A FIRE chief has swapped burning buildings for hot towels as he embarks on a new hobby.
Ken Ball has seen plenty of hairy times in his role as a fireman with the Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.
But now, the 43-year-old is relishing a new challenge after taking up a barber’s course.
Ken, who is district commander for the Peterlee, Wheatley Hill and Seaham fire stations, came first in the men’s commercial cut and finish section at the North East England regional heats of the prestigious Association of Hairdressers and Therapists (AHT) competition.
He was part of a talented team of East Durham College hair and beauty therapy students who were crowned best college at the competition, held earlier this week at the Federation Brewery, in Gateshead.
Ken only enrolled on the Peterlee college’s Level 2 barbering course part-time in September, but he instantly took to the skill.
Ken, who has always fancied having a go at barbering as a hobby, said: “I was really chuffed to win, it was fantastic.
“It really was a reflection of the hard work and skills of my tutors, as well as the help I have received on work placement with Nuts barbers in Leadgate, near Consett where I live.
“I was so pleased for the whole team and the college that we also won the overall best college too.”
Courtney Williams took the college’s other first-place prize in the evening style with ornamentation section, at the tender age of 14.
Courtney, from Easington, trains at the college as part of its 14-16 vocation skills programme ran with local secondary schools.
The Easington Community Science School pupil said: “I can’t believe I came first, I was speechless.”
It was the first time in more than 10 years of competing at the regional heats that the college has won the top honour, defeating long-time reigning champions South Tyneside College.
The highly competitive event saw students battle it out against hundreds of other participants from nine other regional colleges.
An impressive performance by East Durham College saw them collect two firsts, two seconds and four thirds as well as a number of other placed students that all added up to the best overall score and the best college award.
The college’s curriculum leader for hair and beauty, Simon Smith, said: “We are thrilled with the results.
“All the students competing did a fantastic job against a very high standard of competition and are now hoping to continue their success at the AHT national final.”
A number of the team will now go on to compete against the cream of the UK’s up-and-coming talent from more than 50 colleges across the UK at the AHT national final at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens hair festival on Monday, March 14.