Our next interview is with Epsom and Ewell councillor Luke Giles. Being the youngest ever Residents Association Councillor in the borough, he gave us his perspective on helping the community as well as talked to us about his other love, the theatre. Find out what inspired him to get into this field at such a young age and what advice he would give to others. Here’s what he had to say when asked our all-important 12 questions!
Hi Luke, how are you and how is your 2021 going?
‘I am fantastic, 2021 has been like 3 years have happened in one! I know it has been a difficult year for a lot of people, but as we speak, it's looking as though things are easing. Things will be resembling some form of normality soon which will be nice. Things are looking up.'
Can you tell us why you decided to become a councillor?
‘So many different things have led to me being a councillor. My family have lived on the same street for 90 years plus, so my family have always been deeply ingrained in what’s going on in Epsom and Ewell. I also volunteer for a charity called Epsom and Ewell Phab which my Gran and Grandad set up in the 70s. It’s a group for disabled and non-disabled people to come together on equal terms and it’s a youth club every Friday night. Our venue used to be the Linton Centre and they decided one day that they were just going to shut it, not telling anyone and basically give us 2 weeks’ notice. This essentially led to us having a 2-year battle with Surrey County Council, trying to get a youth centre provided for us. It sparked my interest. My sister was speaking at a Surrey County Council meeting as a youngster and I think that gave me the bug for being in local politics and understanding what decisions were being made around us that young people aren’t involved in. Being a councillor is pretty different to a lot of other things that I’ve done in my life. Different, but interesting.’
What is your favourite part about being a councillor?
‘I think just being close to hearing what’s going on, getting new perspectives on loads of issues and being able to have a voice. I really enjoy being close to it all and obviously representing the residents that vote for me. It goes without saying but it’s an amazing honour to be able to represent so many people.’
As the youngest Residents Association Councillor ever in Epsom and Ewell, how do you reckon your perspective is different from those around you in helping the community?
‘We’re really lucky in Epsom that a lot of people, wherever they are in their lives, come to Epsom and it seems as though most people never leave, which is great! Having grown up in the borough, I’ve used the playhouse, I’ve used Bourne Hall, I’ve done clubs and shows there. I have that experience of being in the borough and using all of these facilities as a young person, which hasn’t really been represented up till now. I wouldn’t say it’s a deeper understanding because there are so many people that have had amazing impacts on what happens in Epsom and Ewell, but certainly a different perspective, 23 years of living in one place as a kid and growing up there, you tend to have a different understanding than someone who’s moved into the borough in their later years. Not saying that one perspective is more important than another, I think it’s great to have both of those perspectives.’
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
‘It’s very difficult. I work in theatre, so that doesn’t really exist! I love theatre, I absolutely adore it, it’s my first love and always will be. I work backstage at venues around the country and it can present quite a lot of challenges to the work-life balance, but somehow it works.’
What would your perfect day look like?
‘It changes all the time! Some days it might be watching Chelsea play football, some days it might be watching Surrey play cricket and some days it might be sitting in the theatre. Simple pleasures and being around friends and family, that just makes a perfect day.’
If you could go back to your 16-year-old self, what would you tell him?
‘Keep doing what you’re doing. In a few more years I might have more to say, right now I’m happy. Maybe, stock up for 2020! Save all those projects that you want to do, you’re going to have time for them!’
What do you like most about living in Epsom?
‘So much! The main thing is having so much green space around us. We’ve been really lucky having so many parks and open spaces to be able to go around, use and have free access to. It’s an absolute blessing. I enjoy going out with my mates and playing football, it’s been amazing growing up around all that stuff.’
Do you have any people, in your life or celebrities, that you look up to and aspire to be like?
‘I think my parents are pretty influential in my life. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing right now without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to get through this year without the support they gave me. They’re the most loving people I’ve ever met in my life. They spend their whole lives thinking about other people and not really thinking about themselves much, which is quite rare to find these days. Mum and Dad have given up every Friday night of their lives to Phab, to helping young people in this borough and making sure that young people can live relatively lovely lives. I don’t think they’ve ever complained about it, even with the threat of closure and the threat of losing everything that they have worked for. It really is my mum and dad that I look up to. I’d be very lucky to grow up as half the people that they are.’
Can you tell us about your life in theatre?
‘I’ve grown up being around music and my parents worked to make sure we were exposed to what we wanted to be exposed to. I remember being able to do dancing as a kid, not that other parents wouldn’t allow that, but I never played football as a kid, I did drama and dance and things like that. It was never a question, it was never ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’, it was ‘Yep, cool, great! We’ll make sure you get to do what you want to do’. I wanted to be around musicians, actors, backstage technicians, I just wanted to be around that whole thing. That whole industry is who you know and what you know and I’ve been lucky to be able to spend a lot of my youth in and around those places and people. I’ve managed to carve myself a nice little niche in it and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else to be honest.’
What are some goals in your life that you hope to one day achieve?
‘If you asked me 2 years ago, I probably would’ve had an answer straight away for you! Right now, it’s to enjoy life really, enjoy what’s going on. Live in the present and enjoy what’s happening now. It seems like a boring thing to say, but spending a year in lockdown, I haven’t been near a theatre for over a year now, so it puts things into perspective about what you want. You just want to enjoy life and live it.’
Finally, what is one piece of meaningful advice you could give to the readers?
‘Trying to find something profound to say! My advice would be, learn about what’s going on around you in your local area and if there’s a cause or a charity you can help out, or a family in need around you, if there’s anything you can do to help your local area, do it. Get involved in local issues and understand your local area.’
Follow Luke on Twitter here!
By Pia Talbot