So, we come to the end of another MGGB season. On the 1st July, at our final event, 240 members and guests raised a glass to health, happiness, and the end of an extraordinary year for MGGB – a year quite unlike any other.
We got off to a fast start with our guest in pole position, F1’s Ross Brawn. We could never have guessed that soon the only race F1 teams would be involved in would be the race to build hospital ventilators!
In October we were entertained by Seb James who gave a fascinating insight into his plans to make Boots more relevant to our everyday – not knowing then that hand sanitiser would be a hero product driving footfall into his stores.
In November, our panel of top broadcasters and journalists debated the upcoming general election focusing on Brexit, Corbyn and the prospect of a hung parliament – how irrelevant that all seems now.
Christmas was a starry event with the fabulous Claudia Winkelman chatting with an entertaining, if very poorly, Ruth Wilson. The answer back then to her cough and sore throat was several hot toddies – which actually made for a more interesting conversation – with no thought of face masks or social distancing! And with your help we raised £5,000 for Children in Need.
In the New Year, we were joined by Fever-Tree’s Tim Warrilow who gave a masterclass on crafting a brand but left us wondering whether the bubble had finally burst as the share price went into freefall. If only I’d had the confidence to buy some stock as only weeks later, we were all staying at home and drinking heavily!
March was a personal highlight when we were joined by the boss (for a few more weeks) Tony Hall and virtuoso Nicola Benedetti. Nicola’s performance felt special then but feels even more special now, when listening to live music up close and personal seems like a lifetime away. To honour Nicola, we raised £5,000 for the Benedetti foundation which supports music education for young people – more important than ever as our cultural sectors are challenged through Covid.
In April we took a pause and got to grips with lockdown but in May were back with our first ever online event. I was relieved that the tech worked, surprised that 200 of us connected after a day full of Zoom and thrilled by the quality of conversation on the future with Covid from William Hague, Mark Thompson, Dave Lewis and Ursula Burns. I’ve never taken so many notes during an event!
At our second online event June Sarpong hosted MGGB’s most diverse line-up to date and I am proud we could deliver that event at that moment and stimulate discussion on how we tackle inequality, diversity and ‘build back better’.
The choice of guest for my final event was personal: Alan Jope, CEO for Unilever, the company that gave me my start in marketing three decades ago. It was a special evening and I’ve received wonderful feedback – “supremely competent leader, disarmingly open and frank”, “candid, inspiring and heart-warming!”, “enlightening, wide-ranging, entertaining”, “felt like sitting with mates hearing him chat about life, leadership, Unilever and football”! Paul Polman is a tough act to follow, but it’s clear that Alan is not a follower at all, he’s a seriously impressive leader and he created the perfect event for me to bow out on.
It has been my pleasure and honour to serve as your Chair. I’m dreaming of the time we can meet again to enjoy the buzz of the ballroom, share good food and wine, dressed up to the nines (and not just the top half). I would love to think that we could be back at Claridge’s for our new season, but in case not we’ll be developing our online format too. These are all now challenges for your incoming Chairman, the brilliant Matt Barwell. Matt will be writing to you all soon no doubt with his plans.
So, that just leaves me to thank the wonderful Clare Russell and MGGB Council for their support during an extraordinary year and to say farewell and wish you all a wonderful summer.