Pavlos Kakoulli [LONDON]

I was fortunate enough to be able to retire from government service at the end of 2016 while still in my 50s! I love travelling and was privileged to have travelled worldwide during my career. I’ve long lived in North Harrow and Pinner and grew up and went to school in Kingsbury, on the doorstep of RAFM. I’ve been a follower of speedway racing since Wembley was active and still get stressed following Watford FC!

My volunteering role is with the Collection Services team, specifically to preserve documents in a digital format for the Historic Hendon project, whether by digital photography or desk top scanning. So far, we’ve digitised anything and everything connected with Hendon Aerodrome from the Graham-White era to the closure as an RAF station – be it a photo album of a RAF Sports Day, pilots’ log books, letters, passes or event programmes for the Hendon Pageants. Each item, and page, requires to be set up precisely and often having to get on our hands and knees to achieve the result!   

Volunteering at the Museum meansquite a bit to me. I was fortunate enough to be able to choose to step off the treadmill of slog, commuting and routine but remain enthusiastic to contribute or test myself in directions different to what I’ve grown up with! And to have new focal points, meet new people and hopefully new friends. Being involved here has surpassed my expectations. Even from my modest contribution to the work here there’s a sense of privilege being at RAFM and a sense of inclusivity and being very much valued by the staff, which I should add is also shared by the rest of our small team of digitisation volunteers. Simply, we all look forward to being here each week. Just as important it’s been an opportunity for me to learn so much, from the technical side of photography to the thought-provoking history and stories of both the RAF and the beginning of aviation.  

My previous career of over forty years was in the Civil Service. This links with my current role in the Museum as thirty years of that I was to manage and negotiate the UK’s international Bilateral Air Services Treaties and worldwide relations, at the Department for Transport. I was privileged to have travelled around the world and to have been to some very interesting places (some that descended into conflict soon after I’d been there!) and to have met in a professional capacity some fascinating people from Ministers and Ambassadors to people at the highest echelons of the civil aviation industry. The Treaties formed the framework for civil air services to operate and many of them date from the outset of commercial aviation and in one case the 1930s (signed by Mussolini no less!). So, for me there was a crossover of history and aviation. Like many people who work(ed) in aviation, it stays in the blood and I get a weekly fix here!

I am also a keen photographer and like many people with a DSLR kit I’m self-taught, although I’ve undertaken college courses on documentary photography. Photography is something that you’re always learning about and strive to improve. Here, we’re in a darkened studio doing still photography, which is a new aspect of photography for me that requires a skill set much different to being out and about with a camera in hand. It’s a privilege to learn from Iain (Content Producer) about camera work, set-up, focussing, lighting and filters and how to prepare delicate items to be photographed. From this I feel I’ve moved to another level in my hobby, even put to into practise at home what I’ve learned from Iain, with I think decent results for our walls at home! If anything, I think I’m even more enthusiastic about my hobby!

Below are a collection of images taken by Pavlos on our 2018 Reciprocal visit.