Michael Bearcroft was the speaker for our May meeting and was very entertaining. He spoke about his life and his experiences and, using humour, made light of his many achievements and a few downfalls.
He began with tales of his early life in Sheffield. His father ran a power station and he remembers him fretting about nuclear fuel. His mother was a housewife with strong anti-war feelings. She was involved with the organisation of an International Peace Conference and invited to go to Poland. Michael’s father with great generosity of spirit, unusual at the time, encouraged her to go. He took time off work to look after the family until she returned. When she did, she spoke with horror of her visit to Auschwitz which always stayed with her. Picasso had been at the conference and painted her portrait. However, whilst she agreed with his politics, she didn’t care for his artwork and gave the portrait away. Michael seemed speechless , I wonder why!Michael was signed as a junior football player for Sheffield United which had been his dream and he thought it a given that he would stay on to be a professional. Due to this youthful belief in himself, he didn’t work at his football or at his school studies and was devastated when he reached 17 without a place on the team or any alternative purpose in life. Someone advised him that if he got a job as a sales rep with a big company, they would give him a brand new car. This set him thinking and he found himself selling cosmetics and enjoying his new red Ford Capri. Late one night, he spotted a break-in at the local Boots where his sister worked. Thinking he was doing the right thing by going in to see if the thieves were still there, he collided with two police officers. With his car full of cosmetics, there was something of a misunderstanding with both them and his boss who was telephoned at four in the morning and he swiftly found another job.
He stayed with sales though and went on to pursue a high flying career before becoming Chief Executive of a Physiotherapy Insurance Company. It was here that he discovered how difficult it was for charities to raise both funds and awareness in a tough economic climate. After a meeting with The British Red Cross he realised there could be a way for charities and businesses to work together for mutual benefit and with some negotiating made contact with their many famous but private sponsors. His approaches went well and his company became a major corporate sponsor working alongside this celebrity ‘A’ list.
This particular business had become so successful that one day he was visited by two Canadian gentlemen which resulted in it being bought by the Independent Order of Foresters who had been looking to move to the UK. They were keen for him to stay on but for family reasons he didn’t want to travel and took a break. During that time he realised he didn’t want to return to industry but thought he would like to try acting. There then followed an amusing story of the joys of getting an Equity Card for which he had to find 6 jobs as an Extra – plus other amusing stories of what he got up to whilst being one.
Once he had his Equity card, he created a Murder Mystery Company and an international touring stage show ‘Back to Broadway’. During the summer he set up Musical Theatre Summer Schools, with proceeds going to support children’s hospices.
Then, sadly, he had a heart attack and a triple bypass and whilst he was in hospital his wife sold off his businesses. When he asked what she thought he might do next, she suggested he wrote a novel.
They moved to Cornwall and, following the untimely death of his eldest daughter, he took up her challenge. He has now written his first novel called ‘Dangerous Score’, based on what he knew most about – football – and other things he had learned along the way. About what happens to young footballers who, like him, don’t go on to be professional. About people trafficking and how charity can work for both donor and supporter. During his research he came across a group called Hope for Justice, a nationwide group working to stop modern day slavery and to support its victims. Royalties from his book go to them and he also fundraises for Penhaligon’s Friends, a Cornish charity helping bereaved families. So, despite it being a slightly winding road at the beginning, perhaps now we see the legacy of care he no doubt picked up from his parents. A most inspiring, as well as entertaining, talk.