David Parkin breaks new ground, ponders a Boris bridge and competes with panto royalty

David Parkin breaks new ground, ponders a Boris bridge and competes with panto royalty

IF you are looking for inspiration, ambition, fortitude, hope and positivity, then a muddy patch of grass next to a multi-storey car park on a chilly Monday morning in January is a strange place to find it. But I found all that and more at the ground-breaking event for the new Maggie’s Yorkshire cancer centre at St James’ Hospital in Leeds this week. I’m lucky to be on the campaign board helping raise the money for the new centre, which will help and support cancer sufferers and their families. Led by Martin Jenkins, the former head of Deloitte in Yorkshire and the North East who has recently joined vehicle leasing business Zenith, the fundraising has already reached over £5m towards a target of £6m, Work began this week on building the centre, a beautifully designed building by renowned architects Heatherwick Studio. How this oasis of support, calm and warmth will be wedged into the sloping grassy triangle in front of the hospital’s Bexley cancer wing will be a triumph of design and engineering acumen. As much as Maggie’s Yorkshire will look good, it is the support it will provide that will be its biggest triumph. My role at the ground-breaking ceremony was to introduce the key speakers, including Martin and Linda Pollard CBE, chair of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – who greeted me with the words” “Hello trouble!” Also speaking at the event were Rebeca Ramos from Heatherwick Studio, who told the audience how the firm had developed its vision for Maggie’s Yorkshire. The building, she said, had been designed so it felt like it was giving...
David Parkin on a new self-help app, the magic of Ryan Giggs and keeping cheery on Blue Monday

David Parkin on a new self-help app, the magic of Ryan Giggs and keeping cheery on Blue Monday

THIS week started with Blue Monday, the day which is said to be the most depressing of the year. I’m not sure why, but I suppose if you are going to dub a particular day the worst of the year, then a bleak and chilly Monday in January is a pretty safe bet. I’m sure experts would frown at such a marketing creation as Blue Monday. What is positive is that mental health issues are rightly now becoming more important to employers. And with the backing of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, it is something more people are prepared to talk about. Mental health issues cost the UK an estimated £70bn in lost productivity, benefit payments and healthcare expenditure, according to the OECD. So it was interesting to read about a new initiative from Yorkshire businesswoman Joanne Wilkinson. Jo is the founder of My Possible Self which has created a digital self-help programme to support employees. Her daughters Hana and Fleur are also directors of the business and have designed an innovative new app. The app uses content from the world-renowned Black Dog Institute in Australia which is clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression in eight weeks. It comes as Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered employers to better support those with mental ill health and said “more needs to be done”. My Possible Self is designed to be used as an early intervention tool, preventing symptoms escalating into more serious health problems. My Possible Self is engaging with corporates to discuss how the programme can help employees with stress, anxiety and...
David Parkin on supermarket success and a hairy time for dealmakers

David Parkin on supermarket success and a hairy time for dealmakers

WHEN I had a pop at Asda’s failings last year I contrasted its performance to that of fellow Yorkshire supermarket Morrisons. Under chief executive David Potts, Morriebobs, as it is sometimes affectionately called by shoppers, is getting back to the glory days it had when run by the late Sir Ken Morrison. Potts is a retailer who is looking to keep prices low, improve the way staff deal with customers and get more goods on the shelves that people want to buy. Simples. As a meerkat I know often says. But it is amazing how sometimes the weight of responsibility of running a big firm often clouds the judgement of those at the top. A bit like turning an oil tanker in a rough sea, they don’t act until it is far too late. Potts’ back to basics approach helped Morrisons deliver a 2.8% increase in like-for-like retail sales over the six weeks to January 7 whilst also keeping prices down where they were last year despite inflation. The Potts’ approach isn’t rocket science, just the same thing that helped Sir Ken transform his mum’s egg and butter stall on Bradford market and turn it into Britain’s fourth biggest grocery chain. But David Potts’ predecessors couldn’t do it and all the evidence points to successive bosses at Asda struggling to embrace the approach too. Unlike it’s rivals like Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, Asda is not listed on the London Stock Exchange, it is owned by the world’s biggest retailer, American monolith Walmart. That means it doesn’t have to announce detailed Christmas trading figures. In the past I remember it...
David Parkin looks to banish the January blues

David Parkin looks to banish the January blues

FOR the first time in years I went to a pantomime at Christmas. No I’m not going to say it. OK I will. Oh yes I did. Sleeping Beauty at the Woodville Theatre in Gravesend. A host of theatrical greats were in the cast. Well, Linda Lusardi and 90s girl group Cleopatra (Comin’ Atcha!). The 12-year-old daughter of friends was a dancer in the show which was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon during that odd time between Christmas and New Year. In fact, Andy Green, who featured in my last blog, came up with a name for those few days at the end of December – Twixtmas. Andy encouraged one and all to celebrate Twixtmas but I don’t think it caught on. Back to the panto and the dame was a character called Nanny who did a great impression of Donald Trump. It is always easy to laugh at a large, loud, orange buffoon who makes ridiculous comments. As long as they are on stage in panto and not in the Oval Office. ::: AFTER the show we headed back to my friends’ house and over dinner their nine-year-old son produced his favourite Christmas present, a 2018 Guinness Book of Records. Having heard his sister tell us of her conversations with Linda Lusardi and Cleopatra, I was keen to underline my celebrity friend credentials and searched in vain in the book for a listing for Ed Wood, who last year, you may remember, broke the record for the fastest time to visit all English football stadiums. I frantically fired off a text to Ed and received...