My week with Country Life by Holly Meakin

When Nicki Bray from The Prince’s Trust told me she wanted to put me forward for a week’s work experience at Country Life magazine, I was totally dazed.
‘What – like farming?’ was my reply.
‘Think more along the lines of big houses and history,’ she said.

I bought a copy of the magazine before my interview, and sure enough the first things I saw were enormous properties, with multi-million-pound price tags. Turning the pages, I felt my heart sink. But when I got to the actual articles, I was surprised to find that I could really relate to them, and I was interested in what they had to say. I read a news story about the National Trust – I love National Trust buildings, and spent a good proportion of my childhood in them. The next thing to strike me was the photography. There were beautiful shots everywhere. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, but I love taking photos. Apparently I had that in common with the magazine too. As I flicked through it, discovering cookery, theatre and even a crossword, my fascination grew. I realised I could actually learn something from Country Life, and that I was by no means unsuitable as a candidate for work-experience. I dreamed of being a writer – could this be my foot in the door?

I’ve always loved to write. Ever since I was young, I’ve written stories and plays. But as a girl from a working class background with no real merit behind me, I always thought that being a writer was an unobtainable dream. No one I know reads, and until I came into contact with The Prince’s Trust, I never showed anyone the things I’d written.

Although I’d always been a smart child, events in my life made me spiral out of control. But when I got involved with The Prince’s Trust Youth Steps programme [a course that helps unemployed young people interested in a career in youth work] I began a journey of self-discovery. On my first day, we were told that we had to prepare a presentation for the rest of the group about our lives so far and why we wanted to become youth workers. I poured my heart and soul into it, then ripped it up and started all over again – I worked ceaselessly on it. The words never seemed to look right, but once I’d actually read it out, I got incredibly positive feedback from people about my writing. And the best bit was that I could hear the sincerity in their voices.

The course was my first experience in public speaking, but it wasn’t my last. And more importantly, it wouldn’t be the last thing I did with The Prince’s Trust. It took me several years of bettering myself before I felt ready to become a Young Ambassador for the charity. During that time, I went back to college – although I hated being the oldest person in my GCSE class, this time I used my brains. Finally in May 2012 I undertook my Young Ambassador training. I threw myself into it, and was asked to do more and more events. Recently, I found out I’ve been nominated for ‘Young Ambassador of the Year’ at this month’s Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards.

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People were so complimentary about my writing, and I was given an opportunity to write a piece for The Prince’s Trust on young people and drugs, and how society needs to put more measures in place to stop experimentation becoming addiction. I suggested the Government needed more Youth Workers and organisations like The Prince’s Trust in place to stop the isolation of the young. I ran a campaign on youth homelessness with a team of volunteers under me. I started volunteering with Essex County Council, and telling my story. Eventually I was filmed – the results should be in most schools in Essex by next year.

 Holly at the Prince’ Trust event with Prince Charles in June

In June of this year, I was honoured enough to meet Prince Charles at a

Prince’s Trust event. We let the media shape our view of people we’ve

never met – I thought I knew who he was, but it simply wasn’t the case.

He seemed almost shy when he walked out to meet us, brushing off our

applause with a modest smile. He held his own in a room full of young

people, and you could tell he genuinely wanted to be there with us.

Afterwards, he shook hands with some of us, and I was shocked and

delighted when he paused in front of me.

‘Ah, I see someone had to

sit on the floor. Looks like you drew the short straw,’ he said,

extending a hand in a most gentlemanly manner to help me up. I managed

to stammer out a timid thanks, beaming widely.

My week with

Country Life is almost at an end now, and I can’t stand the thought of

leaving. I’ve loved every bit of it – I really could get used to this!

Everyone has been so nice to me and generous with their advice and time,

and they’ve made me feel so welcome. I’ve written more than I ever

would have done before in such a short period of time. The hours have

flown by. I’ve dusted off my dream of being a writer, and I feel like

the sky is the limit now. I’m holding out for a better future. It’s


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