David Parkin on more cycling success, creating a vibrant economy and a cure for killer clowns

IF anyone was in any doubt that hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France would help deliver a serious cycling legacy in Yorkshire, then this week’s announcement that the 2019 Road World Championships will be held in the region probably dispels those doubts.

The annual competition, which features around 1,000 cyclists from 75 countries, has only been held four times before in Britain since it started in 1921, the last time was in 1982.

Delivering the “grandest of Grand Departs” and two subsequent successful Tours de Yorkshire means that cycling chiefs from the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) can be confident that Welcome to Yorkshire and its partners don’t offer so much as a safe pair of hands for the event, more like mitts encased in spangly gloves doing a jazz hands dance.

They have won the right to host what will be the biggest sporting event in Britain in 2019.

From recent conversations with senior figures at the regional tourism body, I got the impression they were pretty confident they were in with a strong shout to win the event.

A delegation travelled to Qatar for the announcement this week, made during the current Road World Championships being held in Doha.

And while the 1,000 racers are backed up by almost 6,000 additional participants – from national federations, delegations, technicians and journalists – there has been a poor turnout of fans to watch the event which has taken place in temperatures pushing 40C.

One leading competitor, Dutch Olympic silver medallist, Tom Dumoulin, having seen a sign for a ‘spectator entrance’, described it as “hilarious”, adding: “There are simply no fans. That’s weird. It’s a bleak World Championships.”

With three years until Yorkshire hosts the 2019 event, you can bet that the only thing that could possibly be bleak about it is the weather.


WHEN I met Sandra Doherty at a business event last week, I asked the chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce how her organisation was faring in this post-Brexit vote period.

She assured me that membership is thriving because the chamber delivers events that are informative and entertaining for its members.

Putting on informative events doesn’t make the Harrogate Chamber unique, but entertaining events? If it does then it is certainly in a minority of one when it comes to chambers of commerce.

I can’t remember the last decent chamber of commerce event I went to.

Mind you, the benefit of being out of business journalism is that I don’t get as many invites to such dos these days.

Sandra is a down-to-earth character who is enjoyable conversation. She runs the Alexa guest house on Ripon Road in the spa town and she gave me a card bearing a photograph of the building.

I complimented her on how the photo had beautifully captured the sunlight glinting off the attic window.

Having won a bottle of champagne in the raffle at the 10th birthday celebration for Harrogate-based vehicle leasing business Synergy Automotive, she informed me that her bottle of bubbly would be a prize at the next chamber event.

She’s teetotal and it turns out her father ran a wine merchants and she spent her sixteenth birthday at the Taittinger Champagne estate in Reims, not touching a drop.

When I asked Sandra what her father’s business was called, it was Wakefield Wines, while his surname was also Wakefield.

I asked whether that meant that her family had a long and storied history in the city.

She told me that one of her uncles thought that might be the case and did some research into the family tree.

But when the search traced their roots to a family of tinkers, he stopped digging.


BUSINESS people are often portrayed as completely selfish individuals that only have their own interests at heart.

I’ve rarely come across such individuals during my time in the business world and that view was underlined when I chaired a round table dinner for accountants and business advisers Grant Thornton at its Leeds office.

The latest CEO Network Dinner featured business leaders from across the region and focused on the huge issue of skills and “shaping Yorkshire’s vibrant workforce”.

There were a number of participants round the table who I knew already, such as Raymond Wolfson of oil exploration mapping business Getech, and Judit Petho of Genus Law and others who I met for the first time such as Andrew Fowlds of Distinction Doors, Richard Carter of software business Nostrum and David Ross of Callcredit.

Add in young entrepreneurs like Ruth Amos of Stair Steady and Amy De-Balsi of Herd, as well as Bill Adams from the TUC and representatives from two of the region’s most entrepreneurial universities – Bob Cryan of University of Huddersfield and Chris Prince from Leeds Beckett University and you had a discussion which lived up to its billing under Grant Thornton’s Vibrant Economy programme.

What struck me most was that for all those around the table, they understood the value of making the region in which their businesses operate better.

They know that the value of a vibrant, thriving region, is further success for their own businesses and the ability to recruit quality staff as part of their growth.

And another myth was also demolished around the table that evening: that accountants are dull.

Andy Wood and his Grant Thornton colleagues were welcoming hosts who listened more than they spoke and when they did contribute, it was to provide valuable insight and ideas.

The firm’s Vibrant Economy Commission has been launched to help the guide business and financial advisers’ efforts to build a vision for a better economy.

The commission will examine the challenges and opportunities facing UK business and society and focus on tackling issues that are affecting companies, cities, people and communities, and attempt to identify how growth can be more equally shared across the country.

Chatting to Andy Wood after the dinner, he said that he and his colleagues understood how, as advisers, they are in a privileged position to bring business people together and help connect them.


MY mention of celebrity lookalikes a couple of weeks ago brought a suggestion from Dominic Higham, partner at law firm Clarion, that I looked similar to a photo of golfer Ian Poulter at the Ryder Cup.

Then I was at an event last week and when I was introduced to a guest there, he said: “You’re the spitting image of the comedian Lee Mack.”

Now, I can’t have been confused with either for my golfing prowess or my comedy genius, so what could explain the likeness?

It must be the hairline.


I DON’T know. You go away for a few days and return to find the country in the grip of killer clowns and a Marmite shortage.

Throw in a 29 stone escaped silver backed gorilla and it would be easy to think that our nation is on the brink.

I’m sure someone must have already blamed it all on Brexit.

All the above can be blamed on two things: social media and its mainstream counterpart.

I saw some schoolchildren interviewed about their thoughts on the craze for people dressing up as “killer clowns”, on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning.

Many of them said they were very “stressed”, particularly when viewing such things on Twitter and YouTube.

Hopefully their parents and teachers are sensible enough to tell them to get a grip and just not not look at such nonsense.

As for the people dressing up as clowns and jumping out on unsuspecting passersby, or scaring children with their antics, there is very little you can say.

Other than cover them in what remains of Britain’s Marmite mountain and stick them in the gorilla enclosure at London Zoo.

That final scene of Trading Places springs to mind.

Have a great weekend.

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