David Parkin on John Lewis, celebrating Asian enterprise and cultural ambassador Ronnie Pickering

FRESH from the opening of the new John Lewis store in Birmingham, the store chain’s chief executive was in Leeds this week to take part in a discussion about leadership in the 21st century.

Given that John Lewis is a partnership founded by a man born in the Victorian era, you might have expected Andy Street, the current custodian of the organisation, to have outlined how touchy-feely it is.

But as soon as he bounded on stage at the Leeds Community Foundation event at Leeds Town Hall, you could see that the wiry, energetic CEO has the qualities to ensure John Lewis is a 21st century business.

He’s already looking forward to the opening of their next store in Leeds in just over 12 month’s time.

He showed a short film clip of an interview with founder John Spedan Lewis, which must have been filmed towards the end of his life (he died in 1963).

His values in founding John Lewis, are still held dear today. But while John Lewis tries to do the right thing by its 90,000 ‘partners’ and the communities in which it operates, Street warned that to be successful and sustainable, an organisation like his always has to “follow the customer”.

The event at the Town Hall also featured Estelle Brachlianoff who runs the UK and Ireland water, waste and energy operations of international group Veolia.

That prompted Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who chaired the discussion, to quip that if Andy Street of John Lewis has been dubbed the ‘King of Quality’ then Estelle might be known as ‘The Queen of Rubbish’.

Baroness Warsi told the audience that she was voted the sexiest member of the House of Lords in the 2008 but that didn’t count for a great deal because of the membership of the upper house.

Talking of rubbish, a few asides from the Baroness suggested that her short stint around the Cabinet table of the last coalition government wasn’t an experience that she looks back on fondly.


IT was enough to make me spit my fruit smoothie all over the kitchen table (I’ve bought a new blender so the cornflakes are out).

There it was in black and white on the back of the Yorkshire Post.

In a report on the Yorkshire Asian Business Association Business Awards, which took place last week, it said that the event was hosted by BBC Asian Network presenter Tommy Sandhu and “Yorkshire media personality” David Parkin.

If Yorkshire’s paper of record says it, it must be true.

And of course it is all factually accurate. Isn’t it?

Given I’m not from Yorkshire, I’ve booked an appointment to confirm if I do actually have a personality.

If they find one I’ll let you know.

The YABA awards, at the Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford, saw me dashing about doing my roving reporter bit interviewing representatives of the shortlisted companies.

There were some great stories to hear about.

TB (Halifax) is a cash and carry business set up by Thakorial Bhagubhai Patel, trained civil engineer, when he moved to the UK from India in 1976, which now has turnover of £30m and all its sales don’t including alcohol.

Among the nominees in the Professional category were Arif Ahmad, Leeds office senior partner at PwC and Qari Asim, senior associate at DLA Piper who is also an Imam at a mosque in Leeds.

His unique position has seen him advising the government on issues concerning Muslims.

YABA presented a number of special achievement awards to Amjad Pervez of Seafresh and Nazir Ahmed of Park Lane Properties whose family business empire now includes serviced apartments operator Roomzzz and Leeds Golf Centre at Wike.

Also receiving an award was Sir Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire after a big year where he not only delivered the success of the Tour de France Grand Depart but also got married and received a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

I asked Sir Big V what he could do next after the year he had just had.

He has plans aplenty to further the success of Yorkshire’s profile and tourism industry, including the further development of the Tour de Yorkshire bike race.

He then turned his attention to my blue velvet jacket (I was given it to wear by Simon Berwin of Leeds tailoring business Berwin & Berwin when compering a fashion show) and gave me a few ‘compliments’ which the audience seemed to enjoy.

The saving grace was that after I came off stage I was having a beer with Gary and his colleague Peter Dodd and Peter said the jacket made me look like Austin Powers.

“Oh I wish I’d thought of that one when we were up on stage,” said the Big V.

Yeah baby, I’m glad you didn’t, I thought to myself.


I WAS never one of the those people who sneered when it was announced that Hull would be the European Capital of Culture 2017.

Anyone who has visited the Far East of Yorkshire will know this is a city of character, history and pride. Like Liverpool, it is a city that sits a little bit apart from the region which it is in.

The plans for the Capital of Culture celebration sound exciting and engaging and will hopefully help highlight the positives of Hull.

Although it, like many cities, faces considerable challenges.

Only this week a report from the Department for Communities and Local Government highlighted the local authority areas with the highest proportion of deprived neighbourhoods and Kingston upon Hull came third behind Middlesbrough and Knowsley.

If you want to know what was deemed the most deprived neighbourhood in England, it was Jaywick, a seaside village near Clacton.

And while Jaywick doesn’t have a lot to look forward to, as part of its renaissance, there is plenty of redevelopment going on in Hull.

Work will start this month on the final phase of the transformation of Paragon Square in the city centre into a new dining quarter.

On one of my first visits to Hull I took the train there and, emerging from the station, the first thing I saw was a licensed establishment on the opposite side of the road which revelled in the name: “Cheeky Monkeys Fun Pub”.

I saw this week that the new “dining destination” development will be on the site of the aforementioned pleasure dome.

And then the internet sensation that is Ronnie Pickering emerged in a matter of hours.


If you’ve seen the YouTube footage, and more than a million people have so far, then you’ll know what I’m on about.

A moped rider in Hull had an altercation with a motorist which he filmed on a camera fixed to his helmet and the YouTube footage went viral via social media.

The driver, an angry gentlemen, after dishing out plenty of expletives, then proceeded to ask the rider whether he knew who he was, and receiving a negative answer, then told him: “I’m Ronnie Pickering”.

The power of the internet led to dozens of parodies with people dubbing the “I’m Ronnie Pickering” quote onto clips from Spartacus (you can guess which scene), Gladiator, The Spice Girls, Sean Connery as James Bond and Liam Neeson in Taken.

I wonder if the organisers of the Capital of Culture celebrations will be able to embrace Ronnie as part of his anger management treatment?

I bet he’s not always been like this.

It must have all started when Cheeky Monkeys shut down.

Have a great weekend.

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