Sunday 14 September 2008

And did those feet?

in ancient time , walk upon England's mountains green? Highly unlikely .but its a great song ; Elgar's Jerusalem , words by William Blake . And interestingly it is a song ( or perhaps even a hymn as it does appear in Ancient and Modern ) that unites both left and right , nationalists and socialists. Its that wonderful last line that particularly appeals to old style labourites ;

" I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land "

And indeed the Sunday papers are full of the sharpening of the swords in the Labour Party !

Well , it was a great evening. At the reception before the event began Mark Thompson , the BBC DG was saying this has been a hugely successful Proms , not just that the attendance has been the highest ever , but that 12m people have been viewing via the Internet. it has a truly global reach and is a democratic institution . the unfortunate comment by Margaret Hodge earlier in the year that it was an elitist festival could not be wider of the mark . This is one of the things that the BBC do so right and we are lucky to have a public broadcaster of the quality and style of the BBC. No other national broadcaster comes even close to being as good .

The reception attracts a catholic sprinkling of politicians ; John Hutton ( just returned from lunch in Brighton with my deputy Dr Kyle I discover! ) and who was looking grim . Greg Clark MP , the Tories dynamic third sector spokesman ( he doesn't like the term third sector but I do )is not looking grim . And then my old friend Damien Green and his wife appear . I knew him well at Oxford and he has always seemed a good thing ; on the liberal wing of the Tory party and it is good that he is their spokesperson on immigration as he is sensible and not rabid on this subject which may not be true for all sections of his Party. I compliment him on his performance on " Any Questions" , which I was listening too at lunch time . But I also tell him off for castigating another old Oxford friend , Dave Aaronovitch , the Times columnist . When we knew Mr Aaronovitch he was a Trot ; as some people were in those days, and was a leading light in the sit in of the examination schools . Another alumni of that sit in was a certain Mr Chris Huhne ! I have to say such goings on did not appeal to me or Damien as we were much too boring and mainstream for such malarkey ( and in any case it interfered with social life )

Along with some other leading lights of the third sector I am a guest of the BBC's Head of Outreach, Alec McGivan and we join Brendan Gormley , the CEO of the Disasters Emergency Committee and Stephen Navin, the CEO of the Music Publishers Association . Brendan is a member but Stephen is not . We must see about that I tell him ; we have a growing culture and arts membership in acevo and even have a special interest group for those members . I tell him Mark Pemberton , who runs the British Association of Orchestras is a member ! He knows him well so we shall do a pincer movement and get him to join.

It transpires that Brendan and family live 5 miles away from me in Charlbury ; in the charming hamlet of Hailey! they have a large converted barn , and until recently Brendan has been biking it to London to work . That's rather game of him I think , but perhaps not what we should be doing as we get older and his wife tells me she is pleased that recently the bike got torched and so he is training like other normal CEOs !

The Last Night is spectacular. Bryn Terfel , the brilliant Welsh bass baritone is singing. The extract fro Tosca is particularly superb , massed choirs and the thundering Albert Hall organ . There is a Wagner extract from Tannhauser . I have to admit I like my Wagner in extracts ; the whole works can be a trial ; splendid tunes interspersed with lots of dreary Germanic tedium . The Proms atmosphere , the audience and the flag waving ( plenty of international flags and not just the Union Jack you know ! ) is exhilarating. I found that the liberal supply of wine in the box helped loosen the inhibitions and there was very hearty and gutsy singing from our Box.

I am at the Proms with the Head Hunter Extraordinaire , Mr Fielding. He berates me for my most recent blog and remarks on the flag of St George etc . As he reminds me ; and he is the first Englishman to have become international Aikido world champion so he should know, the waving of flags to celebrate sporting achievement is not just good but essential to the whole enjoyment of the events . He is right , of course . Who can forget the sight of all those Union Jacks being raised at the Olympics to celebrate our brilliant recent success in Peking ?

A slightly more relaxed Sunday as I recover from excess and so a leisurely lunch with my old Deputy CEO Nick Aldridge . He is now the Chief Executive of Mission Fish and doing well . it is good to catch up . Nick made a huge contribution at acevo and was a real support to me as CEO. It is heartening to know that the staff you support and develop go on to bigger jobs. It is part of the role of a Leader to develop their staff and to see that their careers flourish ( though not too quickly and Nick was with me for 5 years!) One of the notable things about acevo is the very real talent of the staff . Our Director group is very strong and the dynamism and " go getting" nature of the team is something you quickly spot if you come to acevo's office.

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