Interview with Amanda Berry OBE, CEO, BAFTA

Read the full interview here.

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.

Photo Courtesy: The Guardian/AFP

Interview with Lord Geoffrey Howe

Read the full interview here.

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.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images/Huffington Post

Interview with Nigel Haywood, Governor of the Falkland Islands

Read the full interview here

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.

Photo Courtesy: The Sun/Scott Hornby

Interview with David Abraham, CEO of Channel 4

Read the full interview here.

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…

Photo Courtesy: Kirkby Monahan Publicity

Interview with Eton Head Master

Photo Courtesy: Guardian News & Media

A few months ago, I spoke to Tony Little about his teaching career and his experiences at the helm of Eton College. Arguably the most interesting part of this interview is where we discuss what it is that makes Eton’s boys so successful. Eton has produced an extraordinary number of the great and good of this country, including 19 Prime Ministers, Princes William and Harry, Boris Johnson, John Maynard Keynes and Ranulph Fiennes to name a few. For Tony, himself an Old Etonian, self-reliance, an ability to get things done, the sense of being part of a great institution, and a passion for excellence, are four reasons why Etonians are high achievers.

“You have young men, in the main, who are the kind of people who roll up their sleeves and get things done, with an attitude that “I can change the world”. Sometimes they think too much that they can change the world. But it is a good starting point. I would sum it up by saying this: schools should enable young people to have a true sense of self worth, because if they have that, then they can start being of use both to themselves and to society.”

How did broadcaster John Sergeant decide on what to do as a career?


Travelling to Washington DC and witnessing Martin Luther King’s speech at the Washington Monument certainly helped. University saw John diversify into a number of different areas including comedy and theatre, I asked him why he chose journalism over his other pursuits.

“I suppose I had a choice between being a comic actor of some kind and being a journalist and I always thought that journalism would be more exciting, I thought we would travel the world, which in those days was quite difficult to do. If you wanted to go to Vietnam for example, it was quite difficult to do that if you were an ordinary person, where as if you are a reporter, it’s often horribly easy to find yourself in Vietnam because that was the big war that was going on and there were a lot of reporters involved.”

Chris Edwards: From market stall hand to £206m in sales


Last week I spoke to Chris Edwards, the co-founder and co-managing director of Poundworld, the discount retailer which last year opened it’s 208th outlet. Chris began his career in retail on his parent’s market stall in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Despite the explosive growth of Poundworld over the last six years, Edwards is adamant that his primary motivation is “fear of failure” in the increasingly difficult environment of the UK high street. You can read the full interview here.

Interview with Nobel Prize winner, John Gurdon

Aged 15, John Gurdon was ranked last for biology out of the 250 boys in his year at Eton. In a school report from 1949, his teacher suggested that it would be pointless for John to even attempt to go to university:

“I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous…it would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who have to teach him.”

The report is now framed in his office at the Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge.

I’ll be talking to John Gurton in the New Year about the work that resulted in winning the Nobel Prize for Science in October this year. John’s pioneering research led to the discovery that mature cells can be converted into stem cells. His work in cloning began at the University of Oxford, where he successfully cloned a frog in 1958.

John Gurdon's School Report

Mamma Mia! writer interview

Before she penned one of the most successful musicals of all time, Catherine Johnson was struggling to make ends meet as a single mother living in a damp flat in Bristol. Mamma Mia! the play went on to gross over $2 billion at the box office and the 2008 film is still the fastest selling DVD of all time. My interview with Catherine is now online here.

“I did absolutely want to write about the single mother who wasn’t a wretched kind of – you know – at that time there was a lot of press about single mothers being a drain on the state etc etc. so I wanted to write about a working single mother who had got her life together and the relationship she had with her daughter who she absolutely adored but fought with.”