Inspiring Females presents: Alison Sefton meets Hannah Springham
- Credit: Simon Finlay Photography
Welcome to the first in our new series of Inspiring Females Q&A articles, hosted by Alison Sefton, head of Norwich High School for Girls. These interviews will showcase inspiring women from all walks of life, giving you an insight into their career journeys and inspirations. Here she speaks to alumna Hannah Springham about her pathway to a career in TV.
Tell me a little bit about you and what you do?
I have two very different careers – one is that I am a TV director which is really interesting in terms of how you get into it – and I love it! The other side is that my chef husband and I set up a restaurant in Norwich called Farmyard in 2017.
Following the success of this, we bought The Dial House in Reepham, an eight-bedroom restaurant including a vintage shop ‘Vegas Vintage’. My roles across the businesses are marketing, business development and also buying antiques and vintage clothes for Vegas.
One of the things I talk to the girls about a lot is a career pathway and the fact that they are not always straight.
Yes definitely! My career pathway is like a circle. When you are a mum your priorities change. I always wanted to have businesses outside of TV going on by the time I had kids. I didn’t lose my ambition and drive for TV – I just re-channeled it.
Now my children are six and eight, I am moving that energy again and doing some directing again. I’m not a huge fan of the word entrepreneur, but I have experience in launching eight businesses, so I suppose I am.
Did you know when you were at school that you wanted to work in TV?
I knew I wanted to get into fashion or media. My mum used to work in advertising and said I’d be great in radio or TV. I used to run the VIP lounge at a local nightclub, and I would always ask any media or journalist guests for work experience.
One day, someone said ‘yes’, and I did a stint on the Trisha Show as a runner. My parents wanted me to go to university at this stage, but I was learning so much while working and researching for Anglia TV. I was hooked.
I spoke to the head of ITV (several times), and he gave me an opportunity to work for ITV in London for three months. When this ended, I blagged a job at Prada in between short TV gigs to pay the bills.
I kept pushing for opportunities and, at age 21, I got my first directing break for Cash In The Attic, which fueled my love of antiques.
While on this job, aware I was young in the role, I made a conscious effort to listen and learn from everyone around me, from the cameramen to the presenters – and that was the start of my directing career.
Following this, I became the first female director for Top Gear. I was told they would never have a female director, which really annoyed me – so I persevered to get my CV right for them.
I got knocked back twice, but each time I took on their feedback and gathered new experiences to build on my CV – from reading Top Gear magazine religiously on the tube, to directing glossy VTs and advertising jobs – and it paid off.
Underlying all of that what I hear is your determination. I like that you saw an injustice and thought, well I can do that!
I think this stems from confidence instilled in me at school. Norwich High was very good at saying “You are women, you can do this, you’re the best of the best”. And I believed that, I went out there, I went for it and grabbed what I wanted.
What advice would you give to someone hoping for a career in TV?
I loved seeing my former English teacher at the last Inspiring Females Summit. Before I started my talk, she said: “Go in there, tell those girls it’s okay to break the rules sometimes!”
It’s vital to have fire in your belly. Other words of advice include “keep pestering” (it’s worked for me), and when I was doing Top Gear someone said to the whole team: “Hold your nerve, because things will go wrong.”
So finally, who or what inspires you?
I’m most inspired by making people laugh. My next gig is a scripted comedy.