My Mentor: Mark Borkowski On Philip Hedley

'He taught me about risk and about trust. They are the two things you need'
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The Independent Online

At the age of 19 I was a hick from the sticks working at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon. I was the assistant press officer and I was having a fantastic time doing lots of stunts and scams and learning how to play with the media. I got a story in The Sun about Sooty being eaten by a giant moth, and a bunch of police to turn up to a banned show.

All these people said: "You have to go to London young man", and I heard that the Theatre Royal Stratford East were looking for a new press officer. It was a vibrant left-wing theatre and I went to see Philip Hedley, the artistic director. A slightly camp guy greeted me at the door and grilled me with lots of questions, and that was it.

He plonked me into the press office, obviously to stir things up. The first production we had was Steaming and the theatre got its grant cut. Philip said: "Mark, I'm making everyone in your office redundant except you. It's a risk, but I think you've got the stuff."

I think I aged 10 years in 10 minutes because I realised the responsibility. But I was absolutely intoxicated by this notion that Philip taught me, which was risk. He also taught me trust. They are the two things you need.

We worked very closely together and he gave me lots of opportunities, but he didn't ask too many questions. I was the youngest kid in town and the press agents did things in a certain way - you didn't make phone calls to lobby people, you wrote to them. I decided we wouldn't. We would be in people's faces.

He taught me community spirit and that if you have authority you do not abuse that. He also taught me to deal with failure and never to give up. We became very close friends and we still have lunch when time allows. I wouldn't be doing what I am now without Philip.

Mark Borkowski is a publicist and founder of PR company Borkowski. Philip Hedley is a former artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East

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