Embedded in emergency departments in busy hospitals in Glasgow and Edinburgh our team of Navigators work to stop the revolving door of violent injury. It’s a tough job which requires dedication and a unique set of skills. In a series of interviews with our team of Navigators we look at what brought them to the job and their advice to those whose lives are being affected by violence. In this interview Navigator Geraldine Lennon reveals why she swapped her life of 5 star hotels as a "tour mum" for rock stars like Glasvegas to become a Navigator.
What’s your background?
I worked in homeless and addiction services in Glasgow. I did that for about seven years and then I left there in 2008 and randomly went to work with my friend’s band Glasvegas on tour just travelling around all over the place.
How did you end up going on tour with Glasvegas?
We had lots of those conversations where they’d say, “When we sign our record deal will you come and work with us?” And then they did sign an amazing record deal! I remember they were in New York recording their first album and their manager phoned me and I was sitting at a methadone clinic, which I facilitated. He said, “Well are you gonna come and do this? Give it up and run away and join the musical circus?” It was an amazing opportunity.
I was like a tour mum, or I always like to think I was like a cool aunty, that kind of thing. I worked with them for two albums and then I went on to work with an American record label.
All of the artists I worked with probably should never have made it through one thing or another. Like the boys were from the east end of Glasgow and statistically shouldn’t really have been the band that was picked-up by a major label. And then Sharon Jones who I went to work with, she was told she was too small, too black and too fat to ever bring out an album, but she did. I also worked with Charles Bradley. He was homeless for a lot of years and never actually brought out his first album until he was sixty. So working with them always kind of emphasised to me that your dreams can come true with the right kind of people around you and belief - never give up trying basically.
It was amazing and I got to see some amazing places in the world and I got to share it with some very special people. I was unbelievably fortunate that it worked out that way.
Why did you apply to become a Navigator?
Unfortunately after a battle with cancer Sharon died last year and then Charles’ health deteriorated. He’s better now and back out on the road, but I was fortunate with the bands I worked with and I suppose I was a bit scared of going out again and it not being as great. Then I saw the Navigator job and it really appealed to me because it brings everything in together but it’s not bogged down in red tap. I thought yes this can take me away from the lovely five star hotels!
What is a Navigator?
I suppose it is someone who is there to open someone’s eyes to a happier life, or a different life, a more positive life and to go with them whatever way they want to go. We’re not going to fall out with them if they reoffend or relapse. Like a little shadow, but not a creepy shadow - a good shadow.
How does working with a music star compare to working with someone in A&E?
I think human beings all like to think we’re very different and we’re not we’re all the same really. Even the patients we work with sometimes they want to perceive that their hurt is worse, and it is for them, but everyone has been really, really hurt or in a really dark place in their life at some point. The causes of it may be different, but the way that human being feels is the same.
What’s the best bit of the job?
Definitely the randomness of it, there are no two days the same. I like the autonomy that we’ve got, the ability we have to respond. You can be there when someone needs you, they don't have to wait six weeks to get help.
What’s the worst bit of the job?
There is frustration sometimes when you can see the potential in someone, but it’s clouded for them and they can’t see it. You think why can’t you see what I can see in you? But that’s just where they’re at at the time.
What advice would you give to someone affected by violence?
It’s ok to believe in something different and to take that chance on something different.
Ps Did you know that our very own Geraldine is the inspiration for the hit song "Geraldine" by Glasvegas!