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Culture Vulture:
Campbell Robb

October 2012

Shelter’s charismatic chief executive discusses his love of Blondie, Spiderman, Glenlivet whisky – and the time he was made an offer by a drunken Welsh rugby fan.

Campbell Robb
Chief Executive

Recommend a current book/record

I have just finished ‘The Art of Fielding’ by Chad Hardbach which uses baseball as a metaphor for coping with change. It was very good. ‘The Song of Achilles’ by Madeline Miller was a brilliant update of the ‘Illiad’ and ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell just made me think. I always recommend Elmore Leonard – just a brilliant writer. As for music – I can’t wait for the new xx album, I liked the new Paloma Faith album and I have just been introduced to Ben Howard by my eldest daughter. It’s not Blondie but it’s not bad. But if I had to recommend one album it would be ‘Kind Of Blue’ by Miles Davis.

First record?

The first single I bought was ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie and the first album I bought was ‘Outlandos D’Amour’ by The Police, both of which I still listen to on my iPod – so they have survived, vinyl, tape, CD and now digital. Not bad going.

The book you’ve always wanted to read?

‘War and Peace’ – I must have looked at it a dozen times over the years and just been overwhelmed by its size. More recently I have tried and failed a number of times to get past the first few pages of Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’.

Favourite TV show?

I have always loved ‘Have I got News for You’, right now it’s ‘Borgen’. Before that it’s probably ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The West Wing’ in a tie, with ‘The Wire’ pushing them hard. In my more distant past it was a close run thing between ‘Grange Hill’ and ‘Newsround’.

Favourite item of clothing?

My first ever tie, a 1970s kipper from theVictoria and Albert Museum, which has as its pattern a copy of dragons from a 16th century Chinese vase in the museum. I bought it for 10p in a charity shop so I could start work as a bar man in a pub immediately (they had a dress code!) I once turned down £50 from a drunken Welsh rugby fan for it.

Last trip to the cinema/theatre?

I have not managed to get to the theatre for a while but have been to the cinema a lot and most recently saw the new ‘Spiderman’ with my daughters. It was excellent, funny, clever, knowing and made me think happily of the ‘Spiderman’ cartoons I watched as a boy.

What is your most treasured possession (object)?

I have some pieces of clothing that my daughters wore when they were tiny. They are very special to me and remind me of how quickly time passes. I also have some of my granddad’s garden tools that I still use on my allotment which are very sentimental. Whatever bottle of malt whisky I have at times of stress is also quite treasured. It’s a Glenlivet at the moment.

What is your dream holiday destination?

I have always wanted to go to South America. Whenever people ask I say that my plan is to retire to Buenos Aires. So a year-long sabbatical touring round south and central America would do. Failing that I went camping in Yosemite a couple of years ago and that was incredible and I spent a very happy few weeks in Trivandrum on the very tip of India about 20 years ago. Back then, it was pretty much as close as it got to idyllic. I suspect that might not be the case now.