MEETING sports stars Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Capes plus TV cop Lewis Collins is all in a day’s work for Ankerside Shopping Centre security guard David Elliott.
The celebrity ribbon-cutters are among the VIPs he’s welcomed during 35 years on patrol at the Tamworth shopping centre, which dates back to when it was still just a construction site on George Street.
Other highlights include ensuring The Queen’s safety when she opened the centre – which cost £8million – on June 6, 1980, with thousands of townsfolk turning out to see her.
“I was part of the team on crowd control when Her Majesty came to open the Ankerside but I only got a fleeting glimpse,” said David, who is now 63 and grandfather to nine.
He was one of the first to join the project, providing security for the development after spending several years in the building trade, and he has never looked back.
Covering the site over day and night shifts has also kept the dad-of-three active over his decades of service patrolling the 60 shops, car parks for 700 vehicles, slip roads, service areas and roof.
He said: “I’ve been at Ankerside more than half my life now – I have never wanted to be stuck in an office so this job was perfect.
“I would have loved to know how many miles I must have walked over the years here. I live just a mile-and-a-half away and I come in every day on my push bike so that has kept me fit too.”
Brought up in Birmingham, David moved to the area as a 13-year-old and finished his schooling at Tamworth’s Mercian School before starting work at a builders’ merchants at the age of 15. When a change in ownership gave him the opportunity to look for something else he applied for the Ankerside job and has been there ever since.
He added: “You never get two days the same here, there’s always something different happening such as kids missing, keeping an eye on the crowds, fire drills and that sort of thing.”
Over the years at Ankerside, David has certainly seen some big differences – especially when the shopping centre doubled in size after in 1990.
Luckily, David has never had to deal with any major security incidents, but petty crimes such as shoplifting have seen him attend Crown Court three times and Magistrates’ Court at least six times.
As he approaches retirement age, David has considered putting his feet up and spending more time at home with wife Glenys, but has no plans to leave Ankerside just yet.
“Could I really sit at home twiddling my thumbs? Probably not! I really do enjoy it here and they can’t get rid of me. There isn’t a single person now who has been here longer than me and I’ll probably still be here marking my 40 years,” said David, who was given a watch by his colleagues to mark his long service.
Ankerside Shopping Centre operations manager Graham Robinson explained what a great asset to the centre David was.
He said: “He’s been here right from the very beginning and he’s still with us now, which is amazing.
“His experience and knowledge of the site is quite something and all of the lads we have here will ask him when they don’t know where things are or what to do.
“We have a key box here with about 150 keys in it and David will know exactly what every one of them is for. It’s great to have him in the team.”
Ankerside Shopping Centre was originally built by William Kendricks, as the overspill housing estates of the 1960s and 70s increased the town’s population. Tamworth Borough Council recognised the town was ‘undershopped’ and took the decision to invest £8m in building a state-of-the-art indoor retail centre.
It was built in two phases on land once occupied by Hamel’s mill and several small business and back gardens, between George Street and the river Anker.
When it first opened, the centre housed 35 retailers. The next decade saw further growth in the town and increased demand for shopping facilities and in 1990 work began on refurbishing the existing centre and extending it, almost doubling the capacity. Open daily, it is now home to 60 stores, from fashion, health and beauty to services and food and drink, and has more than 700 parking spaces. More details at www.ankerside.co.uk