David Powell, Deputy Master of the Worshipful Company of Bakers and former global director innovation/bakery Rich Products
I have been asked to write something on the Irish and their wonderful warmth and most generous hospitality, as experienced by those fortunate enough to have attended Niall Irwin’s inauguration and the Irish Association of Master Bakers’ conference. Before I do, however, there is something I need to get off my chest.
Why are the organisers of events in this relatively small industry of ours attracted like moths to a naked light bulb when it comes to the timing of their events?
The run-up to the Irish conference was a classic case. On Sunday 3 October, I drove to Bolton for the Bakers’ Fair and the ABST Council meeting, then drove home past Warwick to get to the Bakers’ Company Court meeting and Lunch! on Monday morning in London. This finished after 3pm but the British Society of Baking (BSB) AGM started at 5pm in you’ve guessed it Warwick. This was followed by a dinner and the BSB conference. Finally, I arrived home late on Tuesday evening and, rather than feeling inspired and motivated, I was knackered and £739 poorer, having paid this amount out in conference fees, fuel and rail tickets, among other items.
Two days at work and then I was off to Belfast on Friday for the weekend Irish conference, followed by Bakers’ Hall on Monday for the Committee Day. Thank God I’m not trying to run a business any more!
This is not an isolated case: on 22-25 March 2010, dinner at Bakers’ Hall in London clashed with the BSB dinner on Monday evening. Meanwhile, the BCA meeting was on the following Wednesday and Thursday in Cheshire and the Baking Industry Exhibition in Birmingham ran from the Sunday to the Wednesday of the same week. All are important to attend, but when do you fit in running your business?
This has to be madness, so can the people who organise these events plan their dates better, please? The industry wants to support you, but please have some consideration for the people who have to give up their time and money to attend. It is in your interest, as more thoughtful planning will result in higher attendances and happier attendees.
Meanwhile, back in Ireland, the organisation was impeccable, the papers interesting and relevant and boy, do they know how to have fun: the sight of the "long-suffering" Jan Stuart, wife of Scottish Bakers’ president Alan Stuart, performing tricks with a JCB digger will remain with those present for a long time to come.
This was the first time I had attended this particular conference and the striking difference, to me, was that the bakers of Ireland presented a united front that is, everyone from small craft businesses to the large plants were represented. The papers presented on the Saturday were designed to offer something to all, and although every business is unique, it was striking that there were many more shared issues, concerns and problems that could be discussed than there were differences one example of this being how businesses of all types are having to deal with commodity price increases.