Retire into study

Retire into study

While some people see retirement as simply a chance to give up work – others use it as an opportunity to take up something new. MyTime speaks to retired antiques dealer Debbie Kolombos who faced her demons in retirement to follow a lifelong dream.

For many years, Debbie – who now lives in Wells, Somerset – worked as an antiques dealer, initially specialising in items from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s, then later moving into antique jewellery. She dealt a lot with overseas markets, working in Australia for a while and selling jewellery to the US, which meant trips across the Atlantic two or three times a year.

But despite a successful career in antiques, Debbie harboured a passion for contemporary art and had always wanted to study the discipline at university – but circumstances, in earlier life, had conspired against her. Then, at the age of 65, she went to a college for an intelligence test and was told she had a severe form of dyslexia.

‘Learning about my dyslexia was a real release for me and gave me the impetus I needed to follow my dream. I enrolled on a BA in Contemporary Arts at Bath Spa University.’

Now in her second year, Debbie has found the course both hugely enjoyable and inspirational. In her own words she is ‘the oldest person on the course – if not in the college’ but finds working with the younger students fires up her own imagination.

As if studying full time for a degree wasn’t challenging enough, Debbie was also one of the founders of a Wells-based art competition called Wells Art Contemporary and currently sits on the committee, as she explains.

‘We run an international competition that invites artists to submit work online. Having drawn up a shortlist of around 70 works, we invite the artists to display their work in situ in Wells. The winner then gets a show in a prestigious London hotel – 45 Park Lane.’

The competition is judged by well-known figures in the art world including Richard Wentworth, CBE. Now in its sixth year, it has helped launch the careers of several aspiring artists and put the Wells art scene well and truly on the map.

With a challenging, fulfilling and highly enjoyable post-retirement life, Debbie firmly believes that you’re never too old to pursue the things you love in life.

‘People thought I was mad when I said I was going to start a degree at the age of seventy.’ she says. ‘But I think you can do anything you want, at any age in life. It really is never too late to follow your dreams.’