A head for heights

DAVE Hulme has one of the toughest jobs in Britain – and that is official!

And before you ask, no, he does not try and sell “I love David Beckham” T-shirts in Blackpool’s Crazy Scots bar.

Dave is a rigger and expert abseiler who spends much of his working day dangling from Blackpool Tower, painting, cleaning and changing light bulbs.

He will be featured on BBC1’s programme Britain’s Toughest Jobs later this week, putting presenter Jeremy Spake to the test hundreds of feet above Bank Hey Street.

Dave, whose official job title is Rope Access Technician, said: “You couldn’t do the job if you didn’t have a head for heights.

“I remember going up the Tower as a kid and I wasn’t too keen on going near the edge. But when I first started doing this I just found it came naturally.”

Dave, 43, fell into the job, if you will pardon the pun, when the tower was repainted from gold to its original maroon colour in the mid-1990s.

He said: “They decided to use a team of lads who already worked at the Tower and we were all given a three-day course on abseiling.”

Since then Dave has gone from strength to strength, and now his job includes a lot more than general high-rise maintenance.

He had to lower the flag at the very top of the Tower to half-mast for the Queen Mother’s death, and also has to clean the glass underneath the infamous, 380-foot high, Walk of Faith.

Dave added: “Anything that is high up and a bit out of the ordinary, they usually get me to have a look. Once I even had to abseil down into the ballroom dressed as Father Christmas!”

He reckons his high-flying job is as “safe as crossing the road”, as long as you have all the right safety equipment and everything is set up properly.

“But you can’t get complacent,” he said. “It has got to be in the back of your mind that if you make a mistake you are going to have problems.”

Dangerous Dave did not even get too nervous when the BBC1 cameras were following him around for three days.

He said: “Up the Tower you forget everybody else, apart from the director shouting ‘Stop’, ‘Go’ and ‘Cut’!

“They really threw Jeremy in at the deep end and his first job was off a split level into mid-air, which is really difficult but he did all right.”

Dave and Jeremy cleaned the Walk of Faith – “We were hanging about for quite a while for them to get shots from ground level” – and then changed some light bulbs on one of the turrets.

Dave even got the chance to have a go at one of his hobbies, scuba diving, when the film crew asked him to help clean the turtle tank in the aquarium.

He said: “Occasionally something comes up where I have to go in there and it makes a nice change. Instead of going up in the air, I go under the water.”

Even though an average day in Dave’s life involves more action than an archaeology field trip with Indiana Jones, he still manages to keep his feet on the ground.

Dave lives with wife Donna, on Dinmore Avenue, Grange Park, and she is very understanding about what he does after an unusual job swap organised by a women’s magazine.

“She went up the Tower and I went to work in the shop,” said Dave.

“She is happy that I know what I am doing. If I don’t do anything silly then I am going to come home at the end of the day.”

• Britain’s Toughest Jobs will be shown on BBC1 on Friday at 7pm.