|20 Nov 2020|
In 2005, following the completion of my “A" Levels, I left Ipswich School and headed for De Montfort University Leicester to study Music Technology & Innovation. It is fair to say the School had helped me focus on my studies and get me to that point. I’d always had a real interest in recording music and film, but after graduating, opening a recording studio just outside Cambridge and running that for two years, I quickly realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever so I closed the studio, and spent the next couple of years in limbo trying to find my niche and what made me tick.
“Niche” probably best describes where life took me next, and for the next eight years with me taking on a role which involved setting up a music-based therapy service at a secure mental healthcare hospital in Nottinghamshire. Every day was different which I loved; the music element ticked a huge box, whilst dealing with challenging behaviour from service users who had autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities kept me on my toes. Above all this though, I felt like I was making a difference in people’s lives, by helping them transition back into the community. Once the music service was developed, I moved to the Education Department which I became in charge of in 2018 until the hospital’s sale to the NHS in September 2020. After being made redundant, I saw an opportunity to sell football-themed beers.
Away Days, in all honesty, was a drunken idea. But a year later, I launched “Away Days” with three debut beers: “Hoppy Robson” for Sir Bobby, “Golden Goal” and of course “Boncho” - The name comes from a Bulgarian footballer who graced ITFC in the 90s and I was a huge fan of. I even made it into Bulgaria’s Trud News to do an interview about “Boncho” (the beer), before Boncho’s son contacted me to take some of it back to Bulgaria for the legend himself.
When I launched “Away Days”, it was a hobby business which I ran alongside the job at the hospital, but one that slowly began to take up more and more of my time. It’s had its ups and downs: the highs such as seeing Alan Shearer enjoying a bottle of “Ale’N Shearer” last Christmas and seeing “Hoppy Robson” on sale nationally on cask through a major wholesaler, to the lows such as realising just how many pubs are tied into a monopoly of breweries, thus making it harder for independent brands to establish themselves through the pub network.
Following my redundancy in September and despite the pandemic, I decided to run it full time. The major change I’ve made to the business is going from just a wholesaler to a direct retailer via my website www.awaydaysbeer.com . With sixteen beers now in the range and working with four breweries, I like to think there is something for everyone’s palate, and with a growing fan base, the hope is to roll out a non-league football pop-up pub event at weekends, as well as have fans physically help with the brewing process.
It’s safe to say Ipswich School helped give me the foundations for where I am today and I’ll always be grateful for that. I also think it’s a reminder to always be open to new ventures or avenues of work you didn’t envisage taking and not be afraid to take a risk on a crazy idea sometimes. I certainly never saw myself teaching in a mental health hospital or selling football themed beers, but here we are.
If you’d like to know more about “Away Days”, head to my website www.awaydaysbeer.com and / or follow us on social media by searching @awaydaysbeer. And lastly, if you think of the next Wayne Brewney football pun beer name, be sure to let me know!
Josh Bartlett OI (1997-2005)