Glad you’re on board, Oli

billboard oliTeenager stars in National Citizen Service billboard campaign shot by celebrity photographer Rankin


Take a look at the billboard showing a line-up of young people on Carlisle’s Currock Street and you may spot a familiar face.


The image features 17-year-old Nelson Thomlinson sixth-former Oli Coulson, fifth from the left. It was taken by the celebrity photographer Rankin for a UK-wide campaign to raise the profile of the National Citizen Service (NCS), which is delivered by Inspira in Cumbria and Lancashire.


“It was an insane experience,” says Oli, who travelled from his Wigton home to Rankin’s London studio for the Our Future campaign photo-shoot.


Oli says that before he completed a personal development programme with NCS he “was the kind of person who would sit at the back and not pay attention”.


During the shoot, Oli, far from being shy or starstruck, and with newfound confidence he attributes to NCS, wasted no time in telling Rankin he was a huge fan, and also a keen photographer.


“He went down the line of all of us saying ‘hi I’m Rankin’. Then on a break I went up to say ‘hi’ to him. I told him I was a huge fan and he said it was so cool for him to be able to do the shoot.”


On his work for the NCS campaign, Rankin told The Telegraph newspaper he wished his own son had been given the same opportunities as a teenager.


The photographer is best known for his portraits of some of the world’s most familiar faces. Together with Jefferson Hack, he launched Dazed & Confused magazine in 1992, which is credited with changing the face of fashion and publishing. More recently, Rankin has trained his camera on establishment figures, including the Queen and Tony Blair.


Sharing the spotlight with Oli and 20 others in the Our Future campaign is Jermain Jackman, winner of BBC singing talent contest The Voice last year, who completed the programme in 2012. “He’s a very nice person. He’s very open,” says Oli of the 19-year-old singer from Hackney.


They were picked from 130,000 teenagers to have completed the Government-backed programme. It is aimed at 15 to 17 year-olds to prepare them for working life while boosting confidence and employability. It takes place outside term-time over two or three of outdoor team-building adventures followed by 30 hours of voluntary work on a project that benefits young people and the wider community.


Last year, Oli, who hopes to become a youth worker, set up the charity Verity’s Voice in memory of his mother, Verity Twentyman, who died in 2009. It aims to raise awareness and combat the stigma surrounding mental illness.


This feature was originally written by Eleanor Jary of Carlisle Living and can be found in the February edition of the magazine.


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