Spring Fling proves there is life outside London W1

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on May 17, 2011

Listen carefully, I will say this only once........

Ah! Battersea! Rolls off the tongue just as well as Westminster, or Bloomsbury. Is it Battersea, though, and not Wandsworth ( really )? Whatever, I’m standing on the 13th floor of the Hotel Verta, overlooking the River Thames, in late February, and I’m wondering if I can persuade one hundred-plus LIMA members to come out here for the Spring Fling this May. We decide to take the plunge, Saphia and I, after she’s shored up my confidence for the move to a spectacular new venue but one slightly outside our normal geographical limits.

Actually we have a bit of fun selling the venue. For start, the hotel is built beside Battersea Heliport, so any heavy-hitters can fly in and save themselves a cab fare. We’re also right across the river Thames from Hammersmith, the unofficial ‘licensing village’ in London. I challenge the various denizens thereof to swim across the Thames to join us. I don’t think anyone actually did, but they sent a reasonable delegation nonetheless. And so to the day itself, a full programme in the latest of our Licensing Essentials Courses starts the activity. Sixty-odd eager delegates, from high street retail buyers, established licensees, back-room licensor staff, newcomers to the business here to learn how it ticks. A great, varied audience, in other words, to hear our array of speakers. The conference room is flooded with light, and enjoys slightly-less-elevated Thames side views. We’re interrupted every now and again by a helicopter taking off or landing, but this is a sufficiently novel way of disrupting a conference that nobody seems to mind.

A packed programme winds up with our now (almost) legendary panel debate, where I persuade of number of industry veterans to sit through some questioning and hopefully share their frank opinions with the audience, now swelled to more than 120 by early arrivals for the networking party to follow. I obviously fail to communicate something however, as my exhortations to the audience to join in and ask the panel their own questions clearly falls on deaf ears – to the extent that someone Tweeted later to say what a pity it was that the audience had not had chance to ask questions!  By the witching hour we’ve worked our way around to the vexed topic of auditors and audits, so it’s probably just as well that we were saved by the six o’clock bell and ‘obliged’ to go upstairs ( 13th floor, you recall?) for the Spring Fling networking party. Cool: they like it! It’s a clear, blue-skied early evening, and the view of the famous old river as she bends around the centre of London is worth the wait for the lifts. American readers please note: 13 is quite a lot of floors for Londoners. Food, drink, good company, networking and more drink follow, not necessarily in that order, and we deduce  that everyone has had a good time by the fact that twenty or more late survivors go on afterwards to not one but two local bars. Clearly business must be better than we thought…………

Maybe we’ll return to Battersea again. Certainly our members seemed to enjoy the venue and the atmosphere, and the conference ran smoothly with the hotel’s able assistance. If I work hard enough maybe I can even afford the helicopter entrance next time……………

The panel enjoys a comment during 'Licensing Question Time'

Spring Fling networking in full flow