Archive | October, 2012

Manchester – Home of the Beautiful Game -13 October 2012

13 Oct

My boys and the authors David Conn and Rodge Glass – MLF 2012 – pic by Steven Lindsay

It was a great honour to be asked to chair an event at the Manchester Literature Festival. The theme was football and literature, the venue the National Football Museum, the authors Rodge Glass and David Conn. My function was to do what I would do at any number of events – make a conversation flow, play to the strengths of the speakers and make the audience smile.

This wasn’t an audience full of people looking to ‘network’ and do business. These were people who had bought a ticket. And it was a sell out. No pressure then.

I know David pretty well, we’ve worked together over the years as journalists and I’ve read his column in the Guardian on football almost religiously. I only know of Rodge through reading his book, a clever and observant tale of one man’s demise – that man being a fictional member of the Manchester United Youth Team of 1992, in fact the worst player ever to play for the first team, who enjoyed nothing of the life of Beckham, Scholes, Robbie Savage even, or the centrepeice of the book, Ryan Giggs.

I tossed a coin for who was going to read his piece first, which Rodge won. They did about ten minutes each, then I started the discussion for 20 minutes or so on the main themes I wanted to develop.

What fascinates me is the bravery of incorporating football into literature and storytelling at all. So we explored that – asking the question of whether fiction and a biographical life story can ever match sport for its drama and sense of jeopardy – who could imagine an ending greater than Barcelona 1999 or the conclusion to the 2012 season?

David’s latest book is a personal story – from the tradition of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch – it’s as much an honest account of a man growing up and wrestling with his cultural traditions and how his value system collides as it is financial history of City.

Rodge I compared to Zadie Smith and Hanif Kureshi, but his choice of a first person voice full of truth, but with a baleful monologue was right out of John Niven.

I was also fascinated in how Rodge weaved in and out of real events and obviously included real people. I liked how he took literary liberties with all of that, and asked how far he could go?

The questions from the audience focused on what we were billed to talk about, the dominace of football as an often negative cultural and commercial force, but still the prism through which so many stories can be told. About how football’s dominance as a cultural reference point makes it such a potent ingredient for both their stories?

The questions were good, on the whole. Then we came to the endpoint, in extra time. As both have used the backdrop of a simple, beautiful game ruined by greed and unimaginable wealth, I wanted to ask if it truly has been? Is there still something beautiful at the heart – something good to come from football’s simplicity and from its raw cultural power. I even quoted Albert Camus – “all I know of obligation and morality, I owe to football.”

It seemed a good time to end. Books were signed, hands were shook, photos taken. And my boys, pictured with David, me and Rodge enjoyed such tales. And the occasional swear word. Gosh!

Growth Accelerator roadshow

11 Oct

I’m in the middle of the 8 date Growth Accelerator tour of England’s core cities at the moment. It’s to promote a new government-backed service to coach businesses into a growth strategy. I was going to blog from each one, but I’ve decided to do a piece about the whole tour when we wrap up in Bristol on the 22nd of October. There’s more information on the
events page on the Growth Accelerator website.

Drivers Jonas Deloitte Crane Survey 3/10/2012

11 Oct
MT with Simon Bedford of Drivers Jonas Deloitte

MT with Simon Bedford of Drivers Jonas Deloitte

The team at Drivers Jonas Deloitte are ┬ásuper bright. They are very good at spotting trends and very thorough on advocacy for their planning clients. They were desperately keen to present their economic data in a positive light and look for genuine areas of encouragement for the 200 plus people in the property industry on a cold bright morning at the Lowry Hotel. On the day my job was to orchestrate a discussion, but beforehand it was to point them in the right direction and make some staging decisions – they all worked very well.

Simon Bedford, who is pictured with me , is confident and has a very easy delivery style. His colleague Michele Steel hasn’t done as much of this as him. I’m always a bit more impressed by a clever woman presenting well in a male dominated world. I don’t want that to sound in any way patronising – and I know nothing of what it may be like in such a situation. But I thought she was excellent.

As Simon was doing the introductions, it left me with little more to do than a short welcome and point out the safety notices. As I was then hosting a discussion much later it was also an opportunity to get the audience to connect with my personal style. Now, I don’t tell jokes. Nor do I want to try and be overly chummy with my hosts. So, on this occasion I opted to remind everyone that the Borussia Dortmund team was in the hotel and read out a message for any of them that may have stranded into the room in pursuit of a hearty breakfast.

“Willkommen in Manchester, aber du bist im falschen Zimmer.”

Bet you didn’t know I spoke German.