Tom Hooker is a great example of somebody getting on with conservation at a very practical level in the borough. He has always had an interest in the natural world and as a kid he was always picking up slabs in the garden to see what was underneath them, building ponds and generally exploring.  He did design and science at A levels because he enjoys both science and being creative and then went to university and did a degree in television production. Within that job there are a lot of niches, you can specialise in music, drama, sport or wildlife and Tom has worked on wildlife for the last few years including being involved in a couple of David Attenborough programmes.

Tom says it's amazing the stuff that is out there that we take for granted but it is perfect content for a TV show. People write scripts for dramas and there's these long running soaps, but actually, all that drama already exists in the undergrowth. Tom is very excited about new technologies that will help us see more of nature and feels he is very fortunate that he has the opportunity to do it as a job. He loves the creative side, the storytelling, getting out in the real world and being able to open people's eyes to what is under their feet. This is how television can be really powerful.

Tom is self-employed so it means it's either feast or famine when it comes to available work. The majority of his work has been for the BBC Natural History unit which he feels very lucky to have been able to work for. It has given him the chance to travel all over the world from Antarctica to the Amazon. It isn’t all exotic adventures though he supplements his income by doing corporate work.

Tom likes to keep busy and have a number of projects on the go but admits it's a double edged sword, when things are quiet work wise it is stressful because of the lack of money but on the flip side, it gives him the opportunity to take on projects he really believes in. He's always thinking of ways he can use his skills to make a difference. He recently made a hedgehog conservation video in his spare time, and mainly using his own funds. It was a short 2 minute video that you can below. This was something quite different that he enjoyed making as he'd never done an animation before. He's really pleased with the success it achieved, it was played on Springwatch and it won a silver Evcom Clarion award.

 

 

 

Tom also set up the Surbiton Wildlife group. Winter is always a quieter part of the year for wildlife and over one Christmas he thought he'd try and start a local conservation movement as he was aware that some of the local parks were suffering from a lack of maintenance. The local pond was in a poor state, full of litter and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it so Tom thought he'd start a local “Banksy” revolution on Twitter. Through the power of social media, which is an amazingly powerful tool if you use it right, he set up a Twitter account which the council and local councillors started to follow, so he started posting questions like what are you doing? What's happening with the pond? After a while followers started joining in. He became aware of a number of local grants he could go for and started applying for money. Tom admits that he tends to rush into projects so wasn't prepared for all the questions he was asked about previous years accounts etc. that is required for funding bids. He didn't even have a committee at the time but he managed to raise around £15 000 which paid mainly for expert gardeners to come in and put in plants, and ecologist to deal with the pond. What struck Tom the most about the project was that once the ball started rolling there was quite a lot of local support and he discovered that loads of people felt the same way he did about the pond. They'd walk past and be dismayed by the state of it.

As he had the luxury of a bit of time he thought he'd set up a practical group. Through that, he became aware of other groups operating in the borough like the Kingston Biodiversity Network through which he has made friends and met many like minded people. Tom says networks are important because you meet people with a blend of different skills. As his job does tend to involve teamwork this is something he values. The wildlife group came together quite quickly. It had lots of people who didn't necessarily have a wildlife background but everyone brought useful skills. For example, there was a graphic designer, who made their documents look so great it helped get in funds.

Toms tips to others wanting to get involved locally? If you have a passion for something first do a skills check, what abilities do you already have? Think about how you can use your existing skills in creative and different ways to try and engage other people and achieve something. If you're a good people manager Tom says you’re better set up than he was to get his group going. Get outdoors and just do things. Look at the wider network, go out and meet people doing the stuff you care about. Find people with a similar mindset. Build a network, the more people you can involve the more of a change you can make. Do work outdoors or online where you can find an interest group beyond your doorstep. You see some amazing thing by just slowing down, pausing and watching the world. People say they don't have time, but you can always make time.

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