Us locals are pretty active on our local Facebook group and there is always a lively debate going on in between sharing wonderful photos of our gorgeous sunsets and countryside. One lively debate in the group was the building of the new McCarthy & Stone sheltered housing known as “Hamon Court” – love it or hate it, everyone seems to have an opinion about this building which was created by just a handful of skilled people.
One day, a photo from above Hunstanton was posted into the group by Kevin Milner following a very polite request along the lines of: “Hello I am the crane driver – may I share some of my photos of Hunstanton.” Naturally, this request was very much appreciated and over many weeks, the group membership enjoyed a steady stream of photos, videos and posts of views looking down on Hunstanton. Overall, Kevin spent 10-12 weeks in Hunstanton but made a real impression on the locals.
So what lies behind the mysterious crane driver who has now moved on from Hunstanton? Well I proposed to find out and met with Kevin personally. Over a nice cup of tea I learned a little more ….
Kevin’s career was that of an Offshore Crane Operator/Assessor/Instructor and he operated his services under a company called Asset Training Ltd working primarily on crane and lifting ops for the oil and gas industry.
He was born and raised in Norwich but spent some years in Yorkshire when his parents ran Saltgate B&B in Beccles. (Kevin believes that Saltgate B&B is now operating as a more up-market hotel known as Saltgate Hotel.)
Having left school with 1 “O” Level in Woodwork, Kevin joined the Army just 9 days after his 16th birthday and, overall, spent 10 years in the military attached to the RAF. It was his wife, Louise who decided to settle in Norwich, and Kevin was happy to live anywhere that Louise wanted to be as he was away working a great deal of the time, leaving his wife to tend to their growing family.
This time last year, Kevin was in Saudi Arabia training and assessing crane and deck operators. Fast forward to 2016 and the oil industry is cutting back and eventually Kevin’s work dried up. Kevin adapted to the changing economic climate and found some short term work here and there as a relief crane operator. It was around this time that the job in Hunstanton came along for a 1 week holiday cover. Kevin did the 1 week cover and then took a holiday himself. He returned from holiday to be offered the Hunstanton gig until completion of the contract. It was by mutual agreement with Louise that Kevin stayed in Hunstanton during the week rather than drive back and forth to Norwich on a daily basis and enjoy some quality weekends with his wife. As it turned out, this proved to be a wise decision …
Kevin searched and found accommodation for £80pw but kept on looking to see what was around. He then stumbled across a company called “Ad Hoc” on line. Ad Hoc managed the old Hunstanton Infants School building and were looking for “guardians” for the building. The cost of a room (plus a kitchen and shower room shared between 5) was just £55pw. “Bargain!” thought Kevin and he lost no time in applying. Following an interview, DBS check (formerly CRB) and credit check, Kevin was accepted as a guardian and became the first resident of the disused school. He had the pick of the rooms and selected a room which had curtains (the others did not) already in there.
High above Hunstanton, it slowly dawned on Kevin that he was in a uniquely privileged position looking down on a beautiful seaside town and felt it was a shame not to record what he saw for posterity. After approximately a month he started taking photos and video and sharing them with Hunstanton Area Facebook page. Doing this drew Kevin into social media on a scale he had not experienced before and he now realises the reach and impact that social media has on our ever-changing world far more than he ever did. Indeed, he hopes to take what he has learnt and use it in his future business promotion.
Asked to elaborate on the key highlights of his time in Hunstanton, Kevin identified the following:
- Sunrises and sunsets (no surprise there!).
- The people – the much travelled Kevin said that Hunstanton had been one of the friendliest of his experience. He said: “There was nobody who did not make me feel welcome.” Kevin explained there were one or two a little suspicious of him, particularly when he moved into the school. However, once he took the time to explain that the guardians were there to ensure the safety and security of the fabric of the building they soon got over that. He explained to me that he had to sign a contract agreeing not to have parties, write graffiti, nor cause damage. Simply to protect the building. No more. No less. Kevin was often asked by locals: “What are they going to do with the school?” to which he had no answer as he had no idea himself and still doesn’t.Meeting local historian, Ken Arnott – Ken visited Kevin at Hunstanton Infants School one afternoon and spent an hour and a half touring the old building (with advance permission from Ad Hoc) remembering times gone by when Ken was a teacher at the school. Ken told Kevin that the room he called “home” was in fact the Headmaster’s house and office – something Kevin was unaware of until then.
- United Services Club – finding himself alone in Hunstanton, with free evenings, and not being much of a drinker, Kevin looked for somewhere to spend his time. He ventured into the United Services Club, introduced himself and outlined his connections with the Armed Forces. It, however, transpired that this did not matter and he would have been equally welcome to enjoy the Club even without his military background. (In fact, Kevin tells me, he learnt that United Services Clubs are dotted around the country.)Kevin explained that, initially, the atmosphere was like one out of a Wild West Saloon Bar with a stranger in town! The first evening it was just a beer and a chat with the barman but visits to the United Services became a regular fixture. He soon picked up that Wednesday was Steak Night and decided to pop along for the next Wednesday evening. Remembering the meal, Kevin said: “It was the best steak I have had anywhere – and I have had steaks all over the world – complete with chunky chips, peas and tomatoes for just £8 – £10 if you wanted dessert. It was simple, plain fayre.” Kevin popped in for Steak Night on as many occasions as he could, but not as many as he would have liked. He even took Terry, one of the other guardians from the school, with him on one visit. Sadly, having commented favourably on Facebook about the steaks, Kevin found that all the steaks had been snapped up when he tried to have a final meal at the United Services and had to settle for the Gammon.
- Back roads around Hunstanton – Kevin used this route out to Norwich for his return visits home once he learned where to go. The decision to stay in Hunstanton during the week and not travel to and fro on a daily basis was confirmed as the right one when the Brick Laying Foreman was killed on his way to work on one of the back roads. This incident naturally cast a shadow over the site for a week or so.
- Waving to the general public – Kevin had never done this before in all his life. People could actually look up and wave at him; kids and parents alike acknowledged him daily. He felt like a local celebrity.
During our conversation, Kevin also mentioned that he had another business called “Go Race Events”. This was a Formula 1 Racing Car Simulator which can be hired for all types of events and parties. It transpired that Kevin’s wife, Louise, showed Kevin a Formula 1 magazine with an advert about owning your own Formula 1 car and after a visit to Silverstone the die was cast and just three months later Kevin had his very own Formula 1 Racing Car Simulator business complete with website http://www.goraceevents.co.uk/. Kevin describes himself as “a petrolhead and into technology” so he obviously did not need much persuading to dive into such an exciting business idea.
The most recent event Kevin has done involved a charity event at Claridges on Sunday, 4 Dec 2016 where he provided a Snow Boarding Simulator to help add a bit of sparkle to a Christmas party for sick children. The business has grown over time and now hires out other simulator experiences just to add a little variety and, in January 2017, there are plans to launch a Motion Simulator with gift voucher options for a Golf Simulator experience or the Formula 1 Car Simulator experience.
So, along with his other talents, our friend Kevin is a rather interesting character who helps to add something special to an event or two. Go Kevin!
If you would like to get in touch with Kevin at Go Race Events or follow him on social media the details are below:
Enquiries: Kevin Milner 07986 143399