Rugby and romance

Estelle Maxwell hears the all-time greats of a music-mad principal Beneath the benign exterior of Douglas Hardaker, principal of Keighley College, there lurks a consuming passion.

The tireless worker - "my wife and I had our first holiday in 14 years last summer," he says - is also an obsessive collector of musical tunes. Although he claims he cannot sing a note, the 57 year-old former industrial chemist likes nothing better than to find new additions for his treasure chest of recordings of music and speech.

Twenty years after he spotted an original 78 recording of Mitchell Torok's "When Mexico Gave Up The Rhumba" on a London market stall, his collection is vast.

His home is crammed with LPs, 45s, 78s, CDs and tapes of every musical genre, neatly filed in alphabetical order and cross-referenced with a librarian's efficiency. The Pet Shop Boys rub shoulders with unlikely bedfellows including Dvorak, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, The Vipers, and Bing Crosby.

Shelves are stacked with boxes of singles, many bearing the labels of record companies long gone, their songs ranging from the unforgettable to the obscure.

Recorded speeches by Kennedy, Churchill, Martin Luther King and Hitler jostle for space with dance and rave albums, Alma Cogan, Pavarotti and the Goons.

"I am a workaholic," Mr Hardaker confides. "Music is something which I can put on in the car or when I am working at home, and enjoy without losing too much time. I collect tunes rather than records and particularly like musicals - I'm a bit of a romantic."

As principal of a growing college - Keighley has 7,500 students - he is also a realist who thrives on pressure. With the help of his senior management team and staff he has raised the profile of the college, anticipated regional trends, built links with local schools, businesses and the Asian community and launched a partnership with the local training and enterprise council to formulate business plans for small companies.

"I enjoy the challenge of my job," he says. "Despite current pressures I believe we are still in a privileged position in education. The college is one of the town's largest employers and there is a pressure to create new courses and generate new jobs within the college, while juggling with the demands being made for educational change and diversity."

His all-time favourite tracks - Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" ("I might be tempted to have this at my funeral," he says) and Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on the theme of Paganini" - hint at a sensitive streak amid the pragmatism. "Drive", the Band Aid single by The Cars, also continues to hold meaning for him. "Every time I hear the tune an image of starving African children comes into my mind," he says. "It is a highly evocative piece of music which reminds me of the contradiction of food surpluses existing while millions are starving.

"I've always been interested in music. When I worked in Edinburgh and attended meetings in London I would often scour the market stalls and second-hand shops at lunchtime.

"When I spotted the Mitchell Torok 78 I had to get it - when I was a child it was the first record I ever bought and used to play on our gramophone at home. I started to notice the old records which my mother used to play and became fascinated by the labels. It made me feel very nostalgic. It just grew from there."

For the past 18 months the sports-loving principal has had an unusual off-pitch involvement with The Cougars rugby club, top of the local league.

Whatever the action on the pitch he provides recordings to match. When the referee, a Mr N Oddy, reprimands a player, that's the signal for the Noddy theme tune - or the Drifters hit: "You're More than a Number in my Little Red Book".

Certain players have their signature tunes, including Nick Pinkney ("The Pink Panther"), Andy Eyres ("Andy Pandy") and Martin Wood ("Woody Woodpecker"). Every week Mr Hardaker scours his library for suitable songs. "It's often quite a challenge."

He relaxes by watching The Cougars, Derby County football club, or playing golf: "I enjoy sport very much. It is important to learn how to cope with success as well as failure," he says.

He believes a sense of humour is vital amid the pressures of work and is a lifelong fan of The Goon Show. He breaks into impromptu impersonations of Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe or Spike Milligan during phone conversations, to the consternation of passers-by.

A highly organised personality - "I hate unnecessary duplication" - he describes himself as superficially laid-back. "Years ago, when I was a head of department, a young technician told me that when I smiled I was at my most dangerous. At the time I thought this was quite amusing as it was said with a twinkle in the eye but afterwards I realised this was a pretty sharp evaluation. You have to be fairly tough to survive in education today."

After logging up more than 30 working years in teaching - 12 as principal of Keighley - he is sharply aware of the need to take tough decisions to ensure the college can flourish in the highly competitive post-incorporation era.

"We face massive competition, sometimes to a ludicrous degree. I now spend more time out of college than I ever used to - it is essential to see what is happening out there, spot future trends and develop practical and effective partnerships," he says.

In response to the changing market the college has diversified, with over 350 teaching and support staff and more than half its lecturers on new contracts of employment.

"On a personal basis my relations with NATFHE and Unison are positive. But the issue of new contracts is an area of tension as in most colleges.

"Our college contract is based upon the Colleges' Employers' Forum model with minor modifications for example, we have included paternity leave," he explains.

Introducing the new contracts had not been easy: "People are being asked to perform a number of somersaults and respond to enormous change at enormous speed. It is very tiring and demanding but there is no point in wishing things could be different. You have to be realistic and deal with a situation as it presents itself.

"The system will continue to undergo enormous change and one of the keys to survival is increased flexibility.

"The college has to be successful in everyone's interests."

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