Alan swaps motors for music to show how you can start again in life

Alan Helm with Vince Taylor of Sunderland Council.
Alan Helm with Vince Taylor of Sunderland Council.
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FLEET-fingered former automotive engineer Alan Helm is hitting the right notes with a new career in entertainment, after receiving support from Just the Job.

Alan, 47, from Hetton, launched ANH Entertainment 18 months ago and is now showcasing his musical talents, playing the piano accordion, at venues throughout the region.

ANH Entertainment caters for a wide range of private and corporate events including ceilidhs, weddings, background music for restaurants and entertainment at retirement homes and Alan has developed relationships with some of the region’s leading venues, playing at Lumley Castle, The Sage Gateshead and The Assembly Rooms to name but a few.

He also plays regularly with folk band The Teesside Fettlers, alongside local broadcaster Stewart McFarlane.

Alan and Stewart have enjoyed a long working relationship and have broadcast from BBC Cleveland and Newcastle studios regularly in the past both for radio and television.

After deciding to turn his passion for entertainment into a full-time enterprise after about 20 years in engineering roles, most recently in the Nissan supply chain, Alan contacted Sunderland City Council’s Just the Job programme for advice and support on becoming self-employed.

“I have always been a musician and especially enjoyed the satisfaction that performing brought to othersand the positive feedback I received from my audience,” he said.

“I decided that the time was right to turn my hobby into a full-time venture. However, as I was taking my first steps into self-employment, I was keen that my business got off to the right start.”

Alan was referred to SES (Sustainable Enterprise Strategies), where his adviser, Ron Anderson, provided the help and encouragement to help get ANH Entertainment off the ground, including advice on business planning.

He added: “Ron was very helpful and was there on the end of a phone to offer advice and encouragement when I needed it.”

Vince Taylor, head of strategic economic development at Sunderland City Council, said: “Just the Job has enabled people like Alan to change their career path and turn a passion into a viable business venture, doing something that brings them great satisfaction every day. It has provided aspiring entrepreneurs in Sunderland with the support and encouragement to ensure they are well-equipped to take the leap into self-employment.”

Alan plans to continue developing ANH Entertainment and looking for new opportunities to showcase his talents throughout the region. Further information can be found on his website at

JUST the Job is funded by the Working Neighbourhoods Programme, with funding coming to an end this month.

However, savings made throughout the programme mean services will be extended at a reduced level until September through Job Linkage and enterprise support, providing assistance in the interim before the Government’s Work Programme is up and running.

Sunderland City Council and its partners will continue to shape enterprise and employment support in Sunderland. Work Clubs are being established at children’s centres in the city that will support Job Centre Plus with its Get Britain Working Measures.

They will also fully support and oversee the delivery of the Work Programme, including its “working for yourself” strand, to ensure the people of Sunderland get the best support possible. Further details of the Work Programme, and other initiatives, will be announced in due course.

Coun Bryan Charlton, portfolio holder for prosperous city at Sunderland City Council said: “We remain committed to ensuring that the people of Sunderland have access to the very best support possible to get into training and work and start up their own businesses, helping to reduce long-term unemployment and dependency in the city.”

The Just the Job freephone number will remain the single point of contact for enterprise, employment and training support until September. Call 08081 789 380 or visit for further information.

Just the Job in Numbers: Since Just the Job was launched, the West/Coalfields area of Sunderland has seen the highest number of new business start-ups at 74.