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Age is no barrier to achievement says Sir Ernest Hall

SIR Ernest Hall is at his home in Lanzarote when he picks up the phone to chat.

I imagine he is lying by the pool, reading a book and sipping a refreshing gin and tonic. But I should have known better.

"Not at all," he says breaking into laughter.

"I was playing the piano, in fact, I'm very busy practising for some concerts I

have coming up. Plus I am in the throes of recording the Chopin studies which is very exciting. So, no, there's no time for lying around."

Sir Ernest is proof that age is no barrier to achievement – he is now 78 and as active as ever.

Not only that, but life gets more exciting the older you get, he says.

"Someone I once knew said he thought nature had got it wrong: we should be born old, and get younger. In my case, nature got it right," he informs me.

It is only as he has advanced in years that he has really begun to live – rediscovering his first passion of music, accomplishing many lifetime ambitions such as mastering several languages, learning how to ride horses competitively and writing.

The first part of his autobiography, How to Be A Failure and Succeed, is about to be published. And because it concentrates on his early years, it is, he says "the story of my life before it began."

He is best known for his role in the transformation of Dean Clough Mills, which he bought in 1983, aged 53.

"Together," he says , referring to his eldest son, Jeremy. "We turned an abandoned, semi-derelict, 19th-century manufacturing colossus into a thriving, dynamic practical Utopia."

This is when he really started to live, when his dreams became realities. But what happened then is destined for book two of his autobiography.

Even so, it makes compelling reading.

It recalls his harsh upbringing in 1930s Lancashire where his parents, "half-timers" in a local mill, struggled to make ends meet and raise their family.

The young Ernest always believed he was destined for better things and he clung to this thought as he gazed out at the slums around him.

His recollections are recorded with frank honesty and I ask if recalling these times was painful. He says no.

"Not painful, exciting. I allowed myself to relive my life. I decided at the outset that if I couldn't be honest and truthful then there was no point."

His story tells of growing up in a Bolton pie shop, and at nine, discovering music. He persuaded his parents to buy him a piano and, at 16, was accepted into the Royal Manchester College of Music determined to become a professional concert pianists.

But his life took a different turn. "There is a difference between being good and nearly good," he says, as he recalls one event which "influenced my decision to abandon the piano as a career."

It was the arrival of John Ogden, now regarded by many as the most gifted British pianist of the 20th century.

So, undaunted he applied his creative energy to enterprise, first in textiles and then property, where he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. With financial success and security behind him he decided "to make amends" by finding a way of "fusing the arts and enterprise." The Dean Clough dream was born.

The message is that conviction and self-belief can overcome even the bleakest of setbacks and discouragement.

The idea to write his autobiography came from an Arts Council lecture, In Defence Of Genius, he delivered at Dean Clough in 1996.

"What fascinates me now is the accidental way in which I discovered that what was unthinkable at 25, became possible at 65. This is a discovery for everyone.

"You are never too old to learn something new, never too late to try something new. People try and tell us from the outset that we're powerless, that we have failed in some way. But the only failure is to stop trying."

How To be A Failure and Succeed by Sir Ernest Hall, is published by Book Guild Publishing, price 14.99 and available at Fred Wade, Halifax and online. With financial success and security behind him he decided “to make amends” by finding a way of “fusing the arts and enterprise.” The Dean Clough dream was born.

The message is that conviction and self-belief can overcome even the bleakest of setbacks and discouragement.

The idea to write his autobiography came from an Arts Council lecture, In Defence Of Genius, he delivered at Dean Clough in 1996.

“What fascinates me now is the accidental way in which I discovered that what was unthinkable at 25, became possible at 65. This is a discovery for everyone.

“You are never too old to learn something new, never too late to try something new. People try and tell us from the outset that we’re powerless, that we have failed in some way. But the only failure is to stop trying.”

How To be A Failure and Succeed by Sir Ernest Hall, is published by Book Guild Publishing, price 14.99 and available at Fred Wade, Halifax and online.

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