For many of us, the last year has seen twists and turns in our personal lives that we couldn’t possibly have expected. If at the start of 2020 you’d have told Jamie Kilbane, a former professional rugby player turned chef, that he would be spending the next year injecting strangers with the Covid vaccine, he probably would’ve smiled politely, put his headphones on and drowned out the babble. We catch up with him to see how he’s getting on with this about-turn.
Hi Jamie, how has the last year been for you?
It has been up and down, just like everyone in hospitality and many other industries hit by Covid. I’ve been trying to find my feet and purpose in the land of lockdown. Overall, I’d say I made it through relatively undamaged personally, even if professionally the struggle has been REAL. Job hunting in a pandemic is NOT FUN!
So, professional rugby player to chef, and now NHS Covid vaccinator, how did that come about?
I know it seems to be a bit of a strange jump, but working in the hospitality business, you get very used to working with people in teams to collectively achieve a goal, so I thought it would be a good fit. I also love interacting with the public (anyone who knows me can attest to this). My housemate works within the NHS and we discussed the possibility when the jobs were announced, so I applied, interviewed and was offered a role.
What does it involve?
Not unsurprisingly, a lot of learning and practice. You have to complete months of training and competencies before you are let loose on the general public. In the end it’s a HUGE team effort from all the staff and volunteers involved.
Are you hopeful of a return to hospitality this year?
I am cautiously optimistic for the hospitality industry! I want everything to return to as close to normal as possible, and working within the vaccination program I feel I’m doing my bit to help get it back on track. Whether you’ll see me serving up delicious food this year is a completely different question. But I relish the opportunity for dinner and drinks whenever and wherever possible.
What positive things can you take from the last year?
I think that I have proven to myself that I am mentally resilient, level-headed and up for any new challenge. Also, I learnt a lot of fun new skills in the content creation and animation realm.
How do you think the gay scene will recover from Covid?
I hope it springs back with the loosening of lockdown. I am not sure exactly what parties or nights out will look like, but I think we will be able to dance together again soon. We all are more aware of the risks we are taking, and I hope people are respectful of each other from that regard.
Finally, where are you most looking forward to having a beer indoors, when you can?
I cannot wait to dance with friends at Duckie to the Readers Wifes’ amazingly eclectic bops! But any queer space would do to be honest. I have really missed the presence of other LGBTQ+ people (ones I don’t know of course), and the sense of belonging you get in those places.