Female plasterer dedicates new-found career to well-known New Mills foster dad

A New Mills woman who overcame childhood trauma to become a plasterer has dedicated the achievement to her late foster father - well-known textiles businessman Robert Higham.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 6:00 am

Naima Ben-Moussa, 36, who was taken in by the much-loved Torr Vale Mill owner aged nine along with brother Michael and sister Hamida, said the new-found career was ‘his dream as well as my own’.

Newly-qualified tradeswoman Naima told how she had battled with mental health problems and sexism to finish the Level 2 in Plastering course - however it was loving dad Robert’s ‘gift of life’ which kept her going.

Though the 36-year-old admitted devoted tutors Cliff and Clint, of Clay Cross Adult Education Centre, had been ‘amazing’, prejudiced builders and other tradesmen she had approached for work had caused ‘a real struggle’.

Naima with foster parents Robert and Rachel Higham
Naima with foster parents Robert and Rachel Higham

She said: “As a female in the trades environment it can be hard - I’ve had one plasterer say he wouldn't take me on because I’m a woman.

“Others have commented on the way I look - I’ve experienced a lot of sexism.”

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Naima described how property owner Robert - who died three years ago aged 84 - would bring her along to lend a hand during renovation projects as a young girl, inspiring her to follow in his footsteps.

Naima with plastering tutor Cliff

She said: “I’ve always suffered with depression because of my childhood but my relationship with my dad (Robert) saved my life.

“He was a very kind man and really well-known in New Mills - people are always asking me about him.

“And everything I’ve achieved I put down to my dad - he gave me the gift of life and any motivation I had to carry on despite all the setbacks I put down to him.”

Now Naima is fully-qualified she is preparing to get some more experience and hoping to set up her own business within the next few months.

As a way of turning a few heads battler Naima has bought an unusual-looking works vehicle - a tiny Daihatsu Charade car converted into a mobile golf driving range by its wacky owner.

The comical vehicle’s roof was famously covered with artificial turf by golfing nut and Northumberland man John Imrie - who started whacking balls from its roof during lockdown to alleviate boredom.

In April ‘18-handicapper’ John made the news by driving to isolated spots near his north east home to work on his tee shots.

Naima, who paid £500 for the curious vehicle, said ‘it’s a bit of fun and I thought it would be a good way of getting noticed’.

Though Naima admitted she had a long way to go and now needed ‘a lot more experience under my belt’ she hopes to specialise in Venetian plastering - used to create a highly-polished, rock-hard, marble-like finish - which she described as ‘beautiful’.

Naima added: “I’m really nervous and I struggle to believe in myself but I’m hopeful - I’ve never been so passionate about anything in my entire life.”

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