Interview – Dan Farthing-Sykes
Dan Farthing-Sykes’ Biography
Dan Farthing-Sykes is the first and current CEO of Haemophilia Scotland. He joined the organisation from the Edinburgh Haemophilia & Thrombosis Centre in January 2014 and has worked closely with the founding Board of Trustees to establish the charity.
He brings with him experience of almost seven years as the Policy and Communications Manager of The Haemophilia Society. This role included serving on the Department of Health Clotting Factor Tender Working Group; the Specialised Services Public and Patient Involvement Transition Group; and the transitional NHS England Clinical Reference Group for Haemophilia. In addition he was the led member of staff for both the Archer and Penrose Inquiries.
Before moving into the Third Sector his background was in politics, policy and campaigning. He has experience at Local Government, the Scottish Parliament, and at Westminster. This includes working for the Elected Mayor of Watford, with Highland MSPs, and for The Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP when he was Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Dan Farthing-Sykes has been a great supporter of equality for all those within the global bleeding disorder community, he has also become a true friend.
In this interview we learn a little bit more about the “real” Dan Farthing-Sykes…
Would you please tell us your job title and how long you have been doing this?
I’ve been CEO of Haemophilia Scotland since the beginning of 2014.
Can you describe what would be a normal day for you?
One of the things I enjoy about this job is that no two days are the same. I might be doing anything from finances or lobbying MSPs to being at an event for the kids or answering calls from members with questions.
Why did you choose to work in this particular profession?
I’ve got a very close friend with Haemophilia A. Not that I had any idea what it was when we were growing up, I just knew we didn’t go bowling much – his elbow was a target joint. Later I was working for an MP and met some of the people in Scotland who were campaigning on the contaminated blood issues. When The Haemophilia Society advertised for a Communications Manager I applied in the hope I might be able to make a bit of a difference. Since then I’ve learnt a lot about inherited bleeding disorders and made some good friends.
If you could change one thing in your profession immediately what would that be?
Small and medium size charities have to put so much time into raising money and reporting on it. I wish there was a simpler way of organising the finances so we could all concentrate more on our charitable objectives.
Are there any other subjects you feel strongly about?
One of the issues I feel most strongly about is just how far our country is from being a true meritocracy. The natural talents and abilities of so many people are held back by poverty, poor health, insufficient education, or discrimination. Power is far from fairly distributed either politically or legally.
What are your thoughts on same sex marriage?
I think it should just be called marriage really. I’m pleased to see how much progress has been made on this issue since I was a kid. As a country we’ve gone from homosexuality being illegal to same sex relationships being equally recognised by the state in a single lifetime. It’s quite an achievement and gives me confidence that the intolerance and discrimination people still suffer because of their sexual or gender identity can be tackled too.
Do you have an opinion on so called “gay cures”?
I think that term is offensive. The implication that being homosexual is a disease or a disorders is entirely wrong-headed.
How do you de-stress from a busy day?
I’m an extremely bad guitar player which can be distressful for me but mainly by passing that stress onto anyone else in ear shot. Usually, I just enjoy spending time with my wife Emma. She’s a big film buff so we often finish a long day with a movie.
Does your job require you to travel very often?
It involves a fair bit of travel. Geographically, Scotland is the same size as England so there can be a lot of ground to cover to make sure Haemophilia Scotland is reaching out to people affected by bleeding disorders wherever they live. Because all bleeding disorders are rare conditions it is very important to co-operate internationally so I often travel to Brussels for the excellent round table meetings of the European Haemophilia Consortium – they are a great way to get the latest information on a wide range of topics. We try to work closely with other patient organisations like the Irish Haemophilia Society, The Haemophilia Society (UK), and Haemophilia Wales so I find myself in Dublin and London from time to time too. That must mean it’s about time I went down to Cardiff too.
Where is the most exciting place you have been and why?
Emma and I had a wonderful holiday in Australia. My favourite place has to be the beach north of Cairns where she agreed to marry me.
What is your favourite type of music?
I like a bit of variety in my music but my heart lifts most for the old stadium fillers like AC/DC or early Rolling Stones.
On the Haemosexual website we have a section called “Throw Back Track”. The track might trigger specific memories or just be a track you have always liked.
In your music collection, what would be your Throw Back Track?
When I was a young teenager I had a copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits I and II and I was obsessed. It’s hard to pick one track they all take me back to that time in my life when I was trying to work out what it was all about and wondering what the future had in store for me.
Who do you admire most and why?
I have a lot of admiration for Mahatma Gandhi. To lead a non-violent protest movement in such a volatile situation with all the imperial, racial, and religious pressures of the sub-continent at the time is astounding. Those times were bloody enough but I’m sure things could easily have been significantly worse.
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement to date?
I don’t tend to look back on my achievements much. I prefer to focus on what I’m doing now. However, I’m very proud of the progress that Haemophilia Scotland has made in the last couple of years. I’m honoured to be working with such a good group of trustees and volunteers. We’ve got a lot still to do but I do take some satisfaction from the progress we’re making.
If you were abandoned on a desert island, what would your essential three items be?
- Spare glasses as I’d starve pretty fast otherwise.
- A guitar and music so I could keep away wild animals.
- Enough tools that I could create some Heath Robinson inspired home comforts.
If you could give someone one piece of advice what would that be?
As Monty Python says, “You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals! You’re all different! You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves!”
Alternatively, I’d like to adapt a sentiment credited to a Jesuit Priest called Father Strickland. There is no limit to what can be achieved in life as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.
Which super power would you most like to have?
The ability to stop time. I never seem to have nearly enough of it.
What type of vacation / holiday do you enjoy most? I.e. beach, cruise, city, etc
I love anything involving boats and water. I’m never happier than simply messing about in boats.
What is your favourite film / movie?
I’ve always had a soft spot for unusual comedies. It’s hard to pick a favourite. I think it might have to be the Blue Brothers.
If you could meet anyone from history who would be your choice and why?
I’d like to have met “tank man” from the Tiananmen Square protests. Like Rosa Park, he was an ordinary person who, through extraordinary, brave actions, and peaceful action, took a stand against oppression. I’d love to talk to them both about where they found that incredible strength.
It is with huge thanks to both Dan and Haemophilia Scotland that Haemosexual continues to go from strength to strength, with their pursuit of total inclusion.