What are you doing for Christmas? Nothing? Me too. No family (apart from my husband and five dogs), no friends, no parties.
But I’m not feeling sorry for myself. All my family and I – whether we can see and hug each other or not, are considerably better off than many. We will all be able to eat, open a few presents and speak to each other on the phone or video. And I am already looking forward to Christmas 2021.
So, as I contemplate my packed (not), Christmas 2020 diary, for the first time ever, I have the time to imagine my perfect imaginary dinner party guest list, drawn from some of the most interesting people I’ve met this year through Business & Innovation Magazine.
It’s not a new game. But this is the first time I’ve played it. My rules are as follows:
Numbers are limited to 10 people, of which half of them at least must be people I’ve met in the last few years. No dead people either (or at least, they must still be sentient when I’m writing). There are enough amazing people still alive and a dead people’s dinner party is another game altogether.
So here’s my list, in no particular order – with a short explanation of why each one is on it. It has been a struggle to keep to ten people, and I could easily do another half a dozen such guests lists without running out of people. I’ve picked this ten because (and this goes without saying), I admire them all hugely, I think they’d all have something (a lot) to say to each other, perhaps even learn from each other, they’ve all either got outside interests so their conversation would be wide ranging, or are just so passionate about what they do that even if they talk only about what they do, it’s going to be interesting.
If anyone has time on your hands over Christmas or New Year, I would love to read and share your list too.
Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity and chair of Forest Green Rovers
The passionate, financially successful (and a little bit bonkers) Stroud entrepreneur who’s not afraid to follow his beliefs. He’s made a success of his energy company (Ecotricity), has converted his football club to veganism and attracted some high profile people to support it (a pretty epic achievement). Most recently, he’s begun to create diamonds in a laboratory in Stroud. I love his commitment, but I had to do just a bit of fact-checking after my recent interview with him.
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England from 2013-2020
Sadly I’ve not met him, but this economist and banker’s commitment to sustainability shone through in his recent Reith Lectures, which concentrated on why financial values have come to be considered more important than human ones. Earlier this year he was appointed as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance. I think he and Dale would have a lot to talk about – Dale to inspire him, and Mark to correct some of Dale’s interpretations of how quickly the economy could be turned completely green.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the scientist who pioneered the Oxford vaccine, which we are all hoping will be licenced soon.
I’ve not met her either, but I’m hoping to interview her next year when the dust has settled a bit. I heard this phenomenal woman talking on the radio about her vaccine months ago when the trials were in very early stages. She was confident even then that it would work.
Denys Shortt OBE is the founder of Banbury-based DCS Group
DCs Group is now Europe’s largest privately owned distributor of health, beauty and household brands, having just broken through £250 million in sales – a huge milestone in its 26th year. I interviewed him some years ago and am planning another interview with him next year. Awarded in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to the economy in the West Midlands, Denys is charismatic, energetic and opinionated – three traits which I think he might say are the reason he’s got to where he has in life.
Carmen Watson, chair and managing director of Pertemps
Pertemps is one of the UK’s most successful recruitment agencies. Carmen is Chair and Managing Director of the near £1bn turnover business based in Warwickshire. Having joined as a secretary in the 1970s, by the age of 24 she was running a £5 million turnover branch. Named Director of the Year in the West Midlands by the Institute of Directors in 2018, when I interviewed her over the phone last year, she was engaging and full of personality and a determined campaigner for race equality.
Martin Tedham, CEO of pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor The Wasdell Group.
A hugely successful businessman – who isn’t afraid of controversy, he also likes his horse racing, having signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with Jonjo O’Neill Racing in Gloucestershire last year. Earlier this year his Swindon-based company donated £50,000 to enable every primary school in the country to have access to a book that helps children cope with feelings of sadness – particularly those caused by lockdown.
Julie Kent, public speaker and charity campaigner
This indefatigable charity campaigner based in Gloucestershire was awarded an MBE for her work earlier this year. Her list of achievements is too long to list, but she’s full of energy, personality and drive – and a great dinner party guest.
William Chase, Founder and Chairman, Chase Distillery.
Another person I’ve yet to meet and interview, but this Herefordshire farmer and businessman has just sold his distillery to the global drinks business Diageo. Chase Distillery’s spirits portfolio is distilled from scratch using potatoes and apples on the Chase Farm in Herefordshire. The steam energy used to run the distillery is produced on site from a biomass boiler powered by prunings from the apple orchard, with potato waste used as fertiliser to feed the Farm’s cattle.
This isn’t the first time the family have built and sold a major brand. William Chase, whose parents were farmers themselves, began his career in potato trading, launched the hugely successful Tyrrells Crisps in 2002, selling it in 2008 for £30 million to London-based investment company Langholm.
Who better to bring some drink, a few nibbles and some great stories?
Sir David McMurtry, co-founder and Chairman of Renishaw
There is no way that we could leave out the founder of one of the UK’s most successful and entrepreneurial engineering businesses. I’ve met and interviewed the brilliant Sir David on a number of occasions. He’s now 80 and the last time I met him, a couple of years ago, he was as interested in new engineering concepts and thirsty for knowledge as ever. And I’d love to hear more about the building of his amazing, futuristic house in South Gloucestershire.
And the host? That’s me of course.
Nicky Godding, co-founder of Business & Innovation Magazine.
Why do I consider myself worthy of hosting such an august dinner party? Well I’m not sure I do really – but I am a very good listener, I’m interested in them all and I hope that I’ve been enough places, met enough people and know just enough about enough topics to be able to contribute intelligently.
Now to the table plan……. No, I don’t think I’ll even attempt that.
Merry Christmas everyone, and please do share your perfect, imaginary dinner party list if you have the time.