OK. So everyone was talking about it but no-one seemed to know where to get the information they want. Are you a ‘Remain’, an ‘Out’ or a ‘Brexiter’ as they became known, or a ‘Don’t Know’?
Mark Garnier MP for the Wyre Forest came to our North Worcestershire Business Breakfast on 6th May specifically to talk about the EU. At the end of the event, we held a poll and although the majority were ‘remainers’ there were still a lot of ‘don’t knows’. I kept thinking everyone needed more information and a chance to hear from both sides, as what we were seeing on TV and radio was everyone shouting each other down and not giving us what we, the public, needed to know. It was really frustrating and our breakfast club attendees were all saying the same; “This isn’t an easy decision and we’d like to know more about what staying in or leaving the EU really means.”
Laura and I were going to the SRFC May Corporate lunch later that day and it was a definite topic of conversation on the Zeus Capital table where we were guests alongside Calum Nisbet, Regional Director, Institute of Directors. I saw Stewart Towe, OBE, Chair of the Hadley Group and the Black Country LEP, and asked if he might get involved. He readily agreed so I decided that it was time for EWTE to step into the fray. Laura and I thought about it and decided to hold a debate.
It was going to be a free event but we’d got to cover costs so we needed sponsorship. The Institute of Directors were already on board which was great, but we needed some others. I contacted Robert Elliot from Hogarths Stone Manor who was incredibly helpful and agreed to host the event and give us breakfast. I then rang our good friends Charles Lovell & Co., Chartered Accountants, to see if they’d like to sponsor. With an immediate yes from them, I then spoke to Tim Heaselgrave of the Timothy James Partnership and he was happy to sponsor too. Great, now all we needed was a panel, a Chair, a date, people to attend and we were on, after all we’d got all of six weeks until the vote! Sponsors – check. HOORAY
From Monday 7 May, Laura was on annual leave so it was up to me to sort out. The upcoming purdah in Parliament meant that we wouldn’t be confined to a Friday for MP’s so I contacted Mark Garnier’s office and got some dates from him. He was a definite Remain. I then spoke to The Hadley Group to find out when Stewart might be available to Chair as he was a committed ‘don’t know’. I’d now got a date, Monday 13th June, a Chair and a speaker. Who else did I want? Obviously an ‘out’.
Mark’s office suggested Jim Carver, UKIP MEP. I didn’t need to ask which way he was going to vote and he was happy to help. I thought we needed business involvement, spoke to several contacts including Paul Bennett of George Green Solicitors and was over the moon when he agreed to be an ‘out’. All we needed now was a business ‘Remainer’.
It should have given me a clue, I think in retrospect it probably did. Whilst I spoke to lots of committed Remainers, no-one was actually prepared to go public which I found quite interesting. Stewart was a great help and directed me to the charming Tom Westley, Chair of the Westley Group and after a little persuasion he agreed. Hooray. We had a panel – FANTASTIC.
The invitations went out and the response was immediate and positive – lots of people wanted to attend and we had to close the bookings as we were reached our optimum number of 100. The venue worked really well, the panel were determined but civilised with each other and the Chair kept everything going.
Feedback from the event was brilliant, lots of people called or sent e-mails a few of which are below.
Of course, we now all know the outcome. Lots of people seemed really surprised but I wasn’t and I’d discussed the result with one of the panellists and he was pretty sure what the result might be and we were in agreement.
However, the debate goes on. Perhaps we should do a follow-up next year?
What people said:
“This was another great event by Events With The Edge. The debate was enlightening and civilised, all the speakers were well informed and the organisation was excellent. Charles Lovell & Co were delighted to be involved.” Richard Beresford, Charles Lovell & Co., Chartered Accountants
“Thanks Ladies. Great event” Calum Nisbet, Regional Director, Institute of Directors
“Just wanted to say thank you for organising the EU Debate today. It was an excellent event and superbly organised by you two” Tim Heaselgrave FIPA FABRP, Timothy James Partnership
“Thank-you very much for inviting me along to your Brexit debate on Monday. I have to say that it was without doubt the most informative that I have heard, and I thought all four speakers were excellent. If all of the debates were handled in this way, I am absolutely sure that the outcome next week would have been far better informed than through the usual slap-stick debates that have been aired so far. Please pass my thanks to all of those that helped to put this on, sponsors, speakers and most of all yourselves for all your hard work.” Dominic King, Co-Head of Corporate Broking, Zeus Capital Ltd.
“May I say what an excellent event it was. Robust yet civilised debate, good speakers and first class organisation of the event by your Company. Hats off to Events with the Edge.” James Sommerville, Head of Litigation Services, Thomas Horton LLP.
“Excellent event yesterday”. Mark Corfield, Relationship Manager, Lloyds Bank, Redditch SME Banking