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Music and news once the fare of interior designer
Being expelled from school at 14 was the first step in an extraordinary life and career for Nadya Sawney.
The interior designer has worked all over the world in the music and television industries.
Growing up in Park Town and attending the Sisters of Notre Dame School, in Woodstock Road, she was horse-mad and longed to be a three-day eventer.
She was sponsored by wealthy people who owned horses, but a chance meeting with a musician in a pub prompted her to quit and work for top rocker Steve Winword and his girlfriend as live-in nanny to their seven-year-old child.
She said: “You can imagine what my mother said.
“She had been a librarian at the Bodleian for 25 years and was not impressed.”
Ms Sawney landed a job as a receptionist at A&M Records, before joining former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck’s management company as a PA. Then came a move to Hollywood and the legendary Eldorado recording studios.
“I wanted to become a sound engineer but at that time women didn’t go into recording studios unless they were groupies, girlfriends or wives,” she said.
Eldorado had been used by some of the world’s most famous musicians but the facilities were run-down.
When the studio manager died Ms Sawyer was offered his job. She said: “I agreed to take it if they would let me redesign the control room.”
After the refit Brian Eno and David Byrne used it to mix the Talking Heads’ Remain In Light album.
The studio’s rebirth attracted other big names, such as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
Ms Sawney, 55, explained: “I got a very good sound engineer in and we were bringing in the kind of clients I wanted.”
Next she headed for NBC Radio in New York.
She moved back to the UK in 1984 to music video channel Music Box, then on to TVAM. She covered the Hungerford massacre, doing live links to the studio, flying overhead in a helicopter.
In 1987 she and other technical staff were fired after going on strike.
She freelanced for ITN, before becoming the first sound technician hired by Sky TV before its launch.
There she covered the Lockerbie bombing, the IRA Deal barracks bombing, the assassination of MP Ian Gow and the Marchioness disaster.
She said: “I went crewing over the world covering big stories. I’d get a phone call and be told to go to Heathrow, not knowing where I was going until I got to the airport.”
She returned to the US to work on TV series Animal Precinct, about the American equivalent of the RSPCA.
Four years ago she had had enough of working in TV and decided to pursue a career in interior design.
“I’d always helped friends and family experiment with colour, because I’m able to visualise how they’d look,” she said.
Past projects include renovating an 18th-century cottage in Marlow. She is also renovating the converted chapel in Clifton, near Deddington, she shares with musician husband Stuart Sawney.
“Occasionally I miss the buzz of breaking news but what I love about interior design is that you make a lasting difference to someone’s life,” she said.
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