Friday, 24 October 2008

Leeds and points North

Hearing that great national treasure, Alan Bennett, on Today this morning was apposite as I was about to jump on the train for Leeds and our ACEVO North office.

We are having the ACEVO North office opening - complete with opera singers and old friend Hilary Benn MP. This is the second launch event. Last week we opened in the North East with a jam packed event in Newcastle. Indeed the Newcastle launch was carried on regional radio and media outlets including a great piece in the Newcastle Journal - and 20 new members joined on the day so I guess the combined effect of Hilary Armstrong and the inimitable Dr Kyle worked their charms. Incidentally you don't need to be called Hilary just to speak at an ACEVO event!

But why opera singers at Leeds? Well we all know of the great Opera North. The Director is one of ACEVO's members. As I blogged yesterday we have a growing membership in the arts and heritage field and so I have taken advantage of the link to add a bit of glamour to our launch. And the bonus is that I am going to the Opera North production of the Bellini opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi. In August I stood at the grave of the Maestro Giovanni Bellini in the Cathedral of Catania, Sicily, his home town.

I am going with Sir Rodney Brooke, Chair of the Social Care Council, and then staying with him in Brooke towers in Ilkley overnight. Rodney has the distinction (or burden) of having been my boss when I worked at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities in the 90s. We have stayed in touch, united by a love of Local Government, good wine, culture and high level gossip. He also has a huge interest in the sector and has recently been appointed to Capacity Builders Board. (I met the new CEO of Capacity Builders recently - Matt Leach - who seems a good guy.)

The mood at the launch is great, even if our CEOs are apprehensive about the recession. Though I love opera I resist the temptation to sing, even though, as I remind Jenny, our North Director, I was head choir boy at my local Parish church.

I stress that in crisis the qualities of leadership become ever more important. A CEO has to plan for the worst, hope for the best and continue to provide drive and energy for the troops.

And for ACEVO the leadership role means working closely with our colleagues in NCVO and other key sector organisations so we present a strong front to Government. I have been in touch today with the Community Sector Alliance to share thoughts on how the recession affects us. I talked to the FT yesterday and said I was getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of attention from Government to our challenges. Hardly a day goes by without yet further talk about how we will help small business. The fact that the third sector is an important part of the economy, as well as crucial to tackling the social consequences of recession, is not getting through. A great Editorial from Stephen Cook in Third Sector makes exactly this point. Is Government listening? Or do I have to turn up the volume?

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