In February 1971, Iceland became Malcolm’s full-time occupation after his employer, Woolworths, discovered he and his business partner were operating a frozen food business “on the side”. Malcolm and another trainee from Woolworths had started a small business of their own in the previous year. In January 2009, Woolworths Group went into liquidation and two months later Malcolm’s frozen foods venture reported record sales of just over £2 billion. It’s an extraordinary journey for the former Woolies employee who started out sweeping the floor and weighing potatoes in the stock room. Today he is thought to be worth in the region of £215 million.
Wallace & Gromit creator, Nick Park, on how he made it in film
Today Nick’s feature films have multi-million pound budgets backed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood but his first characters were made of a product called Fuzzy Felt and inhabited a world based in his parents’ backgarden. He began making films aged 13, mostly short sketches involving comedy duos such as Walter the Rat and a friendly worm, or Murphy and Bongo, a caveman and a dinosaur. Many filmmakers have had their first experiments in film at a young age but with Nick’s work there is a noticeable continuity between some of the thinking behind the films he made in his teens and what became Wallace & Gromit. His father was the first to note the trademark humour in his short films and encouraged him to go to film school. A real lightbulb moment happened at a film festival where Nick had the idea of combining the kind of humour found in Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry and Disney cartoons with plasticine animation.
Interview with Gerard Baker, Editor of the Wall Street Journal.
On the night of 18th June 1970, when most eight-year-olds were fast asleep, the young Gerard Baker was wide awake watching the live results of that year’s general election in the UK. He was, in his own words, “a bit of an odd creature in that respect”, with an advanced interest in and understanding of history, politics and current affairs. Born and raised in Britain, a combination of intellectual curiosity and a drive to be the best at school meant that Gerry secured a position to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, where he developed his fascination with markets and finance. Thinking the best outlet for his interests would be banking, his first jobs after university were working as an economic analyst at the Bank of England and Lloyds.
Interview with Tony Elliott, Founder & Chairman, Time Out Group
It is hard to believe now but finding out what was going on in the nation’s capital was a difficult business in 1968. There were no dedicated listings magazines and getting to grips with the cultural scene in the city meant going through what was then called the “underground press” with such titles as International Times, Oz and Gandalf’s Garden. At this time, Tony Elliott was about to go into his final year at Keele University. Seeing a gap in the market, he decided to use a £75 birthday gift from his aunt to start his own listings magazine.
“If people have got a strong idea that is well executed, and clearly it has to be something that fulfills some kind of a need, the last thing the world needs is 150 new music magazines for example, so you’ve got to pick your spot, really work hard and execute it as well as possible. I think people often think they can’t start small, you have to be of some size. I’ve always advised people to aim for a niche and establish yourself in that niche and then build from there. I think the era is over really where people have an idea that goes national and becomes enormous. It’s more a question of small and good.”
How Did They Do It? is now 60,000 words in and 2/3s of the way towards completion. A total of 35 interviewees have agreed to take part and 25 interviews have been completed. There are only 14 interviews online at the moment but I hope to rectify this over the next month or so.
Last week, I met Alan Johnson MP at his office in Parliament Square where he discussed his surprisingly destitute childhood as well as his time in office. Alan is an incredible addition to this series. He grew up in one of the poorest parts of London in the 1950s and was orphaned aged 12. After leaving school aged 15 he worked for a time in Tesco before joining the Post Office. Yet he rose to the very top of British politics, becoming Education Secretary, Health Secretary and Home Secretary. How did he do it? You’ll have to buy the book.
Other recent interviewees include Arlene Phillips CBE and Martha Lane Fox CBE, or Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho as of March this year. Martha co-founded Lastminute.com, the hugely successful online travel and leisure retailer. There are now 6 interviewees in this series that have been awarded CBEs and 6 members of the House of Lords. Lastminute.com was established back in 1998 when only 8% of the country had access to a modem. Today she works on major public and charitable projects, including a Gov.uk scheme to get more people in the UK using the internet.
Interview with Amanda Berry OBE, CEO, BAFTA
When Amanda took up the Chief Executive role at BAFTA in 2000, the Academy was suffering from lack of interest and lack of funds. Although it was still hosting the annual awards ceremonies that it is best known for, the organisation had gradually lost touch with both the public and much of its own membership. Amanda is widely recognised as having turned BAFTA around. Since the start of her tenure, the prospects for the Academy have increased dramatically. Moving the Film Awards ceremony from March to before the Oscars required a huge amount of work but it now means that the awards are seen as part of the New Year awards season. The charitable functions of the organisation have also increased, going from around four events a month excluding the awards ceremonies to around 250 events a year, most of which are accessible to the public.
Howdidtheydoit.co.uk Global Reach – Last Quarter – 17.03.13-17.06.13
- Top 10 Most Engaged Countries: 1st UK, 2nd USA, 3rd Germany, 4th Australia, 5th Canada, 6th Belgium, 7th Italy, 8th Poland, 9th France, 10th Spain.
- The scale below shows the density of interest, with UK taking 914 of the 1690 views, or just over half.
- Visits came from 63 different countries.
- Remaining visits have come from countries all over the globe including Brazil, India, Russia, Macedonia, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Iraq, Vietnam, Antigua, Lebanon, Nepal and Uganda.
Interview with Lord Geoffrey Howe
Margaret Thatcher’s longest serving cabinet minister is well-known for the resignation speech many cite as having prompted her downfall but the majority of his ministerial career bears the hallmarks of a constructive working relationship that Howe characterises as having been “like a marriage”. He first worked with Thatcher while she was Secretary of State for Education under Ted Heath and attributes the longevity of their careers to shared ideals and a mutual appreciation of the other’s abilities. Howe became Chancellor of Exchequer during a time of extreme economic uncertainty in Britain, overseeing the radical 1981 Budget that some credit with having brought Britain out of the gloom of the 1970s and cementing the monetarist policies that remained central to successive Budgets thereafter.
Interview with Nigel Haywood, Governor of the Falkland Islands
It’s one of the most important roles in British diplomacy, overseeing the administration of a group of islands 8000 miles away in the South Atlantic. It’s a role steeped in history, the first Governor took office in 1843, beginning of a period of continuous British oversight that was only interrupted in 1982 during the 74 days of Argentine occupation. Today the Governor has a very modern remit, set out in a series of continually updated acts of Parliament relating to the British Overseas Territories, but it is the tension with Argentina that still generates the greatest amount of attention in the islands.
Nigel’s career in the Foreign Office began after three years in the Army. He has since served in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Austria and Hungary. Between 2003 and 2008 he was UK Ambassador to Estonia and later Consul-General, Basra. He became Governor in 2010 as well as Commissioner for the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, a group of uninhabited islands in the South Atlantic with a total area of roughly 1,500 square miles. During his time on the Falkland Islands, provocations from Argentina’s government, led by Christina Fernandez, have often made headline news.
Interview with David Abraham, CEO of Channel 4
The son of two immigrants, his mother was from Belgium and his father was from Calcutta, David Abraham grew up in rural Lincolnshire and Essex and went on to study History at Magdalen College, Oxford. Amazingly, David’s application to study television at postgraduate level was turned down by Middlesex Polytechnic and he started a career in advertising after a friend suggested the industry might also provide him with the opportunity to be involved in creative work.
David co-founded the groundbreaking advertising agency, St. Luke’s, which continues to work with major clients today. He moved out of advertising in 2001, becoming General Manager for Discovery in Europe and later joined UKTV as its Chief Executive. He is well known for having initiated the successful rebranding of the UKTV channels that saw the creation of the Dave, Alibi and Yesterday TV brands. David describes his career as having taken place in a series of roughly five to seven year periods, giving him time to learn and make a positive impact in each role. His advice is to stay in a role for long enough to have made a measurable achievement before moving onto the next challenge. More…