David Parkin freezes in London, blows up a balloon in Leeds and runs out of words

David Parkin freezes in London, blows up a balloon in Leeds and runs out of words

A TRIP to London last weekend underlined the gulf that now exists between certain parts of the capital and the rest of the country. Spend some time walking the streets of Knightsbridge, Mayfair or Kensington and you see plenty of examples of what now makes modern London. From Kazakh billionaires sipping Coca-cola at a pavement cafe near Harrods to well groomed hedge fund managers unloading Louis Vuitton luggage from their supercars outside a gleaming hotel, parts of London now have more in common with Manhattan, Moscow or Milan than boroughs down the road. If you go shopping in Mayfair or St James then you would certainly struggle to buy a newspaper or some chewing gum amid the luxury fashion boutiques, cigar and wine merchants and yacht brokers. We stayed at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel which is opposite Gloucester Road tube, straight down the Piccadilly line from King’s Cross Station. Not just well situated, the hotel is well run and welcoming and a great base for a visitor to the capital. I felt at home as soon as I arrived, but it also helped that on leaving the hotel to explore the stunning squares and mews nearby I heard the shout of: “Parky!” and was embraced by a bloke on a mobile phone on the steps of a nearby restaurant. It was Simon Padgett, one of the original investors in TheBusinessDesk.com. Wandering the streets you can sample a myriad of eclectic cuisine including nitrogen ice cream, which is flash-frozen at -198 degrees centigrade by liquid nitrogen smoke and, I’m assured, the only way one should now eat a molecular frozen...
David Parkin on losing Len, veterans in Vegas and Yorkshire on TV

David Parkin on losing Len, veterans in Vegas and Yorkshire on TV

WARM, intelligent, generous, thoughtful and honest, Len Tingle had these and many more qualities. A top class journalist and broadcaster, Len died this week after a year long fight with stomach cancer. Len, 63, who lived in Huddersfield but was brought up in Cudworth near Barnsley, was a familiar face on Look North and Sunday Politics. His television career began at Central TV in 1981, before joining the BBC in 1989 as a business presenter in London. He moved to Leeds as business and industry correspondent before taking up the role of political editor in 2001. I first met him when I arrived at the Yorkshire Post in 2000 and we would often see each other at business events or take part in ‘meet the media’ panels. Then he moved on to political reporting and I saw him less but it was always a highlight to bump into him. He was a regular reader of my blogs – something I took as a huge compliment – but it was Len who used to lavish the praise. In February he dropped me a line to say how much he enjoyed the blog, said he was glad to see I was doing well and ended his email with the words: “Couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke.” Coming from Len that really meant something. I suggested we catch up over a cuppa in the near future. He replied with even more kind words: “What a great story about the student you helped break into the video journalism business. I’ve tried to keep in touch with all the work experience students who have...
David Parkin on Carol Vorderman, the bard of Bardsey and a swinging sensation

David Parkin on Carol Vorderman, the bard of Bardsey and a swinging sensation

IF you asked most people 30 years ago to explain what “equity release” was, they almost certainly couldn’t. In fact the phrase probably hadn’t even been invented then. But a bit like social media it is a product of the way we live today and there can’t be many people over 50 who don’t now know about equity release. Yorkshire firm Age Partnership has capitalised on this successfully and is now a key player in the market providing loans to homeowners against the equity they have tied up in their property. This week Age Partnership announced it is to create 40 jobs on the back of a tie-up with financial services giant SunLife and plans to take on up to 200 new staff this year. The Leeds-based company was founded by serial entrepreneur Andrew Thirkill, who once told me started his career in the advertising department of the Yorkshire Post. His business interests include Age Partnership’s sister company Pure Retirement, which provides home loan mortgage contracts for the equity release market and which was recently named the fastest growing business in Yorkshire in law firm Ward Hadaway’s Fastest 50 Awards. Announcing the deal with SunLife, he said: “With the rise in house prices over the last 20-years, a significant number of over 55s are now sitting on a large amount of property equity which they can release to enjoy in their retirement years.” The chief executive of SunLife Dean Lamble added: “We’ve conducted the biggest-ever research into life after 50, with 50,000 people, and we’ve found that today, life after 50 means taking up new hobbies, trying new experiences,...
David Parkin on failing a taste test and seeing Yorkshire in all its glory

David Parkin on failing a taste test and seeing Yorkshire in all its glory

“NO, no, no. You don’t do it like that!” All I was doing was posing with a tea cup for a photograph. But it was in the tea tasting room at world renowned Yorkshire tea and coffee maker Taylors. And, according to Mo, one of the firm’s seven-strong tasting team, I had picked up the vessel used to strain the tea, not a cup that you drink it out of. Given I was taking part in a photo shoot ahead of an Export Exchange event I was hosting at Taylor’s Harrogate factory, things didn’t have to be totally correct did they? Oh yes they did, Mo informed us. “And you need some proper branding in there, I’ll get the cups with our logo on and we’ll get some proper Yorkshire Tea in the picture too.” I looked at Gary Neild, Taylor’s international director, who, it seemed, had decided on my approach – discretion should be the better part of valour. Mo returned to the tasting room with the props and the picture, I think we all agreed, well certainly in Mo’s hearing, was all the better for them. Quite frankly, I felt I was lucky to get in to the place, given all visitors had been informed before arrival that it was a “nut free site”. Out of the tasting room and back up to the seminar room to kick off the morning event which was focused on what routes to market fledgling exporters should consider before taking the plunge on the international stage. With the fall in the value of sterling fuelling a growth in overseas demand for...
David Parkin on the business of food and drink and being tickled by Doddy

David Parkin on the business of food and drink and being tickled by Doddy

THE most interesting thing about meeting an entrepreneur is learning what inspired them to start out in business and what challenges they faced. Self doubt, inexperience, lack of funding, challenges with cashflow are oft quoted examples of hurdles faced by those who embark along the hazardous path of launching their own venture. Razan and Raghid Alsous’s story started with a bigger challenge. They and their three children arrived in Britain in 2012 to escape the war in their native Syria. They settled in Yorkshire but despite Raghid running a manufacturing business that employed 22 people in Damascus and Razan having a pharmacy degree and scientific background, they struggled to find work. That led to them starting Yorkshire Dama Cheese – which makes Syrian squeaky cheese – like Halloumi cheese – using high quality British milk. The business was launched in June 2014 with a start-up loan of just £2,500 – that was the largest amount they could borrow because they then weren’t British citizens – and it now produces a wide range of products that have won 17 awards. The couple were two of the inspiring entrepreneurs who took part in Woodrow Mercer Finance’s The Business of Food and Drink event which my company, COPA, put on at the Mans Market restaurant in Leeds this week. The capacity audience of more than 100 business people listened in silence as Raghid said: “It was quite difficult for us. I would like everyone here to think about what it would be like if you went home after this event tonight and you were told you had to leave your home by...
David Parkin on doing things right in business, making networking deliver and sporting winners and a loser

David Parkin on doing things right in business, making networking deliver and sporting winners and a loser

THE youth of today. Every generation throws their hands to the heavens and always says things were “better in my day”. I’ve never been a subscriber to that approach. Having interviewed and employed lots of young people, I’m continually impressed by the communication skills, maturity, enthusiasm and tenacity that so many of them display in a world where the challenges of getting a job, never mind forging a career, are ever greater. I often think back to what I was like as a raw graduate looking for a job and I don’t really think I had many of the skills that today’s generation are equipped with. On top of the ability to speak, write and engage face-to-face, young people today have to master the ability to communicate electronically and via social media. It is an ever-increasing minefield – put a foot wrong and you are held up to public ridicule in a way that never happened in the past. Well, not since medieval times when they put offenders in the stocks and pelted them with rotten veg. There is a tendency for people to communicate via email and text – rather than face to face or even by phone. And younger people clearly prefer that. You can call me old fashioned if you like, but there are times when only a face to face conversation will do. Like when you resign from a job. If you decide to move on from one role to another then I think your employer, the person who has been paying you, deserves to be told that. You have to go in to see...
David Parkin warms his cockles with a kangaroo and lunches like a lounge lizard

David Parkin warms his cockles with a kangaroo and lunches like a lounge lizard

HAS the picture above warmed you up on a snowy March morning? I almost used it in the blog last week as it was the last Friday in February and I figured that by the time March arrived we would be heading into spring at full speed. And then the Beast from the East blew in – no not John Prescott – and winter took hold this week with a bite not seen for several years. So you might welcome the warmth of the fascinating photograph above – I don’t know about you but when my chillblains are chirping I do quite fancy the idea of cuddling a kangaroo. Although this week my brush with nature actually involved rescuing a robin which had crash landed under my car after hitting the vehicle in front. If this column was being edited I would have been warned about over-use of alliteration. Editor, schmeditor. Anyway, what was I on about? Oh, yes, Australia. Yes, really. Before Christmas I got a message out of the blue from Darryl Newby, who, when I first met him was a student on a film and television studies degree at Trinity and All Saints College in Leeds. I was running TheBusinessDesk.com and, aware we needed to add some video content to the website, rang the local college to see if they could recommend a student who would film interviews and events for us. Darryl was duly despatched (sorry, I’ll alleviate the alliteration now) and he came to the office for a chat. Originally from Scarborough, he had a haircut like David Beckham and the conversational skills to...
David Parkin on hipsters in Halifax, Prince Naseem boxing clever and discovering a surprising lookalike

David Parkin on hipsters in Halifax, Prince Naseem boxing clever and discovering a surprising lookalike

IT’S official! That definitive guide to all things trendy, The Guardian, has declared that Halifax is the ‘Shoreditch of the North’. In my younger days The Guardian was the newspaper read by Birkenstock-wearing teachers and social workers and certainly couldn’t be termed trendy. Nowadays it is popular with those who work in the arts, media and politics. It’s dating service is very popular and a friend of mine who lives in London met his now wife on it. I once considered the Guardian Soulmates dating site but I had concerns about the foot hygiene of potential matches. Anyway, back to Halifax and its newly-declared status as the hipster capital of Northern England. I wonder how many people who live in the Calderdale town welcome this trendy title? Not that many, I suspect. If you’ve visited Shoreditch in recent years it has undergone something of a gentrification from a working class area in East London to a trendy hub for digital and technology businesses. You can’t move for long beards, carefully-crafted lop-sided slicked haircuts, tattoos, check shirts and tight jeans. They all think they have an individual look and I’d compliment them on that if they didn’t all look the same. As you might expect, a myriad of coffee bars, rum shacks and street food kitchens have sprung up to serve this hipster community in the Borough of Hackney. But it didn’t all happen overnight and it will take some time for Halifax to undergo its renaissance into a Northern hipster hub. In the meantime make the most of a visit to what is an attractive, down-to-earth town with the...
David Parkin finds out why all the world is a stage and ponders his demise

David Parkin finds out why all the world is a stage and ponders his demise

ONE of our most celebrated Shakespearean actors was the rather surprise guest speaker at last week’s Harrogate Business Lunch. Simon Callow followed in the footsteps of entertaining and inspiring raconteurs including Brian Blessed, Sir Matthew Pinsent…and Barry from Eastenders. Mind you, I don’t think anyone else could get the reaction he did just by shouting: “Janine!” I mentioned a couple of months ago how I had been invited to the lunch by Philip Jordan, corporate partner at law firm Ward Hadaway. At the time I misheard who the guest speaker was and thought it was X Factor guru Simon Cowell, which Phil didn’t appreciate as he is a big fan of Simon Callow’s work. I have to say I didn’t realise Phil had a theatrical bent, but then given he is from Hull I’d imagine he’s kept it hidden for years. Perhaps expecting lots of ‘luvvie’ stories from the stage, I went along to the Pavilions in Harrogate not expecting much. But Simon Callow was hugely entertaining with a dry, self-deprecating sense of humour and, clearly, an appreciation of the earthier elements of British TV and theatre. Not much of an academic, his career in the theatre began when he blagged a job working in the box office at the Old Vic theatre after writing a fan letter to Sir Laurence Olivier who was artistic director of the National Theatre. Inspired by what he saw on the stage at the Old Vic, he went on to become an actor, but told the audience that his early memories were not of treading the boards rubbing shoulders with our great thespians....
David Parkin on a reality rocket, the business of food and drink and Victoria’s secret

David Parkin on a reality rocket, the business of food and drink and Victoria’s secret

HOW times have changed. In my youth, if you were told that an exotically-named billionaire was planning to launch a rocket to the moon that was twice as powerful as anything sent before it into space, you’d have probably thought it was the fantastical plot of the next James Bond film starring Roger Moore. But 1970s fantasy became millennial reality this week when American entrepreneur Elon Musk launched his rocket, the Falcon Heavy into space. Not only that but the rocket – which is capable of carrying a payload of 64 tonnes, equivalent to five double-decker buses – was carrying Musk’s own red Tesla sports car (he is the founder of the electric car manufacturer) with a space-suited mannequin at the wheel and David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing on a loop on the car’s stereo. In the future it is said that the Falcon Heavy could transport bigger satellites and take large robots to the surface of Mars and other planets such as Saturn and Jupiter and their moons. Now the rocket is in orbit above the Earth, Nasa has officially designated the California-built cherry red Tesla it is carrying and its dummy driver as a “celestial object”. Even Ian Fleming wouldn’t have pushed his luck with a plot like that. In the 1979 film Moonraker James Bond is sent to investigate the theft of a space shuttle which leads him to Hugo Drax, who manufactured the shuttle and harbours a plan to wipe out the world’s population and recreate humanity with a master race on the moon. I don’t think I’m ruining the story for you if I...