Outsiders in London

 

Image # 02 -- Andrew Maisel

Andrew Maisel


age : 52


Born : Watford, Hertfordshire , England


Ethnic Heritage: Jewish ( Ashkenazim ) / MOther - Jewish ( Sephardim )


Parents Born in: Father - England / MOther - France

All photographs:  copyright © Milan Svanderlik - London - UK

Andrew’s Story


Raised in Northwood, Middlesex, Andrew was educated locally, attending Northwood Preparatory School before receiving his secondary education at the Merchant Taylors’ School in Moor Park.   


Andrew commenced his professional career at the BBC with one year at Radio 3 before going up to read History at Warwick University.   As a graduate, he returned to the BBC as a researcher on the World at One (working for Robin Day and Gordon Clough) and he continued to work on BBC Radio News until 1987.   Andrew then moved over to BBC Television, initially as a researcher but progressing to become a senior broadcast journalist, a role in which he continued until his early retirement.  


Andrew became a dedicated convert to yoga after being diagnosed with early-onset osteoporosis in his late thirties.   He has practised Yoga 4 to 5 times a week for the last 15 years and the condition has been arrested.   Since leaving the BBC, Andrew has continued his interest in classical music, writing concert reviews for several publications.


From an early age, Andrew had the feeling that he did not belong.   Growing up in a rather typical, middle class London suburb, Andrew felt that he did not relate to the area, to the people who lived there, or to the values they espoused.   Having realised at the age of 12 that he was gay, Andrew felt even more distanced from this environment and to some extent from his own family too.   Being brought up in what was, broadly speaking, a secular Jewish home, Andrew felt he had little in common with the rest of the congregation at the Synagogue, which the family attended on high holy days.   "I didn't feel I fitted into this world any more than I fitted into suburbia and what seemed the totally heterosexual world around me.”


“At school, I preferred the company of individuals to joining groups.   Even in Jewish youth clubs, I felt little in common with any of these people.”   To Andrew, London seemed the obvious place to live, surrounded by many outsiders, like himself, people on the fringes.   Subsequent visits to his home made Andrew feel increasingly removed from his suburban milieu.  During his professional career too, he continued to feel like an outsider, seeming to have little in common with the people he worked with, most of whom were white, suburban and heterosexual, with values and aspirations often very different from his own.  These were people whose lives seemed dominated by work and the ‘world of news’, living with or marrying one other and sharing little experience with someone who had many interests outside this environment, including classical music and the opera, interests perceived as rather too elitist and not quite ‘in tune’ with the news audience.  He did, nevertheless, make lots of friends at the BBC, though they tended to be outsiders too, in one form or another. 


Amongst the disadvantages of being an outsider, Andrew feels that the ability to network is not only helpful but essential in many professions and he had an outsider’s aversion to it;  this was certainly not helpful.   He thinks most large organisations tend to appoint individuals who are from similar backgrounds and share the same outlook.  In Britain generally, and particularly in journalism, networking was always closely linked to a culture of social drinking and eschewing this ritual made one automatically an outsider.   When he was younger, Andrew was conscious of many more of the disadvantages of being on the outside but one benefit of getting older, he says, is that he no longer feels so much the need to conform.   “Without a doubt, the life of the outsider can be harder but also more rewarding;  but not conforming, not feeling part of any particular grouping does make your life more difficult.”


Andrew never felt the need to belong to any groups in the past and says he has no need for them now that he’s older.  “Of course”, he says, “in groups of gay men one feels one can be more honest about oneself but such associations always seem less rewarding than relationships with selected individuals, from every type of background, who are my friends.”


On the positive side, Andrew feels that being an outsider allows you more scope to develop your personality, to develop more as an individual.   But even this, of course, is a double-edged sword, as he perceives society to be now more conformist than he ever remembers.   Andrew feels that, in this country, the individual used to be celebrated, with individuality seen as a virtue, to be respected and recognised as a strength in the workplace and within organisations;  this is sadly no longer the case.  So, if you are happy to make your own way, to carve out your own path, the rewards can be greater but a certain strength is needed to swim against the tide - it can be tough.


“If I had the choice, would I choose not to be outsider?”, asks Andrew.   “Well, not any more.   I feel happy with who I am. “



Interview Date: 19 April 2013


Updated:  5th June 2013

Photography: London,  19th April  2013

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Andrew is a maverick:  from early childhood, he had the overwhelming feeling that he just did not belong.   When he was younger, Andrew was conscious of many more of the disadvantages of being on the outside but one benefit of getting older, he says, is that he no longer feels so much any need to conform.   A gay man from a suburban Liberal Jewish background, Andrew is a lover of music and culture who has worked in a number of roles at the BBC.   But neither in his working life nor in his home life has Andrew ever felt himself to be other than on the ‘outside’.   As an ‘odd man out’, he regrets that individuality, long celebrated in England, has been supplanted by baneful corporatism and a dreary uniformity.