There’s a woman leading a double life at the Chippenham, Wiltshire offices of ARI UK.
During the day, Julie Watkins, AffIMI, is a mild-mannered Administrator in Maintenance Management. When the workweek is over, though, she sheds that cool and professional persona and becomes Julie Moreton, front-woman for Train to Skaville and co-founder of the Female of the Species band. It’s in that second role that Julie shows a remarkable combination of devotion to both her music and to her community.
Female of the Species is a band that Julie and fellow front-woman Julia Greenland has assembled from five Wiltshire musicians, all of whom front local bands. What makes this lineup really special, though, is not merely the amount of raw talent and energy they represent, but that they organize and play an annual gig to raise money – a lot of money — for charity.
In 2014, Julie and the band raised over $5,000 for the Hope Nature Centre, a 15-acre animal park in Southwick that provides employment for young adults with developmental disabilities. This year, the “girls” (as Julie calls her band mates) put together a show that garnered over $4,500 for Wiltshire MIND, a local independent mental health charity based in Melksham. The shows feature not only the girls, but other local bands and acts as well.
Julie says putting together the show is a long and arduous effort: “We have absolutely NO money when we start out — not a penny. We work for a year: looking at acts and then persuading them to give their time free of charge; speaking to venues nicely (as we have no deposit money); and asking sound engineers, lighting techs, etc., etc., to support our effort.” It’s obviously a huge commitment not only of learning and rehearsing, but also organizing and cajoling. Here’s the local news coverage of the event: Melksham News.
Fortunately Julie had great support from fellow ARI’er Joanne Rees, who in her day job is Project Lead, Maintenance Management. Jo spent most of show day with the band, documenting the event with her photos; those images are featured on this post and on the band’s website. “She did a brilliant job!” says Julie. “Jo is now a confirmed member of the ever-growing Female of the Species team.”
One bit of money the girls can depend on is a gift from Holman Automotive Group. The past two years Julie applied for and was given an Employee Donation from Holman. These are gifts that the company gives to support chartable causes it employees care about, and if effort is any indication of what Julie is concerned with, then she really cares about these shows!
You might think that Julie, who’s raised close to $10,000 for charities in the past two years, is ready to rest on her laurels. Hardly — she’s a woman on a mission: “I want to keep planning for the future of Female of the Species and make sure it continues to be something that people will pay to see. I need to come up with new acts and venues, find the right mix of songs for the girls to sing, and hold auditions for more talented youngsters to join us next year. Plus I want seek out local charities that need our help. I’ve got to learn to manage it properly now so that it continues to help people.” Julie says she’s already talking to Wiltshire Air Ambulance about the 2016 show!
Her advice to other people who want to be community champions? “Don’t be frightened of acting on your ideas: get them out there because you never know where they’ll take you. And surround yourself with good people to help you. For us, singing a few songs can make all the difference!”