Raising the Bar
Footdown is not a networking organisation. Anyone who joins hoping that membership will bring new business will get short shrift from their Fifteen. That is not what Footdown is about.
That said, if you put a talented bunch of leaders together from different sectors, you are almost certain to find occasions when a chat, piece of advice or a suggestion, gestates into something much bigger. Footdown’s founder and Chairman Andrew Mercer began his renewable energy business following a discussion about global warming with fellow members Michael Edge and Nigel Hunton.
Jon Andrewes, Chief Executive of St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice and a member of the South West 15, was already benefitting from his monthly Footdown meetings. His management team had fully engaged with Insight and there was a renewed buzz and vigour within the organisation. Having enjoyed a leader’s session with Kriss Akabusi, Jon thought that Kriss’s drive and enthusiasm was just what his staff and volunteers needed. Footdown got in touch with Kriss who headed to Somerset and in front of 360 staff and over 1,200 volunteers at a staff conference, blew them away with one of his inspirational speeches. One of Kriss’s messages was to “raise the bar” “have courage”,” be brave” and go for something really ‘big’. When you are a charity with a need to raise £10m a year, that challenge could only mean one thing: a fund-raiser to end all fund-raisers.
In the audience that day was Ann Lee, Clinical Director at the hospice. So too was the Charity’s Chairman Nick Chapman. Nick pulled Jon Andrewes and Ann aside,
“I have a challenge for you. How about raising £100k in a day?”
…For Ann, a nurse, this sounded like mission impossible…
Raising the Bar: “How about raising £100k in a day?”
“I’m a clinician, not a fund raiser. How on earth was I going to raise that sort of money in a day?” But Ann had not reckoned at that stage on the coaching skills of Jon Andrewes and Footdown leader John Snell.
“Gradually, my confidence grew” says Ann, “I became resourceful, more resilient and prepared to go out on a limb to pick bigger fruit” . “We worked out that we had to sell something big to a large number of people in a single location. A celebrity speaker perhaps? Or, what about a concert with a REALLY big name?…. We could even reach new audiences who hadn’t experienced the work of the charity! ….. It was exciting and Jon and John enabled Ann to explore all the possibilities”
Ann is frank about her lack of knowledge in the world of popular music. She knew she would need a big name to attract sales, but how do you go about that? In the hospice world, money comes in from donations, bequests, coffee mornings, people running marathons dressed as bananas, – how on earth was she going to organise a concert?
Enter Jason Clark, member of Thames Valley Fifteen and owner of Broadbase Events and Security. Jason’s company provides security for high profile sporting events, concerts etc, and had been called in at the last minute to help out at the Olympics following the G4S debacle.
“I spoke to Jason, and after he’d got over the shock of the enormity of what I wanted to do, he started giving me names of contacts, artists agents, event companies” says Ann. He was helpful about venue ideas and coached Ann with the complexity of Health and Safety, including venue emergency services and the need for insurance, pitch, covering, as well as the complexities of ticketing. Ann grasped the project was getting bigger and the note book she was clutching was now full of do’s and don’ts, but still no artist or a definite venue.
Coincidentally, she attended the Footdown event in Ascot last summer when Midge Ure gave a talk, accompanied by some of his songs. Midge, who co-founded Band Aid, organised one of the biggest live music events ever and then did it again with Live8, is a member of the Bath Fifteen. “Midge was amazing” recalls Ann. “In less than five minutes he went through the extraordinary amount of work that was needed to organise something like this. The venue, the Health and Safety, the lighting, the sound gear, the legal work, contracts, insurance, security, secondary sales, merchandising. When I said that I was sure our volunteers could help out with sandwiches for the stage hands, Midge tried hard not to laugh. He said “There will be about 250 of them, working 24/7 for about a week, so a ham sandwich and some of Mrs Smith’s sponge cakes might not be quite enough” but continued to encourage Ann with her mission.
With help and advice from Jason and Midge, Ann now finds herself with a diary appointment to meet an events company and agent to one of the greatest names in rock and pop. An international legend no less. And no, we’re not talking about Elton John, Paul McCartney or Cliff Richard (although they are on their books). Yes, he could be free in July 2014. Yes, his agents may be able to haggle on price. Yes, the charity could also benefit from the sale of merchandise and benefit from an incredible night to remember with virtually a guaranteed sell out. However, it would involve a lot of hard work.
Next stop, to the office of one of the country’s leading event companies. “Would you like something to drink while you’re waiting?” asked the receptionist as Ann waited to meet the main man. “Cup of coffee would be nice” says Ann. Several Black Russians later (that’s coffee liqueur and vodka) a decidedly ‘relaxed’ Ann emerged with several venue opportunities (Cricket clubs, football clubs, Wembley, the O2 building as well as a selection of racecourses) security, ticketing, licensing, insurance and even a company to do ticketing, the financial and legal due diligence stuff. “I had to pinch myself to realise what had just happened. Here I was, in the world of sex, drugs and rock n roll and I had somehow managed to get to the right people to help organise what was going to be one of THE music events of the summer. And there was every indication, we should expect to make far more than the £100k I’d been set as a target. …. embarrassingly I had even asked if the artist was alright!”
It was even bigger than that. The talk now was that the event could be repeated every other year …. perhaps with other leading artists incorporating two days. Day 1 could have a ‘battle of the bands’ theme with a star of the pop world headlining at the end. And day 2 would be for the main event. That would mean the event would attract a younger demographic for the first day and the over 40’s would go for day 2.
For Ann, the potential to attract new audiences is very appealing. “It’s important that we encourage every sector of society to engage with and understand issues surrounding end of life. And that doesn’t have to be morbid, depressing or upsetting. It sounds hard to believe, but managed well, the end of a life, can be a life enhancing experience for the patient and their loved ones. We never lose sight of that in the hospice. We don’t want to think of St Margaret’s as “the place you go to die”, we are about so much more than that … we are about living every moment …making every moment count ….. quality of care and compassion.”
Rod Stewart leading Footdown?!
Kriss had set the challenge. St Margaret’s accepted it, LCC Live was supporting it, Footdown members helped to make it happen. Not bad for an organisation that doesn’t really ‘do’ networking.
And in case you are wondering……the concert was on the 18th of June 2014, at Taunton Cricket Club – Oh yes and its Rod Stewart ……