Kevin Duffy: Trinity Leeds centre director on life, love and everything

Kevin Duffy.
Kevin Duffy.
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Kevin Duffy is centre director of Trinity Leeds which had 22 million visitors in its first year. Jayne Dawson reports.

Kevin Duffy, 48, grew up in a council house in Edinburgh and left school at 16. He lives in Harrogate with his partner Phil.

My first job was digging up potatoes when I was about 13. A friend of mine was doing it, so I wanted to earn some money too.

The best advice I ever received was given to me when I got my first job in management, and it was that I was no longer being paid to be the staff’s friend, I was being paid to be their manager. It’s quite a hard lesson to learn.

After I left school I worked a a department store, and later in bars and hotels. There wasn’t a plan, but eventually I did a degree in hotel management.

My guilty pleasure has to be my music collection. It has some dodgy stuff in it, including compilation albums from not only the X Factor but also Pop Idol before that.These days I prefer a cleverly crafted song to a thumping beat.

My pet hate is people who drop litter. Working in a shopping centre makes me more aware of it I suppose, but people in here are pretty good because it is already a clean and tidy environment.

There are two people I would like to have met: Martin Luther King would be fascinating because he lived at such a difficult time in society and was able to see through all that and articulate his dream.The other person is Neil Armstrong to hear him talk about how he really felt when he stepped on the moon and looked back at the earth.

I don’t have to work weekends anymore so my favourite weekends tend to be quite low key. I’m not much of a homebody and I don’t sit still very often. I like to be out, seeing things.

My advice to my teenage self would be to believe in yourself a bit more. I didn’t have much confidence in my own abilities and I hadn’t really developed decent social skills. I told my mother I was gay when I was 16 but I can’t say I came out because I had never really not been out.

My philosophy on life is that things happen and you just have to accept them and move on. There is no point in wallowing, you are not gaining anything and meanwhile life is running out. I do believe in karma though, if you do good things then good things will happen to you.

My most embarrassing moment happened on my second day in a new job. I was asked to give my views on some new artwork and I didn’t hold back, only to discover it had been organised by the director in the meeting. I just had to front it out, once you have given your opinion you have to stand by it.

The last time I cried? X Factor can make my cry, films can make me cry. The sentiment gets to me.

It might surprise people to know that I was once a teetotal vegetarian, but I’m not anymore. The not drinking ended when I went on holiday to Miami and had a strong cocktail in the sun, then passed out in the loo. You would think it would have put me off drinking, but it didn’t.

I left Scotland at the age of 21. I worked back there for a time but have not lived there for twenty years. I would have voted no in the referendum. I think the fact we can move freely around Scotland, England and Ireland is to everyone’s advantage.

I have worked in 11 different cities. I was always prepared to move for my job, I have a very strong work ethic. For years, if it didn’t fit in my car - which was tiny - it didn’t move with me. It was a transient life and I had very few possessions, but it was liberating. I had clothes, music and computer and that was basically it. I always lived in rented property. I have come to the end of that now, we are doing up our house - I can’t believe how much everything costs.

The closest I came to death was when I was a baby, so I don’t remember it. I fell into a boiling hot bath and was in intensive care for weeks. There wasn’t the technology to help healing that there is now, but I was very lucky and only my foot is scarred.

There was tension in my childhood. My parents split up and I hardly knew my dad. I have two sisters and we didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but I was loved and I knew it.

My first kiss was with Ellen when I was about 11. She was two years above me at school so I was being led astray.

The first album I bought was Human League’s Dare, I still like their music now.

I like the vibrancy of Leeds, of all the cities I have lived in it has been the easiest place to make friends. My plan is to put down roots here.

By Matthew Doherty.

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