Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Alice Webb - on leading the BBC in the North, digital change and what makes a TV hit

Alice Webb showing me round the BBC
I've always really enjoyed interviewing people in positions of leadership and at the sharp end of change. So you can imagine how pleased I was to be meeting Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children's and Education, and to have it presented so well in the edition of Met Magazine.

We covered a lot of ground, including leadership, digital change, the North, Netflix, The Bodyguard, Killing Eve and loads more.

You can listen to a podcast of the interview here, and a web page with the written feature, here.

There's a rich range of feature articles in this edition of the magazine, including a profile on Carol Ann Duffy, who has just ended her tenure as the UK's Poet Laureate, a piece covering employers’ views on the impact of degree apprenticeships, good work on research being done within the University to reinvigorate town centres, a feature on Manchester’s club culture of the 1980s and 1990s, and on the ecology projects academics are involved in around the world.

It is important that people know what we are doing and the impact we have, so a magazine is a powerful platform to profile such stories so colleagues can share them and demonstrate all the ways in which we change lives for the better, and how we shape our world.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Manchester rejects hate, and why I'm for Change

Where we are today matters.
It certainly matters to me.
I first arrived around this very part of the city in 1985 as a fresh faced teenage Lancashire lad at the University of Manchester.
I was the first person in my extended family to go to university – but not the first to leave home. Grandads, uncles and cousins have put on a uniform and served their country in the British Army, as nephews, cousins and my own son have done since.
Anyway, I popped out for a pint of milk one Sunday morning from my halls around the corner and I walked into a riot in All Saints.
On one side of Oxford Road were Irish Republicans, egged on by the useful idiots of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and others who should have known better, on the other were the National Front. It was a tense, ugly and nasty encounter. The like of which I hadn’t witnessed before beyond skirmishes at the school gate and on the football terraces.
But it was part of a shaping of my political education. A mob politics that disgusted me. Frightened me.
It was the start of a move from dogma to dialogue, from problem seeking to problem solving.
So I have happy formative memories of here too. I was told I wasn't up to being an academic as my writing style was too journalistic.
I took the hint and fast forward 15 years later in 2001 and I find myself back in this very building as a business journalist to interview the boss of one of the region’s most interesting tech businesses. Being excited by the challenge of change, of new high tech jobs being created.
Because that's another reason why where we are right now also matters for us today.
This building which was built in the year of my birth 1966, forged in the white hot heat of Harold Wilson’s technological revolution – just down the road from where Rolls met Royce and where two scientists isolated graphene and won a Nobel prize for physics. An optimistic time.
Because I mean it when I say this matters today.
We are on the Oxford Road Corridor – funded by the European Regional Development Fund – good work, supporting infrastructure, learning and job creation.
Supporting scientists, like Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, like so many, standing on the shoulders of giants of science like Dalton, Rutherford and Turing. They are European Union citizens, collaborating, in many cases, under the auspices of European science programmes.
That’s the Manchester I fell in love with. The city I have devoted much of my working life to advancing. A Manchester that is welcoming, European, innovative and energetic.
But like I was on that autumn morning in 1985, I’m once again frightened by thuggery and the grim politics of far left the and the far right and frankly the bits where they all blur into one.
The politics of easy answers, cheap shots and hate.
You don't need me to remind you what happens when hate comes to a city like this. Tomorrow we will be remembering where we were two years ago when we heard the news about how they tried to blow apart our wonderful, tolerant, united city.
Manchester proved then it is better than this.
Britain’s better than this.
When Britain voted to leave I was gutted.
But I wanted to commit myself to something to make right what had gone very badly wrong.
My day job is to make the university I work for a civic university. Somewhere that is accessible to people from communities who don’t have the advantages, the social capital and the opportunities.
But I wanted to be part of a political movement too.
Our broken politics just stokes the fires of the division all around us.
Faith against faith, north v south, so called Somewheres versus Anywheres. This mythical mobile elite. That’s not how I see it, not how my family see it.
The only people who benefit from that division or the successors to those street thugs.
I want to stand on a platform to rebuild, reshape and CHANGE our politics. CHANGE the civic conversation.
This matters.
This campaign matters.
I was proud of my friend Ann Coffey when she left Labour.
And I’ve been prouder still of my fellow candidates in this election.
From Carlisle to Chester, from Crosby Beach to Colne. We’ve done our very best and done the team proud.
I’m proud to be a candidate. Proud to be in this team.
Because it matters.

(my speech at the Change UK pre-election rally, May 21, 2019, Manchester Technology Centre, Oxford Road, Manchester).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to be happy at work - a podcast discussion during mental health awareness week

Wellbeing in the workplace can drive business success and yet stress and anxiety account for millions of lost working days each year. To mark #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek one of the Manchester partners of Grant Thornton, Paul Scully, joined a fascinating and challenging discussion with Dawn Moore, HR director of Morgan Sindall Construction and Infrastructure and Professor Marc Jones of Manchester Metropolitan University about better ways of working. I was delighted to chair the discussion and share a few thoughts along the way.