David Parkin gets turned on to Brexit by Channel 4 and ponders the bear facts of Nookie

David Parkin gets turned on to Brexit by Channel 4 and ponders the bear facts of Nookie

“THAT’S a nice scarf,” said the chap who served me a cup of tea yesterday. “He always looks smart and important,” said my companion. “Yes he looks like the main man, are you his bodyguard?” said the man behind the counter as he gave us our tea. Now given that my companion was Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council, the third largest local authority in the country, I’d imagine he’s had better compliments. Mind you, given my experience recounted in the last blog just before Christmas, perhaps I do need a bodyguard. I was seeing Tom for one of our semi-regular catch-ups. For a busy chief exec he makes a point of keeping tabs of what the business community within the city and region are thinking and his diary is studded with meetings and events which allow him to do that. After a quick tour of Leeds Civic Hall he suggested we pop into the cafe at Leeds Beckett University’s Rose Bowl building next door for a cuppa. Given not all of its students are back from their festive break, the ground floor of the building was a hive of activity. Tom told me that Channel 4 News were holding a Brexit debate on the programme last night to get the views of young people aged 18 to 20 who weren’t old enough to vote in the referendum on the EU but now are of voting age. As we stirred our cups of tea I turned to see a member of the Channel 4 team carefully fixing up a banner with the theme for the discussion:...
David Parkin on a bizarre episode and Dire Straits

David Parkin on a bizarre episode and Dire Straits

YOU can’t spend 20-odd years in journalism without annoying somebody. Being chased by the BNP, receiving death threats from irate football fans and and a warning of legal action from Ken Bates when he was chairman of Leeds United are all experiences which I don’t look back on fondly. But I’ve never been head butted. Until last week. I joined the Progeny Corporate Law team for a Christmas drink in the bar of Sous le Nez in Leeds – I have gatecrashed their festive celebrations so many times that they now invite me. As I walked in I said hello to Phil Taylor of property company Oakapple and the chairman of the annual Firecracker Ball which raises funds for the Barnardo’s charity. I joined the Progeny team for a drink and a chat and about half an hour later I saw Phil walking across the crowded room towards me. I turned to greet him and he mumbled something, I leaned towards him to hear him say: “You slagged off the Firecracker, you slagged off the [expletive deleted] Firecracker Ball.” I then saw his forehead heading towards my face. Phil’s a big man but he’s in bad shape and while I’m not exactly Floyd Mayweather, I was able to pull my head out of the way of his head butt so his head only grazed the bridge of my nose. Mind you, it did inflame a spot which had been developing on my nose, which given its size, doesn’t need anything else to highlight its prominence. My reaction to his antics was neither fear or anger, just shock at such...
David Parkin on Brexit with Biggins and disappointing divas

David Parkin on Brexit with Biggins and disappointing divas

IT seemed bizarrely appropriate that I was discussing Brexit with Christopher Biggins this week. The former I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here winner is appearing in Billy Pearce’s annual show at the Bradford Alhambra this Christmas. And given the pantomime that Brexit has become, talking to one of Britain’s most celebrated panto dames about it didn’t seem odd at all. Biggins has spent the last 40-odd Christmases playing the dame in pantomimes across the UK. He told me his first performance was in Darlington when seats for the show were priced at one shilling and sixpence. We agreed that whatever your politics you can’t help admire the fortitude of Theresa May in the face of flak from all sides. But that doesn’t provide any sticking plaster to the Brexit wound that has seemingly sliced Britain down the middle. Christopher Biggins has been a Tory supporter for years and told me he’s lived in Hackney for three decades thanks to a tip from Margaret Thatcher. Given Harry Redknapp had been proclaimed the King of the Jungle the previous evening, I asked Biggins if, as a previous winner, he had been in demand by the media to comment. “Yes I was due to appear on the TV news but they bumped me because of Brexit,” he said. I know which I would have preferred to watch. Both of us agreed that British politics is a mess so we went back to talking about pantomime. Biggins and I were guests of Andrew Creese and Debbie Dobson from the Dakota Deluxe Hotel in Leeds in their box watching Mariah Carey’s Christmas...
David Parkin enjoys sex in Hollywood and a nice bit of cheese on toast

David Parkin enjoys sex in Hollywood and a nice bit of cheese on toast

YOU may not have heard of Dr Boyd Cooper but you would definitely know the names of some of his patients. The doctor, who has just turned 95-years-old, is one of Hollywood’s most celebrated physicians. In a career covering six decades he had an illustrious following including Liza Minelli, Karen Black and Beverly D’Angelo and despite becoming known as the “gynaecologist to the stars” he was also the personal physician to Marlon Brando, Michael Douglas and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who would fly in from all over the world to see him. The late soul singer Barry White – known as the Walrus of Love – once said that together, his music and Dr Cooper had brought thousands of children into the world. What an accolade! During his practice in the 1970s he wrote a New York Times bestseller called Sex Without Tears which was translated into five languages and after he retired he wrote a memoir of his time as in Tinseltown called Hollywood Between the Stirrups. As well as having Hollywood’s best known residents as his patients, Boyd also treated immigrants for free. Born in Idaho, Boyd Cooper was a highly decorated lead navigator in the US Air Force during World War 2 and on his return home opened a drive-in serving french fries made with potatoes from his home state – which paid for him to go to medical school. As I said, Boyd is now 95 but several years ago decided that his brain needed a bigger challenge, he began writing a poem every day and posting them on Facebook. Now how do I know all this?...
David Parkin hears some great stories and finds the Greatest Showman

David Parkin hears some great stories and finds the Greatest Showman

I WANNA tell you a story. Readers of a certain vintage will recognise this catchphrase of crooner and TV game show host Max Bygraves. Although apparently Singalongamax claimed it was apocryphal and was made up by impressionist Mike Yarwood. Whether it was true for Max Bygraves, it is certainly right for both businesses and individuals today. If you can articulate your story in a way that is engaging, interesting and memorable, then that gives you an advantage. We all grew up listening to stories and even today, you tend to remember information if it is delivered in the form of a story. Storytelling was the one of the themes of the annual conference we organised for fast-growing wealth management and legal group Progeny last week. The phrase ‘fast-growing’ is often used but not always correct. Given Progeny completed one acquisition the evening before their conference and another on the morning of the event, I think it applies in this case. With its main offices in Leeds and London, the group is creating a national footprint. The conference was held at the head office of Dimensional Fund Advisors in London. The presentation space resembled the United Nations or European Parliament, but I’m sure Progeny achieved more in a day than those two organisations. Given the subject was storytelling, I got author Scott Allen to come and speak. He has written two children’s books called Llamas United and Llamas Go Large about a team of footballing camelids who enter the cup and then head to the World Cup. Straight from a two-day tour of London primary schools, Scott brought his llamas...
David Parkin says blame incompetence not the internet for newspapers’ problems

David Parkin says blame incompetence not the internet for newspapers’ problems

JOHNSTON Press, one of the largest newspaper groups in Britain with a stable of 200 titles including the Yorkshire Post, Scotsman and national daily the i, went into administration last week. The management of the business will give you two reasons for why that happened – Google and Facebook. In my opinion the reasons are a lot older than an internet search engine and a social media platform. It is simply down to greed and incompetence. How can you stand still as a business, fail to embrace a strategy for the future and then blame those that have innovated and been entrepreneurial for your demise? The sad thing is, it was all so predictable. Saddled with £220m of debt which needed repaying by next summer, Johnston Press, whose stock market value had plunged to just £3m, had been vainly searching for buyers for its titles. It quickly realised it would never raise enough from the sale of its once prized assets to pay back the US-based hedge fund Goldentree Asset Management which effectively had a vice-like grip on its short and curlies. So late last Friday afternoon it announced it was entering into a pre-pack administration deal and by Monday morning a new business emerged called JPI Media which was now owned by the US bondholders who in return had ditched £135m of the debt, extended the deadline for the repayment of the remaining £85m until December 2023 and pumped £35m of extra funding into the business. All sorted. Lovely jubbly. Of course shareholders got nothing. But then, if, like me, you once held shares in JP and had...
David Parkin takes in the corridors of power, enjoys Arnold’s and gets an indecent proposal

David Parkin takes in the corridors of power, enjoys Arnold’s and gets an indecent proposal

EVEN before yesterday’s dramatic Brexit-related developments in Parliament, there was a slightly feverish feel to the corridors of power at Westminster. You could sense it on Tuesday when I attended the annual Yorkshire and the Humber MP Reception organised by the CBI and Barclays in the Churchill Room at the House of Commons. Given Theresa May was poised to announce her Brexit withdrawal deal, most MPs were at Westminster this week and business people from the region expected to see a bumper turnout at Tuesday’s panel discussion and drinks reception. More than 20 MPs from the region were listed as attending the event but not that many turned up, which, given fast moving situation, was probably not a surprise. We heard from the impressive Rachel Reeves, whose presence on the back benches with Hilary Benn among others are Labour’s loss. She was joined on the panel by Dan Jarvis, who is Labour MP for Barnsley Central and the Mayor of Sheffield City Region and Conservative MP for Shipley, Philip Davies. Harrogate MP Andrew Jones was due to take part but had just been promoted to the recently resigned Jo Johnson’s job. In stepped Martin Vickers, Tory MP for Cleethorpes, who gave an erudite overview of the complexities of the Greater Grimsby Town Plan. Bollards. As the panel discussion came to a close, Beckie Hart, regional director of the CBI in Yorkshire, made her way over to where I was sitting and presented me with a packet of Ryvita complete with the use by date crossed out and “Out of date” scribbled next to it. This clearly was a response...
David Parkin on hard work, wine, Dakota dining and Persimmon pandemonium

David Parkin on hard work, wine, Dakota dining and Persimmon pandemonium

SOMETIMES work just doesn’t seem like work. I’m currently writing a blog about wine for a client and met up with Adam Ketteringham of Corney & Barrow, the 230-year-old wine merchant which holds Royal Warrants as wine supplier to the Queen and the Prince of Wales. Adam, who used to be a restaurateur and has a wealth of knowledge about wine, kindly invited me to join him at a Meet the Winemaker Dinner with Californian producer Cakebread Cellars at The Pheasant Hotel in Harome in North Yorkshire. Well, there’s worse things to do on a Tuesday evening in November. And I was intrigued to meet exotically-named winemaker Bruce Cakebread. I’ve only ever visited Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred restaurant The Star at Harome once and had heard great things about The Pheasant, just down the road in the picturesque village near the market town of Helmsley. Opened several years ago by Andrew Pern and his wife Jacquie, following the couple’s divorce the Pheasant is now run by her and chef Peter Neville. Overlooking the village duckpond, The Pheasant is a warm and welcoming destination – especially with Bruce’s wines laid out in the candlelit conservatory. Cakebread Cellars was launched in the early 1970s when Bruce’s parents, Jack and Dolores Cakebread bought a small ranch in Napa Valley, California and planted some vines. With 40-odd harvests now under their belt, the couple’s sons Bruce and Dennis now run the winery and Cakebread wine is one of the most successful in America and exports its vino across the world. Jack Cakebread is now Chairman Emeritus of the family wine business while his wife...
David Parkin on knockout screen success from Leeds and party pooping

David Parkin on knockout screen success from Leeds and party pooping

A COUPLE of years ago my old chairman from TheBusinessDesk.com, Chris Jones, introduced me to a talented filmmaker called Nick Ryle who was seeking funding for his next project. On the back of producing the critically acclaimed film ‘Being AP’, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about legendary jump jockey Sir Tony McCoy, Nick and his colleagues from Moneyglass Films wanted to tell another story about a remarkable sportsman. They had agreed unprecedented access to Leeds-born featherweight boxing contender Josh Warrington and wanted to produce a film following his progress to a potential world title fight in his home city. Nick told me that ‘Fighting For A City’ would contrast the fortunes of Leeds United fan Warrington with the challenges faced by his football team in recent years and the gritty reality of the inner city estates often hidden by the shiny success of a fast growing northern city. As a journalist I loved the story and the contrasts it presented and Nick outlined how the film would culminate with Josh winning the world title in front of 20,000 of his adoring supporters on the pitch at Elland Road. It sounded great and I said I would speak to some contacts who might be interested in investing in the film. While ‘Being AP’ has been broadcast on mainstream terrestrial TV, these days film makers are looking to get their features on platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as lucrative placements as in-flight entertainment on aeroplanes. The potential investors I spoke to agreed it was a great story but they pointed out that Warrington was unlikely to win a world title...
David Parkin enjoys a day out with a moody bird and a good slap and welcomes another event ban

David Parkin enjoys a day out with a moody bird and a good slap and welcomes another event ban

WHEN you put on the biggest agricultural show in Britain every summer, it must be difficult to find things to do in between times. But the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, whose Great Yorkshire Show is a three-day annual extravaganza every July, has created its smaller sibling in Countryside Live. The event takes place at the same venue in Harrogate and attracted more than 11,000 visitors over two days at the weekend. There were plenty of stalls selling arts, crafts, food and clothing, and appearances from Yorkshire Vet Peter Wright and shepherdess Amanda Owen and for the farming community there were also competitions for a variety of animals including cattle, pigs, poultry and sheep. The marquee housing the cattle show was packed with spectators watching several large beasts being paraded around the ring while a stocky man with mutton chop whiskers circled the cows squinting intently at them. He was judge Wilson Peters (his name sounds like a firm of agricultural machinery auctioneers) and occasionally he slapped them on their hind quarters – I once saw that happen in Purple Door but the individual was swiftly defenestrated from the networking venue. Celebrations ensued when, with a final slap, Wilson Peters signalled that a British Limousin heifer called Midnight Star from Pickering had won the Supreme Champion Beef Beast title. Overcome by the bovine jubilation, I wandered out of the tent towards a birds of prey demonstration where a handler was explaining the challenges she had to overcome with a Tawny Owl called Colin. Apparently Colin can be difficult, moody and doesn’t have a great deal of success with the ladies. I...