A little over ten years ago I was a hard core commuter. I was living in Northampton and driving the 100+ miles to London to work a 12 hour shift and then driving back. For one wintry shift cycle the heating in my car was broken so I would drive along wearing ski gloves and a woolly hat but having to keep the windows open to keep me awake after a night shift. Life was…. interesting.
Ever since one of my burning motivators has been to reduce my commute to the smallest feasible distance. As an adopted Brummie the Jewellery Quarter is not only the place I’ve come closest to commuting nirvana but it’s also the place I’ve felt most at home. I’ve lived here for four years but I only moved my business here in December 13. As a former soldier who runs an international business I’ve done, and still do, my fair share of travel. In this context I relish every step of my very short walk to work from New Hampton Lofts, up Hockley Street to meander through the JQ to Regent Place where my temporary office is. We’re staying here until our new office is finished in Victoria Works on Vittoria Street. My company, Vermillion Films, will be moving into what was once Joseph Gillot’s workshop and the starting point for the many millions of handcrafted pens his company shipped world-wide. He was also one of the first large scale industrial employers of women. We’ll be the modern, digital film company based in offices layered with crucial city history. I can’t wait.
In the past four years I’ve walked or run virtually every street in the JQ. My girlfriend and I walk Boris the border terrier (@borisfleetmilne on twitter) around the streets of the JQ. As well as the fresh air it allows us to take in the astonishing built environment. She works in property so we talk a lot about history, development and possibility and frankly it’s everywhere you look. We encourage each other to do that thing pedestrians don’t often do; to look up. We try and see above the ground floor because it’s usually here where you notice things you’ve walked past every day for years and where many of the more interesting features are. Most of the developed buildings have been finished with the care that makes the area such a gem but there are also some fantastic ones that are lively characters in waiting, there’s that odd triangular building halfway up Branston Street, the old Joseph Smith & Sons 10k sq ft building on the corner of Regent Place that I’ve been lucky enough to poke around inside and the church shaped building off Legge Lane snuggled behind the Old Fire Station. I’m intrigued to see what they eventually become.
In those few places I haven’t walked I’ve definitely run. In April I’m running the Marathon Des Sables. It’s a 150+ mile multi stage desert marathon. Essentially it’s a marathon a day for 6 days across the Sahara Desert carrying all your own kit for the week. Day 4 is different. That’s the long stage at 55 miles. You might have seen me jogging around recently in a white cap with a black and yellow rucksack on. As the city’s made such a great effort to adopt me and entrench me in its community and culture I felt it was only fair to give something back so I’m raising money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Please say hi if you see me jogging past but I’d appreciate it if you sponsored me too. It’s http://www.justgiving.com/LeeKempMDS2014 or you can read about my training at http://toughestfootrace.tumblr.com/