David Parkin on professionalism over Prosecco taps

IT was when a bloke walked past me wearing pink shorts and flip flops that I first thought that perhaps I wasn’t perfectly suited to the city centre offices where I was based.

Look, I’m not daft (shut it).

I know that my preference for wearing a suit or jacket and trousers and shirt and tie to work is going to put me in the minority in the new post-pandemic working environment that’s not so much dress down casual as sloppy and scruffy in some cases.

And I’ve got nothing against anyone that wants to wear pink shorts and flip flops to work.

But given it was February and the temperature outside was barely above freezing, I thought it was a slightly odd choice of office attire.

But then again, if you work in the creative industries, then I suppose you’ve got to look the part.

It often makes up for a lack of personality.

It was when I recounted this story over lunch with Alex Duckett of serviced office business Gilbanks that he suggested I visit his base in Leeds and have a look around.

A charming and engaging character, I’ve known Alex since his days as a chartered surveyor involved in commercial property with Savills and Knight Frank and his subsequent entrepreneurial activities at automotive business Twisted.

He launched the Gilbanks concept five years ago, driven by a desire to create aspirational, productive and contemporary working environments for professional businesses.

Which means it is a pretty good bet you won’t see people in pink shorts and flip flops wandering around in Gilbanks.

Well, not unless they are an “interesting” accountant who has just flown in from the closing parties in Ibiza and left their laptop in the office.

The first Gilbanks office is on two floors of the flagship One Park Row building in Leeds, overlooking City Square and it offers fully managed private office suites on a flexible basis.

I visited that building many times when I was a business journalist as it is home to law firm Pinsent Masons, banking group Barclays and corporate finance advisers Rothschild & Co.

When I went to have a look around the offices I was struck by the warmth and professionalism of the Gilbanks team.

Plus I bumped into an accountant, a lawyer, and two marketeers who I know while I was walking around the office.

And my friends Nathan and Zoe Lane of Campfire PR are based there and speak highly of it.

The Gilbanks concept clearly appealed to the Leeds professional community as the offices were fully let within five months of opening.

“People have only left because we can’t accommodate them,” Alex told me.

I was quick to sign up to base myself in Gilbanks and it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

The business will open its second office  in Manchester in March and is actively looking at other locations in major cities around the UK.

The new Manchester location is at 11 York Street in the heart of the city’s business district.

The 22,000 sq ft of serviced offices will provide a premium working environment for professional companies in what is the only new-build Grade-A building in the city’s central business district.

11 York Street, which is operated by Aviva Investors, the global asset management business of Aviva, has been named the best new build outside of central London and the building  has already attracted tenants including Rolls-Royce and surveyors Avison Young.

Alex says Gilbanks in Manchester will have an airy business lounge, soundproof booths for video calls and state-of-the-art meeting rooms and will offer a “tranquil yet dynamic environment focused on productivity”.

He said: “We are creating something special at 11 York Street. Our members will experience a superior working environment that is a new generation of workspaces designed for post-pandemic working. The plans we have developed do a fantastic job of bringing this vision to life.”

The space is designed for task-based and hybrid work and the firm is mindful that it needs to create a space that helps to inspire younger workers back to the office.

Beanbags and Prosecco taps sometimes aren’t really the answer.

Members at 11 York Street will benefit from several event spaces that can host large seminars to yoga sessions, as well as a great events space in the sky suite on the eighth floor with views over the city.

Alex told me there has been “an astonishing amount of interest” for Gilbanks Manchester and when it opens in March on the first and second floors of the building, it will be more than 50% occupied.

One of those firms that has already signed up is Morgan Sindall Infrastructure and Alex, who is pictured above on the right with Mark Conway, specialist operations director at Morgan Sindall, added that they will be “joining a community of professionals that value productivity and understand the benefits of sharing an office environment with like-minded businesses”.

Gilbanks has also signed up a national accountancy practice and a corporate law firm.

It sounds like the perfect home from home when I have to work on the other side of the Pennines.


REGIONAL council leaders have apparently given the green light to create a new organisation to promote tourism in Yorkshire.

According to the Yorkshire Post, the “slimmed down” new body will replace Welcome to Yorkshire which collapsed last year with joint administrators appointed on March 1st.

Given we are told that the new tourism organisation will be in operation from April this year that represents really swift work by our public servants.

They will have only spent 12 months thinking about, talking about and then finally doing something to replace Welcome to Yorkshire.

That’s 12 months in which there has been a hiatus in promoting Yorkshire as a tourist destination.

Mind you, they still haven’t decided on a name for this new destination management organisation or even details of its precise scope of operations.

The joint administrators sold off the name and website of Welcome to Yorkshire but Robin Scott,  the bloke who bought them who runs an obscure digital commerce business in Manchester called Silicon Dales, hasn’t done much so far.

My prediction is don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile we have the ministry of all the talents driving forward the promotion of tourism across the Yorkshire region.

Who am I referring to?

Well the Yorkshire and Humber Leaders Board, which is made up of 22 council leaders from across the region plus the Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin and the Mayor of South Yorkshire Oliver Coppard.

OK, I admit it, you might be able to challenge my representation of this bunch as the “ministry of all the talents” under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Apparently, according to the Yorkshire Post, the new council-led  tourism body will be “modest” and its work will be overseen by Barnsley Council.

Yes, Barnsley, that tourism hotspot.

I wasn’t aware that councils did things any other way than modestly.

It reminds me of Churchill’s wonderful quote about political opponent Clement Attlee: “He is a modest man with much to be modest about.”

If these council leaders are already planning for the new organisation to be “modest” then I’m wondering why they are bothering?

Did Welcome to Yorkshire think modestly?

No it didn’t.

It had big, bold ideas.

And it put Yorkshire on the global tourism map for years.

Some might say it got too big for its boots.

All I’d ask is whether the region is better off with it or without it?

And if you think we are actually better off without it, perhaps you should be thinking about standing for your local council.

Talent is in short supply.

Even if it is modest.

Have a great weekend.

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