Working at a new venue: Salford City Stadium

14 May


It’s always a bit of a nervous thrill to work on an event at a new venue. Today I hosted a conference for my client the ICAEW at Salford City Stadium. My friend Andrea Wolfendale, the events manager at Insider, has told me she rated it and the facilities were good.

The layout of the long room was with the stage lengthways, which I always prefer. As it is a stadium there is a large frontage to the pitch, just like The Point at Old Trafford cricket ground. It makes for a dynamic backdrop, but the trick is to adjust the blinds to ensure the screens are properly visible. This was very important for this educational conference, which the ICAEW always ensure has good quality supporting material.

There was another aspect to the event worth mentioning, the sound. Having a decent desk is vital, especially when you have speakers who don’t project and need levels adjusting. We could have done with an extra tie mic, but the support from Humphries Audio was first rate.


Talk Social – 8th of February 2013

10 Feb

Talk Social

The panel at the Talk Social event at the Lowry Hotel on the 8th of February, picture by Richard Venables.

I was suitably inspired by Martin Vander Weyer’s turn of verse at the previous event. So, I summed up the morning of debate at the Talk Social event with a rhyme of my own. I hope it gets across something of the day. The hashtag talksocial sums things up very well.

Putting social into talk

There was a bomb alert on Portland Street,

I read that on a GMP Tweet,

It’s the channel they use most round our way,

But it needs to be updated three times a day,

The worst you can do is saying nowt,

Or worse still, kicking the interns out,

When they run your Twitter, or your Facebook page,

They’ll soon use that as an outlet of rage,

But measuring this stuff is an expensive art,

How does CAT translate to the shopping cart?

But if there’s one clear message from here at Dearman’s Walk,

It’s that social media is social, and it’s good to talk.



Interviewing Dr Herbert Loebl 29/5/2012

2 Jun

Dr Herbert Loebl

A few weeks ago I was offered the exciting prospect of interviewing Dr Herbert Loebl at a business event in Newcastle. A legend of the industrial North East, Herbert is much loved and revered by colleagues and associates at Newcastle University Business School.

Now 89 years of age, Dr Loebl founded Joyce, Loebl and Co with Robert Joyce, a fellow graduate in electrical engineering from King’s College, Newcastle (now Newcastle University) and the son of an unemployed Jarrow shipyard worker. Together, Joyce and Loebl started their first company, specialising in electronics and scientific instruments, under a railway arch in Newcastle in 1951 with £200 worth of capital.

Today, there are four companies in the region that grew from the original Joyce, Loebl and Co: Loebl; Sevcon, of Team Valley; Applied Imaging, based at Times Square, Newcastle; and Phasor, based at Sunderland Enterprise Park.

As Herbert is 89 and a little hard of hearing, the format presented some challenges, but I was determined to make it work.

The logistics of getting him there were thoroughly investigated by Claire Turnbull and Lynda Craig from Insider’s fantastic events team – wheelchair access, taxis and seating for example. The breakfast was staged at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, an art gallery and venue and the staff there were terrific.

Before that however I needed to meet Herbert and understand how I could make the stagecraft work. Two weeks beforehand I went for tea with him at his gorgeous house in Gosforth, a smart suburb of Newcastle. I let him talk and worked a few things out. He has a terrific sense of humour and a real charisma, and this was essential to convey. Getting him to speak, especially if he was nervous or unsure, would fall flat, so I talked through some of his life’s highlights with him and had some ideas of how we could make this work.

My idea was to read three extracts from his autobiography – and then ask him for a recollection after each one. I got agreement from his carers – the people who know him best – and sent him the three extracts with the follow-on question. One was about his escape from Nazi Germany, another was about electric cars, the final one was about the ambition of businesses in the industrial North East to export.

It all went really well. He came very prepared, as you’d expect from an experienced engineer, and added some flourishes. What pleased me most though was the esteem and hushed respect people had for him. This was exemplified by the way the other panel members in the discussion that followed kept referring back to the points he had made.

I feel very strongly that we have to respect the views and experiences from the past. Sometimes it is hard work and to do so is inconvenient. This was proof that it’s always worth thinking differently and taking a risk.

The coverage of the event is here, and here.