Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

One of our Account Executives, Phoebe, recently went to see The Revlon Girl at The Riverfront Theatre in Newport. Here she shares her thoughts on the play…


Though based on the events surrounding the Aberfan disaster, The Revlon Girl is a play that focuses on much more than the tragedy itself. It bravely and triumphantly shines a light on our fragile human condition and innate ability to push through hardship at the toughest of times.

The performance began with sound effects of the tip tumbling down and the slush caving in on the former coal mining village of Aberfan. Immediately drawn to the impact the fall had upon the community, I prepared myself for what I thought was about to be a pretty upsetting play. And it was, at times, but under the guidance of Neil Docking’s script and Maxine Evans’s direction, all four of the superb actresses did a magnificent job at flickering between emotions and transforming the atmosphere of the room from sadness to happiness and tears into laughter. Despite the incredibly tough subject matter, The Revlon Girl must be commended for its success in informing the audience whilst remaining light-hearted and enjoyable.

Whilst sitting in the audience I felt as though I was a part of something, a community, a tight-knit friendship group. The bare and stripped-back stage drew your attention to the actresses themselves which, along with the dim flicker of light, made you feel as though you were a fly on the wall listening to the women inside the confines of their small room. Although it was an intense watch, over the short space of an hour and a half you went on a journey with the characters and felt completely and utterly immersed in their emotions.

I went along to the showing with my grandma, auntie and two of her friends all of whom remember the Aberfan disaster “as if it was yesterday!”. Though we varied in age from 21 to 84, we were all mesmerised from start to finish and thought the play was a fantastic way to commemorate the disaster’s 50th anniversary. The Revlon Girl is a play that entwines together the past and the present, and reminds a modern day audience why we should always reflect upon historical events to unravel and understand different communities.

The Revlon Girl stops touring around Wales on the 22nd October 2016. To find out more information about the play, please go to 

Team Wales at Glasgow 2014 Opening Ceremony

Team Wales at Glasgow 2014 Opening Ceremony

I wholeheartedly agree with Sion Barry’s comments in today’s Western Mail that we should bid for hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games. Can you imagine the worldwide publicity that could be achieved from the day the city is chosen as host, right through the actual event and years afterwards, as the benefits derived from the Games are realised.

Yes, the cost would be huge. But the infrastructure projects which would be needed to be put in place before the Games could start would benefit our economy both in the short and long term.

Cardiff and Wales would get a tremendous buzz before, during and after the Games. The feel good factor that Sion refers

Road cyclist Geraint Thomas wins Gold for Wales at Glasgow 2014

Road cyclist Geraint Thomas wins Gold for Wales at Glasgow 2014

to would be a huge boost to those promoting participation in sport, raising the aspirations of our young and mature athletes to new heights. Our ‘Welcome to Wales’ theme could be enhanced and promoted around the world.

I recall as a youngster when Cardiff hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1958 when 35 nations sent just 1130 athletes that the city was alive and buzzing, and we gave a great welcome to our visitors.  Glasgow have just hosted the best ever Games and will benefit for decades to come.

Let’s hope that the sports administrators, the business community, politicians and forward thinkers in our city accept the challenge and go for Gold in 2026. Also a final request from a rower who represented Wales a number of times; please put rowing back on the programme for 2026!

I really do agree with the comment in today’s Western Mail, ‘Exercise should be a natural part of life’.  The cost of dealing with the obesity problem in Wales, not first for adults but also for young children, will continue to mount otherwise.

A 10 year strategy involving all the key partners involved, i.e. Welsh Government, local authorities, Health boards, school-sports-day-006Sport Wales, parent’s associations etc, should be produced and achieved with regular monitoring.With 59% of adults in Wales overweight or obese, these figures are shocking. However, when you examine figures showing 28% of children aged four and under have an unhealthy body mass index, and 12.5% termed obese, it becomes ‘truly frightening’.

I know that Sport Wales have a number of excellent programmes involving school children which show an increase in young people participating in sport at least 3 times a week, but it’s not enough.

Every adult in Wales must sign up to the campaign to encourage children to take up exercise. Not necessarily sport, but just to start moving their young bodies further than just from kitchen, to lounge, to car, to school. Encourage them to appreciate the great outdoors, go for a walk, play in the park and breathe fresh air, not just stimulating the body but the mind also with new experiences.  Not all children are competitive so should not be forced to take up such a sport, just encouraged to move their bodies and show that exercise is a ‘natural part of life’.

The costs if we do not act now will be significant to our economy and our nation. Would it not be terrible with all our sporting heritage to become the most obese country in the world?

wales-rugby-teamLet’s wish our Welsh Rugby team all the very best for Sunday, and hope that their success motivates many more young people to take up sport and represent our country at the highest level in years to come.

Mathew Milsom, Managing Director, Wales Millennium Centre

Mathew Milsom, Managing Director, Wales Millennium Centre

For this month’s Breakfast Club we were joined by Mathew Milsom, Managing Director of the Wales Millennium Centre, Wales’ No 1 visitor attraction.

Described by Mathew as a ‘gleaming beacon of inspiration, sitting proudly at the mouth of the bay’, Wales Millenium Centre contributes over £50 million per year to the Welsh economy and employs over 1000 people on site.

The Centre forms part of a ‘creative cluster’ in Cardiff, alongside the BBC, soon to arrive Pinewood Studios and others, showcasing the best of the Welsh Arts.  Mathew feels the iconic facade, for which the centre has become known, defines the organisation; a furnace of creativity, which extends horizons and increases confidence through participation.

Mathew began by explaining that an important aspect of the Centre’s work is the community projects that it operates. The Centre aims to provide children and youngsters in Wales with new opportunities that weren’t available in the past, opportunities to perform, gain life changing experiences and leave a legacy.

The Centre has provided creative opportunities for 200,000 children in total since opening in 2004, alongside staging 3500 shows and putting on 4000 free performances.

Mathew explained that two things have been key to the Centre’s success during this time, firstly, financial sustainability. 57% of the Centre’s income comes from ticket sales, and only 20% from subsidy, a figure lower than other similar arts organisations in the UK. This is helped by the 81% attendance that the Centre achieves across all genres of show, compared to London’s 68%.

Wales Millennium Centre

Wales Millennium Centre

87% of the Centre’s audience currently comes from South Wales, and 73% from the South East of Wales. Less than 1% currently comes from abroad, but Mathew recognises that to increase this figure would be an expensive challenge. To do so, the Centre needs to offer unique performances, and it’s hoping to nurture the creativity behind these through its youth programmes.

Secondly, the success of the centre is down to great people. Mathew feels fortunate that the WMC’s workforce all share a passion for the creative industry and for Wales, as well as understanding and buying in to the values of the Centre.

As 2014 is the Centre’s 10th Anniversary, Mathew ended his presentation by looking towards the future. He summarised his plans in 3 words: Improve, Inspire and Perform. The Centre will put on an enhanced programme of events for the anniversary year, including mass participation projects that will continue to help raise the profile of Cardiff and Wales, and Mathew was keen to involve everyone as he encouraged us all to ‘Come and support us, get involved and expand your horizons.’

The next Breakfast Club will be held on Thursday March 20th, with guest speaker Hugh Morris, Chief Executive of Glamorgan Cricket. For more information or to reserve a place, please contact Eira on or 02902 549597.

Breakfast ClubThis month we were joined by Derek Jones who became Permanent Secretary for the Welsh Government in October 2012. At this morning’s Cardiff Breakfast Club he reflected on his role, the Welsh Government, and the ‘fantastically busy year’ since his appointment.

Derek began by describing to the club his career development, and experience of working both in and outside the civil service. Derek was born and educated in Cardiff, but moved away to work at the Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry, returning home to Wales to join the Welsh Office as Head of Industrial Policy. Following the creation of the National Assembly in 1999, as Senior Director, he was a central figure in the operation of devolved government in Wales. He then became Director of Business and Strategic Partnerships and an Honorary Professor at Cardiff University, until his appointment as Permanent Secretary, an opportunity he explained he ‘couldn’t resist.’

Although Derek no longer works at Cardiff University, he remains to have a ‘passion to develop Wales as a place where Higher Education and business intertwine’. He continues to believe in the importance of improving employability, and highlighted the need to secure investment in jobs as one of his fundamental priorities.

Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary

Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary

Derek shared his ideas on his inheritance of the Permanent Secretary role, discussing how historically it has tended to be an anonymous role. However, he explained that he believes this should not be the case, and so he takes every opportunity to interact with the business community. In the past there has been a tendency by his predecessors to be overly precautionary, ‘with risk management procedures not always properly aligned with the potential risks.’ He instead strongly believes in the need for ‘appropriate degrees of risk taking’.

Derek also highlighted some of the challenges which have faced Wales in the last year, citing flooding problems, and the measles outbreak in Swansea, praising that ‘we coped well with the events thrown at us.’

He finally concluded with a discussion on Wales’s position in the recently announced school league tables, and accepted that the Welsh Government has lots of work ahead of them to improve these results, although while they tell some of the story, ‘they don’t tell the whole story’. Focus shouldn’t be taken away from a culture of educational enjoyment and creativity, which will help nurture the business entrepreneurs of the future.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on January 29th 2014 with guest speaker Roger Lewis, Chief Executive of the WRU. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

My Kennedy Moment

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Events, Opinion
Tags: ,

JFKAs a young teenager in the 1960s, I was extremely interested in all things American, and followed the career of the Kennedy Clan and the new young president JFK avidly.

I, along with millions of other young people in the world felt JFK was going to save the world. His strong handling of the Cuban missile crisis is well documented, as was his significant influence in the Civil Rights movement. It was therefore with disbelief and shock that I watched the BBC television newsreader, whose name I forget, on the 22nd November 1963 whilst reading this news in a special broadcast. He had been handed a piece of paper and looked towards the camera, with a face I shall never forget, as he announced to the nation that President Kennedy had died after being shot in Dallas, Texas. I was home from school recovering from pneumonia, so was able to watch television nonstop for hours as all the details unfolded.

It is one of those iconic moments in one’s life when you can remember everything clearly as if it happened yesterday. Some years later I went to Arlington Cemetary in Washington to pay my respects to the man who had changed history, and also visited his brother Bobby’s grave at the same time; a memorable visit. As a besotted fan of another icon of the 60s, Marilyn Monroe, who had an affair with JFK, I continued my interest in the Kennedy’s for many years to come.

Volumes have been written about JFK and the Kennedy Clan, many positive and many negative, but for one young teenager in Cardiff, that moment in 1963, 50 years ago, will live with me forever. JFK rest in peace.

What wonderful news this week about the prestigious IAAF World Half Marathon Championships coming to Cardiff in 2016.


After the great success of this year’s Cardiff Half Marathon, I felt totally confident that the Cardiff event organisers, Run 4 Wales under the chairmanship of Nigel Roberts could prevail in the recent pitch to the council members of the IAAF in Monaco. With the very best athletes both male and female from around the globe descending on Cardiff in 2016, with friends, coaches etc this is a huge opportunity to present our capital city to the world.

Let’s give every support possible to Nigel and all involved to maximise this opportunity to promote Cardiff in what will be an Olympic year.

Roll on 2016.

Breakfast ClubOur speaker this month was Stephen Herring, Head of Taxation at the Institute of Directors (IoD). Stephen joined the IoD in September 2013 after 10 years as a tax partner at BDO. He is one of only eight independent members of the Treasury’s Tax Professionals Forum.

Stephen began his talk by sharing with the club the IoD’s recent presentation to the HM Treasury proposing 5 ‘short term’ and 5 ‘medium term’ tax reforms to simplify taxation and reduce its burden on the economy. These are reforms which the IoD believes the Government can afford. Stephen explained that his ‘short term’ reforms are ones which can be employed “without long consultations which delay change” and acted on in 2014. The IoD’s ‘medium term’ reforms are those which they think can be implemented in 2015.

One of the key ‘short term’ reforms Stephen discussed was a proposal to freeze business rates. Stephen explained that in many sectors IoD members have “fed back to us that business rates are becoming an unaffordable cost for entrepreneurial businesses.” He elaborated to say that he believes “it is wrong that businesses pay more rates” and suggested that “at the very least business rates should be frozen before reevaluation takes place.”

Stephen Herring, Head of Taxation, IoD

Stephen Herring, Head of Taxation, IoD

Stephen talked to the Breakfast Club about a ‘medium term’ proposal for the Government to introduce a simplified, alternative pension scheme. Stephen explained that this could be as simple as employers paying into an ISA scheme which cannot be withdrawn from until the employee is aged 55.

Misconceptions surrounding National Insurance was also a topic Stephen covered. He said that “some people vaguely think it’s to do with national health and pensions” and that there is “no separate pot” that it goes into, “it just goes into the Exchequeur.”

Stephen concluded by saying that he believes the future of taxation is in simplifying it and implementing “authentic and sensible tax planning” to “draw boundaries” and support the business sector.

The next Breakfast Club meeting will be held on 13th December, with guest speaker Derek Jones, Permanent Secretary. For further information, please contact or call 02920 549597.

Breakfast ClubOur speaker this morning was Lynda Campbell, Regional Director for British Gas. Lynda has worked for British Gas for over 30 years, progressing from the “shop floor” to overseeing its award-winning contact centre in Cardiff.

British Gas is one of Wales’ “anchor companies”, with 1300 members of staff employed at the Cardiff contact centre alone. Lynda and her team have worked hard to transform British Gas within Wales, achieving phenomenal results in both customer satisfaction and employee engagement. With over 30,000 people employed in contact centres, Lynda is now looking for ways to share this best practice with other companies and nurture communication skills in those entering the world of work, to create a niche for South Wales as a hub of superb service skills.

Lynda began by dispelling some of the common perceptions around working in contact centres: that it is unskilled, unsociable and undesirable. Turning these perceptions around is just one way the Cardiff centre team set about to “break the mould” for contact centres.

Lynda and her team set bold ambitions when she became General Manager in 2008. At the time British Gas was top of the complaints league and losing 12 members of staff per week.  It became evident that a completely new approach was needed, with a particular phrase becoming a motto for the Cardiff centre: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over.”

Lynda Campbell, Regional Director for Wales, British Gas, explained how she has "broken the mould" for contact centres.

Lynda Campbell, Regional Director for Wales, British Gas, explained how she has “broken the mould” for contact centres.

The “transformational journey” began with Lynda listening to the team and asking them what they would change. This led to a move away from the heavy focus on targets, which put staff under pressure yet did not guarantee good service. Lynda also revamped the recruitment process, making it “all about attitude”. The company now “recruit the smile, train the skill”, making assessment of behaviours and attitudes part of the interview. This has successfully lowered the staff attrition rate from 32% (12 per week) to just 4%. The team structure has also been reorganised to offer career development, as well as secondment opportunities outside of the contact centre.

The most important change was in British Gas’ approach to customer service, using psycholinguistic techniques to help staff read into callers’ varying personalities. “Thinkers”, “Feelers”, “Entertainers” and “Controllers” all expect different things, and by picking up on these personality types staff can handle the call in the most appropriate way. For example, “Thinkers” are most concerned about processes, and need to be talked through these in logical steps. 

Lynda was adamant that by improving engagement and looking after the staff that work there, “everything else will improve”. The new approach is clearly working: employee engagement has jumped from 54 to 86 in just 3 years, and complaints have dropped drastically from 51 per 1000 to just 6 per 1000. “World class” service is around 4 per 1000. With 24 industry awards in the last 3 years, this is something the team is closing in onLynda is now developing what British Gas can do to share their expertise and nurture the future of the industry. They hold open days for smaller businesses to share information and skills which have been attended by over 2000 companies so far. Lynda also sees a larger role for British Gas to play: working more closely with the education sector to help develop the key communication skills and attitudes needed before people enter the industry, so that they are ready to excel within it.

The next Breakfast Club meeting will be held on 21st November, with guest speaker Graeme Leach, IOD Chief Economist. For further information, please contact or call 02920 549597.

Well done to all those involved in last weekend’s successful Lloyds Bank Cardiff Half Marathon.  It was another wonderful Cardiff Halfexample of a well organised, safe, friendly, Cardiff sporting event, enjoyed by spectators, elite runners and 19,000 participants of all ages and nationalities.

Cardiff really can compete with any city around the world when it comes to organising events of this type.

I do hope that a lot of youngsters in Wales who fall into that category of being overweight might be inspired by all those happy faces of other young people who will never beat a world record but enjoyed being part of such a fun event; even if it takes them over 3 hours to complete the course.

Good luck Nigel Roberts and the Run 4 Wales team in your application to stage the IAAF World Half Marathon in 2016 in Cardiff!

Finally, my involvement was limited this year but I supported the event by looking after one of the organisers, Ben’s dog for two days so that he could assist with all the arrangements necessary to make the event such a success.