Stroke survivor who strives to give less fortunate start in life

Phil Taylor, chairman of the Oakapple Group. Picture by: James Hardisty.Phil Taylor, chairman of the Oakapple Group. Picture by: James Hardisty.
Phil Taylor, chairman of the Oakapple Group. Picture by: James Hardisty.
Philip Taylor has fought back from serious illness to run the Oakapple Group and a major fundraiser for Barnardo's. Ismail Mulla reports.

By all intents and purposes Philip Taylor shouldn’t be sat opposite me having suffered a brain hemorrhage 11 year ago.

But Mr Taylor somehow overcame the “fairly large” brain hemorrhage and has made a big contribution with his work for various charities since.

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Mr Taylor is the chairman of the Oakapple Group – a Leeds-based property development and investment business.

He started the business at the age of just 26 in 1990 having trained as an engineer with Wimpey Construction.

“I started work at 16 with Wimpey Construction on Gelderd Road in Leeds as a junior sites engineer trainee and worked my way up through a degree at Aston University,” he said.

Intially Oakapple was subcontracting for larger building companies.

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“I was given the opportunity by Wimpey’s to effectively start that business,” he said. “We were given a huge leg up by Wimpey Construction. They effectively assisted in financing the business in the early stages. They would pay me weekly and fortnightly so that we could set the business up and helped to build it.”

Oakapple moved over the next decade into development working with housing associations and local authorities, building new housing throughout West Yorkshire.

As well as being chairman of Oakapple, Mr Taylor wears many other hats. He is also the chair of the Firecracker Ball and vice-president of the children’s charity Barnardo’s. On top of that he also owns Newcastle Clinic.

The Firecracker Ball raised around £300,000 last year for Barnardo’s and Mr Taylor is hoping to beat that target this year. The Oakapple boss became involved with Barnardo’s after choosing the charity to be the recipent of the money raised by Firecracker.

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But where does this passion for charity come from? Mr Taylor takes a long pause, as if he were sifting through his memory.

“I come from a relatively meagre background,” he answers. “I was born in Bramley, Leeds. I saw a lot of poverty as a young person in and around the schools I went to. I think once I understood what Barnardo’s did it really hit a chord with me from my younger years.”

Phil Taylor lost his father at the age of 10 and his mother June brought him up on her own. However, Mr Taylor regards himself lucky as he was given opportunities others in a similar position may not have.

Mr Taylor said: “Barnardo’s works with a lot of very disadvantaged young people who haven’t had a great start in life and will always do its best to give every young person and child a chance in life.

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“It just resonates with me given where I came from in my younger years. I’ve been fortunate enough to do OK in life and I firmly believe you should put a bit back.”

Mr Taylor says his mother, June, has had a “huge influence” on his life and indeed his career.

His passion for property stems from trips he would take as a child with his mother to London.

Mr Taylor said: “I’ve always liked buildings and architecture and I’ve always been impressed with the built environment.

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“From the early days visiting London with my mother and sister I was in awe of some of the fabulous buildings.”

Out of all the iconic buildings in the world, Mr Taylor says he wishes he was involved in the construction of the Shard.

Running a business on a day-to-day basis while also holding an important post for an eminent national charity can be a “fine balancing” act, admits Mr Taylor. But being at the forefront of business helps with the work he does with Barnardo’s.

Mr Taylor always wears his Barnardo’s badge with pride, wherever he goes, and “that can open up conversations” which might lead to the charity gaining further support.

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After suffering a brain hemorrhage 11 years ago, Mr Taylor’s perspective on life changed.

He said: “It nearly killed me. I lost the use of my left side, my speech and my taste. I had to work very hard to recover all that, which I have.

“It made me very grateful. I was very lucky to survive. There was no drugs they could give me.”

That experience led the Oakapple boss to working with the Stroke Association.

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He and his wife Wendy recently funded a book raising awareness of stroke amongst children and younger people.

“A lot of people are unaware of the number of young people and even unborn children that suffer strokes,” he says.

Although the hemorrhage changed his perspective on life, it certainly has slowed him down and today Mr Taylor says he is fighting fit.

It’s a good job that he is of good health, as Mr Taylor is hoping to make the Firecracker Ball, which takes place on November 12 at Rudding Park Hotel, a huge success, raising much-needed funds for Barnardo’s, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

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“It’s a very big year for Barnardo’s so we’re hoping to make this year’s ball bigger than ever,” says Mr Taylor.

The bulk of the fundraising comes from the auction and Mr Taylor says they are looking for donations of high value items.

The chairman of Oakapple admits that at some point he will need to hand over the reins to Firecracker. But he will continue to work with Barnardo’s as long as the charity wants him and he is able to.

Back at the Oakapple Group business is good says Mr Taylor. Despite post-Brexit uncertainty in the industry, he expects it to only be a temporary blip.

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Following his brain hemorrhage Mr Taylor’s wife hoped he’d take it easy. That hasn’t been the case and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Philip Taylor factfile

Title: Chairman of Oakapple Group

Date of Birth: 27.02.63

Lives: Leeds

Favourite holiday destination: South of France

Last book read: They Escape by David Baldacci

Favourite film: Gladiator

Favourite song: I Will Always Love You (theme from bodyguard)

Car driven: Audi A8

Most proud of: My wife, my family and my friends.

Education: Whether Park Infants school, Sanford Middle school, Abbey Grange High school, Leeds College of Building, Aston University Birmingham

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