An invite to Number 10.
There is a unique feeling you get when you know you are about to do something significant. There is a heightened desire to commit every moment and every detail to memory, so that you can re-live it and re-count it over and over again.
It was that feeling, mixed with a tiny bit of apprehension, as I approached the gates to Downing Street. The hordes of tourists and the armed policemen only served to reinforce the significance of the moment. I showed my passport to the policeman on the gate who found my name on the guest list. It was real.
While waiting for the time to enter, I began talking to another guest, Carol Bell, the Executive Director of the Great Exhibition of the North. This set the standard for the caliber of person that I was to rub shoulders with for the next couple of hours. Needless to say, I was pleased to have made a friend with whom I could make the journey between security and the front door of Number 10 Downing Street.
After relinquishing our phones in the entrance lobby, we were ushered up the yellow staircase, which famously showcases portraits of our countries leaders over the past three centuries. As I turned the corner I locked eyes with Winston Churchill. The Lowry placed at the top of the stairs was a welcome site.
The next hour or so was spent chatting to some of the countries most creative minds before Theresa May appeared to give a speech.
I was honoured to meet some insanely creative individuals including Lauren Bowker from our very own Manchester, who has a successful company, The Unseen, combining the bonkers combination of chemistry and fashion making Wearable Technology. Watch this video. It’s fascinating. I met Ros Kerslake, the Chief Exec of the Heritage Lottery Fund; John Spencer, the Grandson of Stanley Spencer himself; and one of my early architectural hero’s Thomas Heatherwick, who, despite being much in demand, was thoroughly engaging and genuine. It’s always a joy to discover your heroes are good people! People who put people first make the greatest impact. Fact.
After an hour or so Theresa May appeared and delivered a speech extolling the creative industries for their contribution to the economy (apparently £92 billion every year) and the joy that they bring to millions. She went on to describe the government’s support of the creative industries and announced a £3m fund that will provide a new source of finance for creative and cultural organisations across the North of England.
I lingered, chatting and trying to absorb the atmosphere until we we were subtly ushered out and I reluctantly made my way back to that famous front door (one doesn’t want to overstay one's welcome!). A final opportunity to get a snap outside the No 10 door for posterity and then back to reality.
It was one of those days which passes in the blink of an eye but will stay with me forever. By far the most lasting impression was not the honour of meeting the Prime Minister (a brief ‘hello’) but the characters of the people I met. All brave and determined people who have managed to persevere, direct and steward their passion and talents to make great things happen.
Stepping out and starting a business is hard, perhaps even more so in our industry, but being around these people reminded me of that tingling feeling of potential, inspiration and creativity. Our sincerest thanks to the RIBA for putting me forward for this once in a lifetime experience. Being recognised in such a way has motivated and inspired our practice to persevere, experiment and above all pursue our passion to create great buildings for real people.
You can read the whole of the PM's speech here.