Thursday, July 30, 2009

Admire the distance

More than most I was pleased that Manchester has forged a link with Los Angeles. Richard Leese explains, here.

Back in 1999, when I'd had enough of London and had enough of my job, I had two serious options in front me - move back to the North West and get a job doing something completely different, or pursue a very serious opportunity to work in the new film office in Los Angeles as part of the British High Commission. Obviously, I took the former route, but was able to stay in journalism.

My first interview in London was on the day after Joe was born, I was asked if I wanted to carry on with the process (and I did have another interview), but the importance of family took precedence and I backed out.

I liked LA; it's fashionable to say it's all just freeways and false people, but I've been there a dozen times for work and for holidays - usually nesting in either West Hollywood or Santa Monica. There's always something new to do, somewhere unusual to explore. And there's something magical about watching the sun set from a dusty road up in the canyons, or at the Observatory at Griffith Park. It helped of course that I've got good friends there, Matt Diamond and Colleen O'Mara, who know the city.

A film that shows LA's layers so well is Heat, starring Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. There's a brilliantly atmospheric build up at one point, two thirds in, featuring the skyline, helicopters, freeways, that then prefaced the dramatic scene where they meet for a coffee (at Broadway Diner in Santa Monica, since you asked). The soundtrack to that build up was New Dawn Fades, a Joy Division track performed by Moby. Tony Wilson used to tell the story that he and Yvette were watching the film in a cinema on Sunset and sat up straight, exclaiming - "that's one of ours". The improved live version - featuring New Order with Moby - is on the 24 Hour Party People soundtrack. It always reminds me of that choice I made.

Rain rain go away

Way back when, and after two consecutive summer holidays in the same place in Italy, we have chosen to go to Cornwall this year. The weather forecast looks utterly wretched, but we are determined to have a good time.

We're loading up with wet suits, boards and wellies, as well as shorts and t-shirts. We're renting our own house out to a couple of army mates of mine who are just back from a tour in Afghanistan and like gardening and decorating for relaxation. I've done a map with all the things to do on it, including see a pre-season friendly at Truro City. If you have any more ideas, let me know.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Football's finest

So Burnley veterans play Blackburn Rovers veterans as part of a family oriented tournament at the MEN Arena. What do you know, a bunch of about 20 throwback idiots turn up to kick it off.

Details are here. The messageboard from the Lancashire Telegraph, which I can't even be bothered to link to, had Burnley's finest actually castigating Rovers fans for a "no show". I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

There's a lot of goodwill towards Burnley. You've got Alastair Campbell spinning like mad with his profile of Owen Coyle in the Observer, favourable coverage in the New York Times and lots more. But there is a dark underbelly to their support which threatens to ruin this Premier League adventure.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A few choice links at the wet end of July.

Here are a few choice links at the wet end of July, with some broad hints at things I should take to read and listen to on my hols in August. Any other suggestions gracefully received.

Real journalism's David Conn turns his attention to Liverpool and their American owners.

And some thoughtful posts on The Word site, sparked by the moral quandry of a Manchester City supporter. Been there, done that, bought the replica shirt in 1994.

They tried to make me go to Sangin, no, no, no. Great review of the book I'm enjoying reading - Junior Officer's Reading Club by Patrick Hennessey.

I must get round to reading Nudge - behaviour, human and otherwise and how to influence it. Also, a clever Manchester group to bob along to. And another group of thinkers here.

Italian dreams - Barga is an amazing place in the northern and hilly part of Tuscany. It's got very strong Scottish links - Paulo Nutini's Dad was born there, for instance. And the annual fish and chip festival is in full swing at the football ground in the town. From tonight. And it's 28 degrees and sunny.

New local paper for Stockport. Mmmmm?

The new deli in Marple, All Things Nice, is bloody brilliant. But the website isn't working yet.

Scroll down from here to see the Clarks Weaver - quite fancy a pair of these.

A whole new ball game

Having become moderately interested in Rugby Union after our business went into partnership with Sale Sharks, my interest has been sufficiently piqued to accept a corporate invite to go and see a different type of egg chasing today: Warrington Wolves v Salford City Reds at Rugby League.

I don't have any particularly stong prejudices about Rugby League. There is an old adage from Laurie Daly (link here) that says Rugby League is a simple game played by simple people, with something rude about who plays the 15-man version.

Then there's this, here. Which explains a few differences and is pro RL.

This argues that the subtleties of union make it more intruiging, more like chess.

I also noted some comments from a Rugby League fan - Damian Connelly - to explain his personal frustration with the 15 man code:

Andy Farrell briefly considered a return to Rugby League after a disastrous World Cup - decided against it though as it would mean a return to having to be active for 100% of the game, instead of just 20% and anyway "you don't get chance for a cup of tea on the pitch when you play league".

Ruck/Maul specialists spend winter officiating at Harrogate Turkish baths so they can continue rolling around on the floor bum@ing and groping....

Line out teams may as well join the Billy Smart circus trapeze act - again another opportunity for a bit of "manual handling".

I understand that the IRB are considering a few rule changes to make the game more exciting - dropping down to 13 a side, with unopposed scrums and limited tackles. Or alternatively to exploit the propensity to pap pants and kick the ball instead of taking a tackle like men, drop down to 11 a side, make the ball round, take down the posts and replace with a netted enclosure.

OK, so I'm getting into something way over my head here. What I can say is I've been to loads of Sale Sharks games and still don't understand the game. I enjoy it, but don't understand it. I can work out the pattern of a football match within 30 seconds. Rugby? no chance.

So yes, of course I've seen Rugby League on TV, I can see that it's a faster and more flowing game. But it's also very straightforward to understand.

The atmosphere at the game was also slightly more like a football match today; there were away supporters, abusive songs, fans goading each other and police. But I was told that was because Salford are a bit more "soccer" than most well behaved RL followings.

If there's a frustration I've had of watching Rugby Union it's the ability of a poorer team to play tight rugby and stop a game by sheer physical determination: Bath, Worcester and Newcastle all did that to Sale. I can't see 13 players doing that to the same extent with the open style of RL. On the evidence of today's game, Rugby League seems to be all about courage and speed. Warrington dominated, yet trailed at half time 12-20. Whatever the coach Tony Smith said at half time, changed the game totally. They were braver, took more risks, chalked up points and Salford lost all heart. The result was a capitulation to 62-20.

But read a better report of the game than anything from me, here, here or here.

We'll have a bit more of this, I reckon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's Grand Up North

We've had a fun day today. My nephew Calum came over for a joint birthday party with our littlest lad Elliot, who will be 5 soon.
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In pursuit of real football

Even though this blog is having a month, or two, off football, I did want to mention our expedition on Tuesday to see some real football. Me, Joe and Louis set off to Bower Fold, home of Stalybridge Celtic, to see the pre-season friendly against Buxton. Sadly, the game was at Buxton. Doh!

Thinking quickly, we headed a few miles up the road to Mossley, where the Lilywhites were meant to be playing Stockport County. Except they weren't, it was Flixton from the Vodkat League. Pre-season, eh?

There's a match report and video of the game here, which sums it all up from a Mossley fan's perspective: should have won about 8-0, but wasn't, it was 2-1. Fair play to Flixton, they had a go. The report seems a bit depressed, poor crowd, poor game, bad weather. I suppose watching non-league football over a long period becomes a real struggle of faith and will.

Indeed, there are tales of Mossley's financial plight here and here.

Honestly, the lads loved it. And I did. We loved being close to the pitch, hearing the banter, hearing the ref, seeing the balls getting kicked out of the ground (seven) and they appreciated the quality of the football. Seriously. Mossley's right midfielder had good feet, but couldn't score. Danny Dignan, the scorer, was lively. Flixton defended stoutly.

I've spoilt my children by taking them to see Premier League football and to allowing them to sample executive boxes and sponsors lounges. It's time they got some perspective on the whole family of football. We'll be doing more of this. Hyde, Stalybridge, Curzon Ashton, Woodley and Altrincham beckon. And Mossley again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Politics can matter

So, this quest for some grown up debate goes on. On Wednesday I chaired a session for Greater Manchester Chamber on what devolved powers Manchester might get under the new city region arrangements.

Here's how it was reported in Insider Daily:

City region status will only benefit Manchester if backed up by the ability to set and keep business rates, a Greater Manchester Chamber event was yesterday told. Dermot Finch, director of the Centre for Cities think tank, said: “It’s meaningless if they don’t have this power, because Manchester is currently too reliant on bodies like the Department for Transport. But a city region can work here for five reasons: strength through collaboration; more efficient public services; a better ability to assess local skills and transport needs; and because of its strong global brand.”

That evening I went to a debate at Manchester Town Hall sponsored by the Independent, entitled Is Our Democracy Under Threat? I haven't located a report anywhere, but it was very well attended and some excellent points were raised by all the panel: Howard Jacobson, Johann Hari, Neil Hamilton and Graham Stringer. Politics, concluded Stringer, matters to people when opinion is polarised. The TIF debate fired people up, he said.

City region powers aren't as exciting as all that - the audience at the Chamber do was about 40 people.

There were about 200 at the Indie debate. And bizarrely, they barely touched on the erosion of civil liberties.

PS - I have actually now found a report, here, but check out the dreadful level of dogma and polemic masquerading as debate. I sensed an undercurrent of this at the debate itself, heckling from the crusties and stoppers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Column inches

I had a very pleasant night out last week with Steve Connor at the Manchester International Festival pavilion. An evening talking about old friends, old enemies, the collapse of neo-liberalism and Jello Biafra can't fail really. We went to see The Durrutti Column, an instrumental Factory band, who produced a "paean" to our late friend Tony Wilson. And what a smashing, handsome, young man Oliver Wilson is turning into. It was lovely lovely music, with a mixture of tight strings, brass and subtle percussion.

But Paul Taylor's review - here - had it right.

For music so contemplative, it was a bizarre choice to stage this in the Pavilion Theatre, the audience forced to stand in a sweltering tent rather than appreciate every nuance from the cooler vantage point of a seat in, say, the Bridgewater Hall.

Are we just old farts, then? Or was this another Wilson act of situationism from beyond the grave? Make people suffer for the consumption of such art.

I think my next Vini Reilly experience will be listening to the new album sat down on a large sofa with a glass of wine and a book about Victorian industrialists.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some more intellectual grist on the mill

I was invited to a breakfast event this morning with about 60 big hitters from around Manchester, where the guest speakers threatened to bring some intellectual vigour to Manchester's perpetual renewal, as discussed here.

The main point was that the city needs to recapture a 19th century “sense of self-fulfilling ambition” and continue to be a "city of ideas" with a "sense of independence". That was the conclusion of historian Tristram Hunt, a biographer of Freidrich Engels and author of Building Jerusalem a book Sir Richard Leese recommended (to much laughter) "if you have a spare few weeks".

They were debating the subject So What Has Manchester Done For Us? along with design guru Peter Saville at the Manchester International Festival Pavilion in Albert Square.

Hunt said history shows us the importance of arts, culture and ideas in attracting 25-34 year olds to a place - as Manchester did in the industrial revolution– “they are the wealth creators of tomorrow.” He also told stories of Manchester in the 19th century as a centre of innovation with "an extraordinary culture of public science".

Saville seemed nonplussed. He also said the audience was in "shock and awe" at Hunt's presentation. I rather took it as amusement, politeness and stimulation.

Now, the event was organised by the Commission for the New Economy, who invited a hand picked and deliberately on message kind of crowd. Saville also used the Guardian newspaper as a metaphor for what Manchester used to be and how it is unimagible that the leading liberal newspaper could be from Manchester in the present day and age.

Maybe it was early morning, but I felt Saville spoke with his usual impenetrable density. He is hard to follow, but there are ideas of searing simplicity pressing against the early morning wall of fog that a double shot of espresso didn't shift. But Tristram Hunt was lucid, lively and stimulating. They at least agreed that strong civic leadership sets Manchester apart. It needs to be - there are precious few private sector stakeholders with enough responsibility towards Manchester and a central government that is indifferent or hostile to Manchester’s ambitions.

But to return to the previous intellectual salvo - how much appetite is there for this kind of debate? And how much thinking and talking actually leads to new ideas that turn into wealth creation? I get brief glimpses of activity from the Commission, or Manchester Knowledge Capital, when the latest guru with an American accent gets wheeled out, but wonder if this amounts to a hill of beans? Jane Davies of Manchester Science Park asked that very question this morning, who needs another strategy?

Also, when I dropped the words M*dia C*ty into my question I got the distinct impression I was talking about some kind of elephant in the living room. Peter Saville doesn't believe the Manchester Guardian could exist today. But Radio 5 Live, a national news network, will be coming live from Manchester in two years time. And much more. It can work and it will.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's silly wrong but vivid right

I have said many times that the key to happiness is spending quality time with the people you love. Last Saturday night we had a couple of families over with their kids for a few quiet drinks, followed by a great many noisy ones. I will continue to feel very sheepish when I next see our neighbours, who will have been reminded of how badly I sing.

There can be no greater way of celebrating friendship and life than singing together. And as I've been asked this week to come up with five songs for a Desert Island Discs project organised by Forever Manchester, then I want to dedicate the last one of the five to Michelle & Andy Hinselwood and Jane & Trevor Martin and all their wonderful children.

It's this, but then you'll have guessed that by now.

I haven't quite decided on the others yet.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bookmarks for mid July

Me and my old pal Steve Connor are off to see The Durutti Column on Wednesday at the Manchester International Festival. It's a Paean to Wilson, and there's a link to their site here, and a lovely piece about drummer Bruce Mitchell here.

Don't get scammed. Read this.

Author of Kill Your Friends - John Niven, on Michael Jackson.

Frank McKenna on Michael Jackson, Michael Owen and Michael Shields. Sensible on all three counts.

Here's a sensible and pragmatic body of thought about how best to rebuild community politics and to oppose the BNP. And here are a series of profiles on some of the female supporters of the master race party (Babes of the BNP).

Real Journalism's David Conn covers the latest twists at Leeds United. Superb, but check out the messages, so many have been removed.

To become an extremist hang around with people who agree with you
. From The Spectator, interview with bloke who wrote Nudge.

Great piece on Manchester International Festival from Prospect magazine.

Christopher Hitchens on Gordon Brown
, from Vanity Fair.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Elbow and the Halle - magic

If you want to read a proper review of Elbow playing the Bridgewater Hall with the Halle last night, then this review from the Independent fits the bill.

And me? It was a special day. A special occasion. Most live music loses something in the delivery of the polished, produced, recorded performance, but then makes up for it in the thrill of being there, and the atmosphere of a collective experience.

Last night the Halle improved, enhanced, illuminated and made Elbow sound even more beautiful.

And there was also the added thrill of being there and enjoying an atmosphere in this special city. As one person said - no other city could ever have brought together something as comparably wonderful.

Walking towards Castlefield afterwards the air was alive with love.

Thanks to the BBC, there's this too. A glimpse, but you really had to be there. We were.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Rootless fools

I came across a blog from April, here, asking Whatever Happened to the Northern Intellectual?
It had been sparked by a round of debates, led bythinker and writer Charles Leadbeater, who has written an “interactive essay” entitled "The Art of With", which allows paragraph by paragraph comments.

Quotes from others are in italics, by the way. Stick with me.

The summary from the blog’s author Bournemouth Runner (it’s a song by The Fall, but then you knew that already) is as follows:

Leadbeater’s seminar at Manchester's Cornerhouse raised the point that the avant garde has traditionally been "separate" - rejecting the consumerism of the 20th century, but being part of arts institutions that are themselves based upon the consumerist model. Is the web, with its ethos of "shared" and "collaborative" experience a different model? Perhaps.

After a ramble about something called Googleopolis and sampling, he then launches into a bit of a rant about a lack of intellectuals and how that may hamper the development of a knowledge economy. Here you go:

And, around this, and this is why "The art of with" debate is timely, there needs, to be frank there to be an intellectual and critical discussion. I wonder whatever happened to the Northern Intellectual? Our city and regional leaders wouldn't fit that description - and nor, come to think of it, would many of our other high profile figures. When its (sic) debating time in Manchester we roll out the interesting, the practical, and the well-known, whether its (sic) Guy Garvey, Ian Simpson, Wayne Hemingway or Dave Haslam. Nothing wrong with any of them of course; but there's a sense of either the streetfighter tamed, or the Grammar school boy acting down for the masses. It's why Tony Wilson had the streets of Manchester to himself, where 2nd-hand situationism, and a day job at Granada could make for an intellectual high water mark. On the day that MMU/Chorlton-based Carole Ann Duffy most likely gets the Laureate, our professor of contemporary poetry is praised for her humour, accessibility and popularity, not for her intellect. Main rival, Simon Armitage, is always careful to hide his intellect under a laddish cover of northern dry wit.

Ouch. There's more.

There's a challenge for "the art of with" and the Cornerhouse, and that's about Manchester itself. Charles Leadbeater is fine and dandy, but its (sic) when the city doesn't have to import its intellectual discussion, but leads on it, that the city's undoubted knowledge economy will come into its own.

It sparked a response from DJ Dave Haslam, who said...

What or who is a 'Northern Intellectual'??? What or who is 'an intellectual', come to that? If you provided some examples or some description of this mythical being, then I would be able to begin to discuss this with you. Your question implies that once there was a Northern Intellectual but now there isn't. Or even your question implies, maybe there was only ever just one; 'the' Northern Intellectual. Perhaps a man who you once met on a train who read the same books as you and therefore fitted your ideal. I wish you'd been at the Festival Pavilion last night [Saturday] to hear me interviewing Guy Garvey. It was a great event; we talked about death, the creative process, the idea of 'home', the work of Alan Bennett, definitions of masculinity, drinking, how Manchester creates 'scenes', queues in Somerfield and Australian theme bars. And loads of other stuff. God knows if we were 'intellectual' enough for you, but I think we contributed to the world of ideas in a very unique and intense and open way. The audience asked questions. The room was full of love. We had a bit more to drink. There were no 'gatekeepers'.

Bournemouth Runner said he was sorry and that he’d missed a good one, but asked:

We're certainly still in thrall to the "intellectual" - or ideas person - from elsewhere, whether its Charles Leadbetter (sic), Stowe Boyd or Martin Amis - whereas, wrongly, I think, anyone outside of London gets praised for everything other than their intellectual capabilities.

Yet apparently there is a “scene” developing – around something called the Social Media CafĂ© which happens every now and again, this week it was at the BBC on Oxford Road. This "scene" has the potential to be at the beginnings of the so-called knowledge economy, he says.

I think there's a real thirst in the city for this kind of debate - I hope that the expanded Cornerhouse as Manchester's "creative hub" will become this.

Anyway. Here’s my first thought: "The city intellectuals of the world are divorced from the folk-bodied blood of the land and are just rootless fools." Jack Dolouz (and not Sal Paradise). Look it up.

I do sometimes worry about a lack of intellectual ballast in the recent movement to renew the North of England. So I have some empathy with that core concern. But basically, you're just left feeling, so what?

On balance, my problem with the above debate and the central idea of an "intellectual" is it seems very confined to the creation of art and culture, with the vaguest of nods in the direction of urban design. And yet there are, all around Manchester, profoundly “intellectual” people with lots to say about bioethics, theology, economics, civic politics, sustainable development, football, quantum physics and education, to name but a few. Whether these amount to a body of ideas that derive from "a Manchester way" in all of these areas is dubious. And whether in so doing they contribute enormously to the rigourous scrutiny that any new idea requires, then I have to say they do.

Within this huge pool of intellect, there is a grounding in common sense and of people just getting on with it. Does that therefore reduce it's intellectual value? I don't think so.

What I do think is that many worthy efforts to make it more so are just becoming paralysed with the ache of trying too hard. How many times have I heard the complaint that all the policy "think tanks" are in London? And yet, whenever a London-based thinker pontificates on a new way of civic leadership all roads lead to Albert Square. No model of governance could create what Manchester's civic entrepreneurs and political leaders have forged through their own endeavours.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “importing” from elsewhere. Nothing at all.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

War PLC - book review in a lift

I enjoyed Steve Armstrong's book about private military contractors (PMCs). Government's organise their armed forces to win their last war, not the next one, observes Tim Spicer, a leading and very modern mercenary. And the Iraq war will be seen as the first privatised conflict; but not the last. Just as many aid missions are led by NGOs, so too they will require firepower and muscle for protection. This book is not an academic study, or a blockbuster, but a journalistic summary of a misunderstood and misinterpreted economic and military trend. He makes good use of interviews, cuttings and background to present the whole world of PMCs from the point of view of everyone involved. I used to work in the same office as Steve (Stretch as he was sometimes referred). I always liked him, though we weren't friends or anything. Very pleased to see he's doing well. Book could do with an index though. 6.5/10

Sunday, July 05, 2009

BBC staff look North

There's a piece in Media Guardian on the take up of relocation amongst BBC managers ahead of the move to MediaCity at Salford Quays.

A link to it is here.

My response, posted on the site, is this, though I was mainly reacting to moronic posts from readers of the UK's leading liberal newspaper:

Oh dear. marky1982, Kelvin, lhur2006, whoever. You're not going to get a rise out of us.

And please, I urge all these Mancunian sophisticates to resist from coming on here and saying there's a nice deli in Didsbury, or that the Manchester International Festival has just seen Kraftwerk doing Orginal Modern things.

No, this project is actually about getting the BBC a little bit closer to the people who pay for it. Some of them might drink WKD in cheap bars, even.

Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation - so well done to all those BBC folks who have chosen to pack the van and move North. A welcome awaits.

And to the BBC looking for people to get the job done, there are loads of creative people in the North with great ideas excited at the prospect of making programmes for the nation's broadcaster.

More coaching badges than Paul Ince

I mentioned I was doing an FA coaching course here. Well, I passed. Which felt absolutely bloody brilliant. The best thing I got out of today was the real strong bond between the 22 of us on the course. I was on last and there were no shortage of helpers for me setting out the pitch, helping as ball boys (and girls) and taking an active part in the exercise. I hope I was as helpful to the others in their hour of need.

A new physical affliction to add to the swollen Achilles - sunburn on the backs of my knees. Ouch.

After yesterday's Under 11s 11-a-side tournament at Hadfield, where Joe's knee gave out and he had to be carried off in tears in the semi-final, then witnessed his mates lose on penalties, I was feeling a bit down about the whole circus of kids football. I still despair at the behaviour of some adults - and I didn't exactly cover myself in glory by giving the ref some backchat about child protection when he refused to stop the game as Joe was unable to walk. By the way, I've checked, and he should have stopped the game (welfare of the child is paramount), but equally as a parent on the sidelines I shouldn't have opened my mouth.

But there is a minefield here and as zealous as I feel about what I've learned on my course, I question whether common sense and FA policy is swimming against the tide. What should the attitude to winning be? Win at all costs? Or play the right way? At what point is asking kids to make decisions going to work?

Friday, July 03, 2009

It's July - some bookmarks of stuff I've been liking

Blimey - I've been made Man of the Week in Liverpool. Here's me with Frank McKenna and his report on the event we did last week.

Danny Baker's stunningly well-written and brilliantly observed piece on Michael Jackson from The Times in 2005.

When I said last week that it is far from a foregone conclusion that the Tories will sweep to power next year, I had this in mind - Jackie Ashley puts it very well

A very amusing video with Hardeep Singh Kohli.

The Spectator's Debroah Ross has lunch with Jimmy McNulty from The Wire.

Hazel Blears to face wealthy independent opponent at next election.

Adidas Beckenbauer - superb black wheels

OB well on top - good interview with Manchester's top cop by ManCon

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy to renew our Rovers season tickets

We rebooked our season tickets for the Rovers today. We've decided to get four. One adult and three kids. Hopefully that will work out OK.

The Blackburn End and the Riverside are totally sold out. The family stand is filling up and the special offers on "taking back" the Darwen End with the 15 game £150 offer has gone well.

There will be four games where the Darwen End will be given to the away fans, news of it is here. Two will be Liverpool and Man U, one will be Burnley, presumably on police advice. The other is to be decided. I anticipate that will be a controversial decision. But then I wouldn't want to sit in a lower tier underneath that lot. Equally, Burnley are looking at reducing away fans capacity in the Cricket Field stand.

Having a laugh with Theo Paphitis

The Many Hands Campaign has been designed to get smaller businesses involved in getting their staff to raise money for the Manchester New Children’s Hospital Appeal. I was asked to help out last night as the campaign drew to a close at a reception with Theo Paphitis.

He made a very good point: businesses that encourage their staff to get involved in things like this actually do better. It's great for spirit and has the effect of generating a more selfless attitude.

The campaign has generated £100,000 for The New Children’s Hospital Appeal. And many of the initiatives have been brilliant. A special IoD Award for Innovation in fund raising went to Sheldon Bean from Beanstalk Telecom and Nigel Woolfstein from Wood & Woolfstein Dental Surgery who raised nearly £18,000 with their 24 hour tennis tournament.

Richard Duerr from Manchester jam company Duerr's presented a painting made with their own products, jam, marmalade and the sky was done in tartare sauce. He revealed that the top bid was for £1,050 from Richard's father. Theo offered £5K. Nice one.

My job was to moderate the Q+A. He was a great guy to interview, full of funny stories and really sound advice. He's signed me a copy of his book, so I'll have to read it now. Yes, he's disappointed not to have bought Woolies, and no he wouldn't follow Alan Sugar into a government role. Sort of, I think he'd quite like to be asked.