David Parkin on Game of Thrones, balloons, bikes and cat flaps

FROM gold medal winning Olympians to David Bowie, the Kaiser Chiefs, chart toppers Rudimental and Game of Thrones.
At a dinner for alumni of Leeds Beckett University last week I learned of the cultural, teaching, sporting and learning influence that the institution, dating back to 1824, has had.
And given I received an honorary degree from the university in 2013, I’m in good company.
The uni, which has its main campus in Headingley in Leeds and another base at the Rose Bowl building in the city centre, invited back honorary graduates for a dinner hosted by Chancellor Sir Bob Murray and Vice Chancellor Peter Slee.
It was Bob, co-founder of bathroom manufacturer Spring RAM and the former chairman of Sunderland football club, who presented me with the honorary degree.
I had met and interviewed Bob some years before and when I launched TheBusinessDesk.com he visited us soon after launch at our tiny offices to learn more and wish us well.
But I’d always known he was a decent bloke as he was one of the very few people who Guy Martin-Laval used to speak highly of when they visited his restaurant, La Grillade.
Even though diners used to spend large amounts in his Leeds establishment, Guy, as gallic as they come, used to view visitors as a bit of an imposition he had to try and grit his teeth and put up with.
Back at Leeds Beckett, I learned that the dinner last week was the first they have held for alumni.
Walking into the dining hall, the first two people I bumped into were veteran stockbroker Keith Loudon and Yoda-like accountant Colin Glass,
Well at least it made me feel young.
Last time I mentioned Keith here he was setting off to walk a million steps to raise money towards finding a cure for dementia.
Anyway, it turns out he’s already done well over a million miles.

Keith, chairman at investment management and stockbroking firm Redmayne Bentley, has so far raised more than £13,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK by walking in and around Leeds in his One Million Steps Challenge.

The 85-year-old’s wife Betty has Alzheimer’s and Keith said: “This cause is very close to my heart as I have first-hand experience of supporting a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s disease. We must work together to make a difference and ensure younger generations do not have to go through this. We urgently need more research into dementia.”

You can find out more about the organisation at www.alzheimersresearchuk.org, and you can still sponsor Keith at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/keith-loudon1.

Back at the dinner Chancellor Peter Slee gave a fascinating overview of Leeds Beckett University, which is made up of several colleges all with long histories including the city’s colleges of technology, commerce, art, education and the Carnegie College of Physical Education.

And its alumni include Ricky Wilson, lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs, Kesi Dryden and Piers Agget of drum and bass band Rudimental (boom), Fabian Wagner, cinematographer on Game of Thrones as well as gold medal-winning sports stars Kadeena Cox, Sam Quek and Alastair Brownlee.

High achieving students need inspiring teachers and the university’s academics include Ken Scott, who produced David Bowie’s albums Hunky Corey and Ziggy Stardust and Matty Bovan who is a senior lecturer in the School of Art, Architecture & Design and who recently debuted his womenswear clothing collection at London Fashion Week.

I learned that much of the research undertaken at the university is having a real impact with Professor Ben Jones currently working with the RFU on mitigating impact injuries in rugby, Professor Shirley Ann Tate, the UK’s first Professor of Race Education, Professor Alan Simson, the UK’s only Professor of Urban Forestry and adviser to the UN on climate change and Professor Claire Surr who has been cited as one of the most influential thinkers on the social care of dementia.

It was all very interesting.

But given the effort the institution made to get people through its doors, it is then only as good as how its people engage with visitors.

I spoke to an academic who was great at telling me what he was doing but showed little interest in how guests on the table could help the university – even though we were all keen to.

At least he bothered to speak to me.

When I found that I was sitting next to the university’s director of external relations I thought there might be a reason for it.

At the end of an evening when she had spent the entire time speaking to a person she already knew who was sitting on the other side of her, I realised that there wasn’t.

As universities go, Leeds Beckett is pretty good at engaging with the outside world.

But it clearly still has some of work to do.

OUR line-up is complete!
One of the biggest challenges I face every year is finding four speakers for the Lord’s Taverners Balloon Debate.
Persuading successful people to give up their time and engage in verbal gladiatorial combat with each other has proved a big ask.
But the format of the event, which is being held at New Dock Hall in Leeds on May 9th, works brilliantly and it has become a popular date in the diaries of many from the Yorkshire business community.
This year we have secured former England, Leeds and Manchester City footballer turned media pundit and Master Chef runner-up Danny Mills alongside Liverpool legend Mark Lawrenson, Olympic badminton star Gail Emms and children’s author Scott Allen.
Each will talk about their sporting hero who they will try to keep in an imaginary balloon basket as the audience votes one out over a series of three rounds.
It is fun, unusual and however big a name you are, if you can’t entertain the audience you are likely to get the boot from the balloon.
I have the easy job on the night – to introduce the speakers – and the event is already going to be the biggest one we have ever held thanks to the support of sponsors Woodrow Mercer Finance and speaker sponsors Endless and Enact.
Importantly, it raises money for the wonderful work of the Lord’s Taverners supporting youth cricket and disability sports.
Further details are above. If you would like a table or some tickets just reply to this email or email events@copasummit.com
WHEN I had lunch with Paul Parkinson of Yorkshire-based vehicle leasing business recently he was keen to show me how the business is expanding.
His business is a great success but what Paul appeared most proud of was the work his company has done with Welcome to Yorkshire.
He has taken more space for expansion at Synergy’s base on Hornbeam Park in Harrogate, but some of that is already taken up by scores of bicycles. 

The multi-award winning business is the 61st donation station in the Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries programme, a unique scheme led by Welcome to Yorkshire as a legacy of the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire, designed to make cycling more accessible for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

The aim is simple – to give children and their families, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a bike, the chance to borrow one and ride it for free.

It is such a simple concept but it makes such a difference.

YOU couldn’t move last week for events and social media posts about International Women’s Day.
The event is now an annual celebration across the globe.
Fantastic, I’ve got no problem with that.
But what I do find annoying is the number of men falling over themselves to “identify” with International Women’s Day.
Surely rather than proclaiming your respect and admiration for women on one particular special day, what might be more beneficial is these men just showing respect to women and treating them equally every day.
I saw one social media post from a bloke last Friday who proclaimed his credentials by naming all the women who had had an influence on his life.
It reminded me of that Norwegian football commentator who reeled off every famous English person from history he could remember after Norway beat England 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier.
IN other news this week it was reported in the Yorkshire Post that police in Leeds were called to a home in the city where a drunk woman had got stuck in a cat flap.
It wasn’t confirmed whether she was trying to get into or out of the house.
That’s some night out – or in.
Have a great weekend.

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