David Parkin on an amazing Sky experience, Where’s Wally and meeting the Ant and Dec of business

David Parkin on an amazing Sky experience, Where’s Wally and meeting the Ant and Dec of business

THOSE who watch Game of Thrones will look at the photograph above and think: “At last, a strong, stable ruler who everyone can look up to has united the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and ascended to the Iron Throne.” And those who don’t are thinking: “What’s that tosser pratting about at now?” Well fans of Game of Thrones are probably thinking that too. The Iron Throne, the centrepiece of HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones series, was one of the stars of the show at an event held by broadcasting and telecommunications giant Sky at Leeds Arena this week. We were involved in organising the day-long conference for 3,000 staff who work in its Home Service division – fitting dishes, broadband and wi-fi. It was a fantastic opportunity to work on a big, exciting project, although slightly daunting given it was the largest event Sky has ever put on in its 28 year history. But my colleague Liz Theakston is a logistical genius who has masterminded a number of major events and ensured that this one was a huge success. I did what I was told and also tried to inject a little humour to help relieve any pressure. Although Liz didn’t laugh when I suggested that ever since she’d been given a walkie-talkie the power had gone to her head and she’d “gone a bit Cersei Lannister”. Unless you watch Game of Thrones, or GoT as it’s known, you won’t know what I’m on about. The ambitious project was the brainchild of Carla Stockton-Jones, Sky’s director of Home Service who loved bringing an event of this magnitude to her...
David Parkin on bubbly with Bublé, D-Day tributes and Harry Gration gets the horn

David Parkin on bubbly with Bublé, D-Day tributes and Harry Gration gets the horn

“YOU can’t beat a bit of Bublé,” said Debbie Dobson of Dakota Deluxe Hotel. Or DD from DD as I know her. I don’t mind Michael Bublé but I’ve only ever heard his stuff on the the radio or on CD, I’ve never really seen him performing. So I was delighted to accept an invite to join Debbie and guests in the Dakota box for Bublé’s performance at the first direct Leeds Arena on Monday. I think I needed the bubbly on offer before the performance given that I walked into a conversation between Leeds United fan Alan Syers of property group Evans and club legend Tony Dorigo. They didn’t seem very sympathetic that Leeds United’s play-off conquerors were beaten by Aston Villa at Wembley. I munched on a canape and tried to sound magnanimous. That’s difficult through gritted teeth. While Leeds United might not be in the Premier League yet, they certainly have Premier League hospitality thanks to Debbie Dobson, who hosts guests in the chairman’s lounge at matches at Elland Road when she’s not doing her day job as director of sales at the Dakota Deluxe. It is one of the reasons why she has been shortlisted for the People’s Choice Award at the Leeds Hotels & Venues Association annual awards later this month. Anyway it was then off to the arena for a sold out performance in front of an audience of 12,500 people. Backed by a 35-piece orchestra and three singers, Bublé performed for two hours non-stop. Take a touch of Frank Sinatra, sprinkle in a soupçon of Elvis, Dean Martin, Louis Prima and Bobby...
David Parkin on the demise of Filmore & Union and busking success

David Parkin on the demise of Filmore & Union and busking success

FAREWELL then Filmore & Union. The cafe chain, which has expanded rapidly across the North of England, disappeared even quicker, going into administration last Friday. Around 80 jobs were lost after joint administrators Phil Pierce and Paul Whitwam of FRP Advisory closed seven outlets including those in Harrogate, Skipton and York as well as the head office in Wetherby. However they concluded a pre-pack deal to save around 150 jobs with the sale of nine sites and the production kitchen in Wetherby to Coffeesmiths Collective. It looks likely that the Filmore & Union brand will survive given that the new owner is a US group which calls itself “a family of specialty coffee shops and coffee companies based in the United States and the United Kingdom”. Its strategy is both to roll out its own outlets under the flagship Department of Coffee & Social Affairs brand and to acquire others, which in the UK include La Bottega Milanese, Cafe2U, Bea’s of Bloomsbury and, most recently, picking up the Baker & Spice chain in London after the collapse of Patisserie Valerie. Its coffee shops in the US operate under some memorable names including Dollop, The Wormhole, Halfwit Coffee Roasters and Chicago Grind. I’m not sure I’d be a regular at that last one, it would put me right off my sticky bun. So Filmore & Union lives on, although the Harrogate crowd – businessmen in body warmers and red trousers and yummy mummies in sports gear and Range Rovers – will have to find somewhere else to get their skinny lattes and gluten free granola as both outlets in the...

David Parkin on a corner of Yorkshire in London, the tears of a clown and celebrity gossip

THE big news of the week comes from the Chelsea Flower Show…where Welcome to Yorkshire’s commercial director Peter Dodd was pictured wearing a tie for the first time in living memory. I thought Peter wouldn’t even wear a tie to a wedding. Given he has been lobbying me to get hitched for some time, may be I’ll get to find out one day. The actual big news was that Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden at the annual Chelsea Flower Show was awarded a gold medal and received thousands of visitors including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (despite her designing a rival garden at the blue riband show), Joan Collins and Philip Schofield. I think the Krankies tried to get a photo standing on the lock gates but security managed to stop them. Since Welcome to Yorkshire first went to Chelsea a decade ago its gardens have won plaudits and medals every year so another gong this year is no surprise. But it is a welcome shot of good news for the tourism organisation after a tough few months in which its long-serving chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned amid accusations of bullying and misuse of expenses. Welcome to Yorkshire has set up two independent inquiries into the allegations and while many people have been supportive of the organisation, there has been something of a feeding frenzy by those who either have a beef with it or its former boss. If nothing else, the success of Welcome to Yorkshire’s garden at Chelsea gives the lie to the half-baked claims of some that the tourism body is just about cycling. If...
David Parkin on a winning combination, the earthy reality of football and finding Lord Lucan

David Parkin on a winning combination, the earthy reality of football and finding Lord Lucan

THE first race meeting of the year at York is always my favourite. The Dante meeting in mid May is a highlight for its high quality racing. It is busy but never the bunfight you have during the Ebor Festival in August so you can achieve some quality networking. Throw in the warm, sunny weather this week and I bet the Knavesmire has looked serene. I’m guessing of course, because I’ve not been at York Races this week as I’ve been working. The closest I got was compering an export seminar at an accountants offices in Monks Cross yesterday. I know you have got some sympathy for my plight and, I agree, I really need to sort my priorities out. So in the meantime it was lovely to receive an invitation from long-time contact and friend Mandy Taylor. Mandy is a very successful charity fundraiser and consummate networker who I first met at Huddersfield Town. She is currently working with Leeds Italian restaurant Bibis and is behind an event that the city dining institution is holding to raise money for the Maggie’s Yorkshire cancer charity. Bibis Italianissimo is holding a Royal Ascot Ladies Day event next month, bringing “an Italian touch to a quintessentially English event”. On Thursday, June 20th Bibis promises to bring the fun, finesse, glitz and glamour of Royal Ascot to Leeds. Fun, finesses, glitz and glamour – I suppose that’s why I’ve been invited. It’s amazing how much you can fit in to a small package. Leave it, dear. Guests are invited to Bibis for prosecco and canapes before taking a seat and enjoying a...
David Parkin on blowing your own horn and retail rot

David Parkin on blowing your own horn and retail rot

NO there won’t be a caption competition for the photograph above. When I was a journalist we used to love having an unusual picture to accompany the story. When you are one of the subjects in the photo and the photographer has just handed you a horn and told you to smile at the camera, then you are probably entitled to some doubts. But Simon Dewhurst is a talented and very likeable individual who I have known for many years and we were taking the photograph at last night’s Lord’s Taverners Balloon Debate which raised thousands of pounds for a very worthy charity. And the horn is a vital part of the Balloon Debate – my colleague Liz Theakston times the speeches of each of the four speakers and honks it with gusto when they reach their time limit. Given guests were arriving at the venue at New Dock Hall at the Royal Armouries just when we were doing the photos, I got a bit of gip from off camera. “Ooh, I can’t wait to suggest a caption for that,” said Jason Taylor of Orchard Facilities Management. I got my own back during my introduction on stage when I warned our speakers that Jason is fond of a selfie with celebrities – and put up the photo of him with a scowling Roy Keane that I used in my blog a few weeks ago. One of the biggest challenges for a charity event is for it to capture the attention and hearts of attendees. Lord’s Taverners Yorkshire chairman Jeremy Thomas, a corporate financier at Deloitte, did that with a...
David Parkin on the legacy of a local hero and feeling like a million dollars

David Parkin on the legacy of a local hero and feeling like a million dollars

FAREWELL then Keith Tate. I read a short obituary in the Yorkshire Post a couple of weeks ago about a boxing trainer I met 30 years ago and memories came flooding back. When I was a teenage student at Huddersfield Polytechnic (it turned into a university just in time for me to collect my degree) I fancied myself as a bit of a boxer. With a grandfather who boxed in the final of the 1932 ABA Championships and went on to become European Police Middleweight Champion in 1937, I believed I had something of a pugilistic pedigree. So off I went to Dewsbury Amateur Boxing Club – two temporary buildings next to the railway station in the town at the centre of the Heavy Woollen District. The club was run by Keith Tate, a stocky flat-nosed one-time flyweight boxer who won numerous amateur titles and defeated future world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan before turning professional as a bantamweight. But it was as a trainer of amateur boxers that Keith really made his name, establishing the Cleckheaton Boxing Academy in 1975 and running it alongside his wife Sally for 40 years. Keith’s gyms produced a host of national boxing champions as amateurs and many went on to great success as professionals including  the British super featherweight Gary ‘Five Star’ Sykes and three world champions, Mark ‘Hobbo’ Hobson, ‘Super’ Steven Conway and James ‘Roberttown Rocket’ Hare who was an upcoming schoolboy boxer when I used to train at Keith’s gym. Well I say train, Keith used to get me to skip in a corner after a couple of unsuccessful sparring sessions....
David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

David Parkin on a supermarket sweep, rebels without a clue and judge cred

THE only people who seem surprised by the Competition and Markets Authority ruling out Asda’s merger with Sainsbury’s are the people running the two supermarkets. The CMA announced its decision yesterday saying it believed the deal to create Britain’s biggest supermarket – accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries – would raise prices for consumers. Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe, who had effectively gambled his future on getting this deal done, hit out angrily saying that the regulator was “effectively taking £1bn out of customers’ pockets”. His Asda counterpart, Roger Burnley, was a little more measured: “”We were right to explore the potential merger with Sainsbury’s, which would have delivered great benefits for customers and supported the long term, sustainable success of our business.” That’s the point. Both supermarkets have been struggling to deal with the rise of the discounters like Aldi and Lidl and the steady improvements in trading at Morrisons and Tesco. They might have dressed this deal up as a good one for shoppers but they needed it to fix the flaws in their businesses. The CMA might have felt it wouldn’t benefit consumers, but imagine the leverage it would have given the combined group over suppliers. I’ve seen the ruthlessness with which Asda despatches its own staff when it needs to cut costs, so suppliers would have been squeezed on prices like never before. So what now? Well perhaps Sainsbury’s and Asda will focus on retailing. I suspect the effort put in to trying to get this deal done has diverted valuable management time away from the day-to-day business of running shops. In the...
David Parkin on why bottom of the league are top of the class, a hardy perennial blossoms at the Masters and getting hits with the ghoulies

David Parkin on why bottom of the league are top of the class, a hardy perennial blossoms at the Masters and getting hits with the ghoulies

IF my host at last Saturday’s match between Huddersfield Town and Leicester City had invited me to make himself feel better, then he didn’t mention it. The West Yorkshire club were playing their first game since their relegation from the Premier League was confirmed by a 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace the week before. Their lowly points tally and number of goals scored makes the Terriers one of the worst teams in Premier League history. But not the worst. That was my team, Derby County, who were relegated with just 11 points in 2008. But my host, Jason Taylor, commercial director at Orchard, the facilities management and energy group, and other Huddersfield fans and officials I met at the John Smith’s Stadium were far too nice to mention it. They have had some time to come to terms with relegation during their second season back in the top flight. But that doesn’t make it any easier. So I was delighted that conversation around our table over lunch in the White Rose Club centred on the best pie shop in Wakefield rather than a forensic study of either of our football clubs’ recent fortunes. When it comes to pies, Andy Needham of Approved Foods, Britain’s largest online retailer of clearance food and drink, is an aficionado. Football is a funny old game, as dear old Jimmy Greaves used to say. Fans often enjoy the misfortunes of their closest rivals almost as much as they do the success of their own team. And I’ve always found it a bit odd that certain rules apply in the sport that don’t quite work...
David Parkin on the future of Welcome to Yorkshire and rocking the boat

David Parkin on the future of Welcome to Yorkshire and rocking the boat

DEPENDING on your viewpoint, the scheduling of Welcome to Yorkshire’s annual Y19 conference this week came at the worst, or the best, possible time. Chief executive Sir Gary Verity resigned on health grounds two weeks ago from the role he had held for a decade. He left after concerns were raised over his behaviour towards staff and his expenses. Subsequent reports in the media speculated over the size and details of those expense claims and featured interviews with at least two of his former personal assistants criticising his behaviour. If the Welcome to Yorkshire board hoped that Sir Gary’s abrupt departure would allow the organisation to move on quickly, the furore that followed quickly dispelled that notion. This week, the day before Y19, Welcome to Yorkshire’s board announced two independent investigations into Sir Gary’s expenses and behaviour since his appointment in 2008. Those investigations will aim to establish the facts from the speculation and gossip swirling around his departure. At this stage, the only thing I can say with some certainty is that it seems Sir Gary went through personal assistants at an even faster rate than former Leeds United chairman Massimo Cellino went through managers. On Wednesday the team he once led at Welcome to Yorkshire were faced with delivering their annual showcase event on the 10th anniversary of the organisation’s launch at a time when it was making headlines for reasons other than tourism success. I think we’d all agree that’s a tough job. But I think Y19 came at the right time. Amid all the speculation and schadenfreude perhaps what was getting forgotten was the incredible...