old as well and I need something to get up for and to do. So we set up the Foody Revolution, which is starting a revolution from your kitchen table, and we asked people to join us and we were going to teach them to preserve one thing a week and to forage one thing a week. So we asked them what they want to learn to forage as well, and we've just all done it together. But some things are so easy, like we did.

Speaker 1:

Dandelion Everyone knows what a dandelion looks like, but they might just have never foraged it. Or you get worried. Should you not take the larger ones because they're for the bees? It's learning this kind of knowledge and we bring experts in as well to teach our community, which also teach us in turn. I mean, what better way is there to learn as you're all learning together? That's what I love about it. We all fail out. Imposter sometimes that you can't be an expert if you're still learning but no one knows everything. You ask Einstein, he'd probably say he didn't know that much. Or you ask Newton, they wouldn't be saying oh, I know everything. No one does it take. Even after a lifetime, you're still consistently learning.

Speaker 3:

I wouldn't either. Dandelion's out of my garden, I think the dogs peed all over that. I'd like to maybe fire yourself from somewhere else, but definitely our ones are a bit dodgy, all of them first you'll be fine.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they'll get all the impurities out of them.

Speaker 3:

I think sometimes it's psychological though as well. Isn't it Right, that thing of going out and picking something from the wild when people are not used to doing that? It's not in our cultural ethos anymore, really, unless you grow vegetables in your garden or you have an allotment which is a little bit different, because it seems even that is a little bit more farmed. Quote unquote. That is planned, things are put in to take out. The idea of actually kind of going out into your environment and taking things that are just wild, I think, seems very alien to people these days, doesn't it? Do you find that people are nervous when they come to you, imogen, when you first start, or is it everybody coming with a sense of I want?

Speaker 3:

to do this enthusiasm.

Speaker 1:

I think there's definitely a nervousness sometimes, but there's also this kind of awe and wonder. I think that's why we've called it foraging fairy tales, to show that it's so entwined in our culture but we've kind of only two or three generations ago that it would be so normal and it's just been lost as it's come down. It gets you out in nature and it gives you a sense of purpose to what you're doing. And we find that when people come to us, it's the first of all it's having a sense of purpose to get them to walk. That's more important. And then it becomes about how they can cook and use it. But often when people have children or grandchildren, and because children ask so many questions what's that, mummy? What does that look like?

Speaker 1:

Well, we often start with things that are higher up. So, like in June we talk about it's a big month for elderflowers the higher up people feel happier picking something from higher. And then also in September we do the hedgerows, so it's picking blackberries, because most people have done blackberries. But what we find people get really excited about is wild garlic, because a lot of people haven't picked it before, but they see it everywhere now with chefs and on the TV talking about it. So once you know where it is, locally, you know, and it really smells pungently and it just tastes so good. I don't know why it tastes so much better than garlic, partly because I feel like I'm stealing from nature. Maybe sometimes it's my bounds, but I mean. For me to get to do this is my career and to talk about it all day. I can't actually believe how lucky I am. Sometimes I pinch myself because it's something that we would do anyway.

Speaker 3:

So you've got bangers and balls, foodie revolution, foraging fairytales. We've got all sorts of brands going on there. I did hear you have got a podcast coming up as well. Tell us, what have you got kind of coming up in the future with all of that?

Speaker 1:

So we have our different overarching brands of bangers and balls, and then we have foodie revolution and then we have foraging fairytales that sits underneath it, and we've got a podcast coming up and we're just going to be starting a revolution from your kitchen table and Duncan, who is a co founder as well, is going to be taking the lead on that. I'm there to the side pick. I like to bring a bit of the humor and also ask the questions that maybe other people don't ask because they're a bit worried. I often he said Blanche, something. I'm like what does that mean that? A character from Coronation Street? So that's part of my.

Speaker 1:

But what we're really doing is we're going to drill down and investigate a bit more. So, talking about one of the things we were talking about, for example, a few weeks ago with honey, and if it says it's 100% honey, is it 100% honey? And actually a lot of the time it's not. And so how can you find that out? Where can you go? Also, bringing these stories of foraging fairy tales to life to make it exciting for people, and interesting because I find a lot of the foraging books are very scientific and they can put you up because it's very like. This is where you look, and this is the date and this is, it's like, oh God, it feels like a school in its science and we want to bring that magic and excitement into it that you can do it with your children and feel amazing, always with your grandparents, always in neighbor, and have that excitement that our strategy now is much more around creating that awe and wonderment for also creating revolution, so getting people to think differently and to work together as communities, and that's the kind of foundation of everything.

Speaker 1:

But then, with our clear values around, we don't have an environmental policy, for example. We say falls to an environmental policy because it should be in everything we do. We're always thinking of the environment, it's not an add on, and we don't always get it right and we're honest about that. We haven't got an electric car yet, we haven't got the budget yet, but it's on our target list to hit. And it's about not hiding that, because people are like, oh, you should hide your car and I'm like, no, there's lots of people out there who would love to, you know, change their car. They might have diesel or whatever, but they can't do it yet and at that's okay, we don't all need to be perfect overnight. You don't need to hide your plastic bottle from me.

Speaker 3:

I was just thinking while you were talking. Then I was just like, oh my God, in my head I can just see the most beautiful foraging fairy tales book with incredible illustrations, specific details, but also like a mixture of like beautiful scientific drawings and incredible like fairy tales. Alongside it. I feel there's a book in there somewhere in between. If I'm honest, I can picture it in my head.

Speaker 1:

We're doing. We're releasing it weekly, which helps us to produce content. Anyone who knows the business as a business, you know that things can just happen so fast, but we're producing it and we're getting it ready for October for our launch, and we're working with illustrators. So we're really excited to bring this to life and we've got an elderflower one coming out in June. Not all going to be as beautifully illustrated as we like, but we've got some amazing pictures going in there and some lovely illustrations as well. But October, when we have our foraging fairy tales, we can't wait. It's myself, Duncan, and we've also got Alicia in our team as our marketing assistant now, thanks to the amazing Kickstart team, which has been an absolute game changer for us. So yeah, if you haven't gone out and got the Kickstart team and you're eligible, I really would recommend it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, amazing. I'll give that a nod, actually, and I'll include a link to the Kickstart team in the show notes as well so people can go and have a look at that. You've alluded several times to the kind of grief that you've encountered with your mum and your dad and, very sadly, your daughter last year, imogen as well, and I know you've spoken a lot before about the role that swimming, and particularly while swimming, has kind of played in your life around that. You seem to me to be somebody who's very connected with the earth and the environment around you. How do you think that's helped both in your personal and professional lives in terms of helping your mental health in particular, but also just you're kind of grounding in general?

Speaker 1:

I think it helps beyond measure because it's funny, because I've not. People often think I'm going to be quite happy, which is fine, and I've not. Like I grew up loving garage and going night clubbing, but I would then be in the sea the next morning having a swim. It always comes back to that. Or when I worked for NSPCC or family and child care trust, I would cycle to a lot of my meetings because I needed that time outside to switch off and now you know it was losing my daughter.

Speaker 1:

I think that you know that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with and will continue to. But the swimming and look at my notes and stuff. But it's hard sometimes to have to do things by nine o'clock or by 11 o'clock, especially when we're in a pandemic time that happened to be somewhere because the tide's in at sunset or sunrise. It creates a different kind of ebb and flow to your day and it creates that urgency and it's with swimming. I've created a part of the national group, the blue tip, but I set up the local one with two friends, thank you, and we've got over 500 members now. So to have those people to go and swim with was absolutely huge during that because it gives you. You know. It's like when you mentor someone or the buddy that you work with when you're building your career. It's the same with swimming. It makes you go and do it because you don't wanna let that person down. But when you've been into the sea I always say there's a reason why religion uses baptism or however they use it, because you feel like you are born again when you come out of the sea and everything you're worried about is gone. But if I've got a problem with work or I'm worried about cash flow because we all have it as a small business. Going for a swim kind of gets me out of that, so I can actually think much more around solutions because I've given myself that space and we know as well, being in the woodland it actually reduces the serotonin in your brain. It actually helps you with overwhelm and with your fight or flight mode.

Speaker 1:

So last week I'm pregnant at the moment, which is very exciting for us. Congratulations. But also nerve wracking because you know you're gonna bring up a lot of emotions again and our little girl was eight weeks old when she got airlifted to London. She just stopped breathing. So of course it's gonna bring up some of those emotions. So we went glamping. I didn't go camping because it was so cold, which is unlike me, but we went glamping and we were out in the woodland and all. We could have spent a last week inside trying to work on the business, being really anxious and probably not doing very much, but feeling like we had to sit in front of our computer and go and make content. But actually we went glamping, we sat around the fire. We got so much done and we also just had downtime as a family, and when we went for that scan on Friday, it made us feel so much happier. So I think it's giving yourself permission as well to do what you need to do and not feel guilty about that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's amazing and thank you for your honesty and generosity in kind of talking about this, because I think baby loss and infant death is something that is often talked not discussed because of feelings of grief and shame and everything else that goes along with that, and it's you know. We have these conversations and I think it is really important for people to hear them. I spoke to Alexandra Hemingsley on this podcast a couple of years ago, who wrote if anyone hasn't read it, her book Leap In is all about the joy of wildness and how it helped her recover from miscarriage and baby loss as well, and it's an incredible thing to be able to get in the ocean and, like you say, have that feeling of coming out, being born again, when all of your everything that's in your head disappears when you're swimming. I think Is that how you would see it, imogen?

Speaker 1:

Definitely everything disappears, it just goes. And I think I grew up around the world but the one thing my parents would not live anywhere that wasn't near a beach and I think that was my mom. So in Pakistan we went to the beach every Friday. In Australia we went to the beach and obviously in Ireland we'd go, and mum had to move to Essex. She found out, she found the driest spot in England, which was great, great wake ring. So we moved to Thought Bay and I remember her telling my father she would return to Ireland if she didn't have a beach hut. She didn't drink or smoke. She said so he should. He could give that up and get her one. They had this beach hut and we've got and it fed us when my dad, you know, when we moved to Whippsville so we've got a beach hut here only because we'd had one before, that we could. But it given us that freedom and I think for me as well.

Speaker 1:

I'm dyslexic and quite severely dyslexic and being in the sea, there's no signs, there's no words, there's nothing else, just apart from you, and when you get into that cold it was. I prefer it when it's colder, if I'm honest, because when you get into that cold sea. It kind of makes you whoop. It sounds like it should be a house track when you hear the others going in as well and you feel that cold kind of surge over you. But then the serotonin comes out and your body just you get like prickly and you feel quite warm and you get this rush of kind of like happiness. And when you come out of the sea what I find really interesting is is that people sit there and you have these real one-to-one conversations that are really deep. It's almost like being at a festival and people sit there in the pub and people tell you everything, and people do this after swimming.

Speaker 1:

So I think that community that's built is huge and for me, especially in lockdown I couldn't see my friends or my family. We've moved to somewhere different and I remember we always had bubbles for Bee, my little girl, least COVID friendly thing you could do. But I didn't think about the time and we went down then because we couldn't be with people. There was just lots of them all lined up at different parts of the beach In groups of six. It was allowed at the time blowing bubbles and they lined them all up where I was gonna go and swim and put bubbles along there and I just, oh that the community and how that made me feel was just amazing Because we couldn't, yeah, have a memorial for her or anything, because, again, because of the numbers, that was really tough and, yeah, the wild swimming is just.

Speaker 1:

To me it's been a game changer and I think when you're setting up your own business, you need to protect your mental health, because it can become all encompassing and you're just working in it and on it without having that space away, and I believe you really need that space away to allow your business to grow, because that's when you have your best ideas and thoughts.

Speaker 3:

You're such an inspiration, imogen. I'm just kind of I'm so admiring of everything you've done, and just chatting to you is fantastic, because you've kind of done a lot but you've done a lot of different things, and I love that you just set up a swimming club and there's now got 500 people in it as well. It's just like you strike me as the kind of woman who I absolutely love to feature on this podcast, because you see a gap and you go for it. You're not afraid to kind of take the road less traveled and follow your own path, and you really perceive things that you're passionate about and everything you talk about you just talk about with such a passion, which I just find absolutely incredible. So thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

Oh, thank you so much for having me, and I think I always feel embarrassed when some people say you're an intro because it's you know. You don't feel like that in yourself. But I think one of the biggest things is once you're okay with the fact that something might fail. Then all of a sudden the world opens up to you because you can do anything and actually you fail a lot less because you're not as worried about it, you don't overthink. But I definitely think that it's once you give yourself kind of the not the excuse, but you say it's okay, if I fail, I'll work out why it failed and how I can tweak it and do it differently, then nothing really fails in the same way because you're not as over-worried. So my father always used to say if something doesn't fail once a year, you're not out of the box enough, so you need to push yourself a bit harder.

Speaker 3:

Girl, you are speaking my language, that is for sure. I love to ski and I always think if I'm not falling, I'm not trying hard enough, so Love that. Every time I end up with a face full of snow, I'm like it's a learning experience and anyway, and I always just throw the floor open to guests at the end of every one of these podcast images and to say is there anything that you've learned in your career or anything else that you'd like to talk about, that other women either going into their own business or working in the charity sector, or in relation to anything you've done that you think is useful or pertinent?

Speaker 1:

I think for me, especially as a woman, it's really, or a man, it's to plan your career. We plan a holiday, but we don't often plan our career. And I don't mean in saying I have to be like I got this a bit wrong, saying I have to be here at this time, but it's working out, it's giving yourself almost like what makes you happy. Is your career still making you happy and being able to reflect on that? And also if you might wanna have children you might not, but working out, okay, if I take that gap at that point, what does that look like and what am I gonna do with it? So you're honest to yourself. Or do I wanna take a year out to go traveling, but planning that in, because otherwise life goes by so quickly that you just don't get the chance to do things like that. So my thing would definitely be yeah, sitting down and we plan holidays, plan your life out a little bit. You don't always have to stick to it, but it gives you some goals and also reflecting every year. Is it still making me happy?

Speaker 1:

Because I speak to so many people in their careers where they're really not happy and then when you work out, it's not actually the career. If they just changed their roles slightly and spoke to their manager, it would make them happier. Or for some people it's like actually I haven't enjoyed what I've done for the last 15 years, but I'm too scared to leave. You think you're actually quite young. You can do it. And even if you're not, you meet people in their 60s who change careers. We worry too much, I think, sometimes about how others perceive us and what we should be doing. Yeah, my biggest thing is to plan and work out if you're so happy.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, definitely. And where can people find you, imogen? Either through swimming, through bangers and balls, through your personal stuff. Where's the best place for people to either follow what you're up to or get in touch with you?

Speaker 1:

Good, I'm on LinkedIn as Imogen Tinkler, so give me a follow on there and you can DM me if you've got any questions. And then we're on Facebook and Instagram as bangers and balls, so that comes up quite easily bangers and balls. Sorry, I don't think anyone's got anything, especially like sometimes with grief and things. A lot of people don't talk about Babyloss. Anyone ever wants to message me? I've always got an open inbox about their careers or anything. Just yeah, I'm always here and I love speaking to people, so I'm always here.

Speaker 3:

That's all for this week. If you've enjoyed this episode, please just share it wherever you can on your own social media, and if you found the podcast interesting or useful, then do please tell a friend, because we are always keen for new listeners. If you can find it in your heart to rate and review the podcast on iTunes or give us a shout out on your socials, then we'd love you very much, as it genuinely does help other people to find us. See you next time.

Rediscovering Creativity and Breaking Career Ceilings
Career Growth After Personal Loss
Finding Purpose and Pursuing Passion
Foraging and Sharing Knowledge in Food Industry
Swimming and Nature for Mental Health
Babyloss Support and Podcast Promotion

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