Edition number 21; dateline 26 June 2009
Food for thought from a three-course car journey
In this issue we report on the inaugural TLR summit, a gathering of senior figures in the sport, leisure and culture sector who were good enough to give up their time to take part in a facilitated discussion on the future of the leisure industry. The whole project evolved from a number of discussions and conversations held over the last twelve months or so with a wide range of people involved in the management of leisure in all its forms. That there were now few opportunities for people who care about the sector to get together for informal discussions became a common theme and one or two suggested that The Leisure Review, in its position as an independent observer, might be well placed to bring people together. Mr Reeves offered to make the sunnier corners of the Reform Club available to us, Mrs Poole (the organisational power behind the Reevesian façade) made the arrangements and Mr Allison agreed to shepherd the conversation. Thanks to all their efforts the TLR summit was up and running.
It might be rather more accurate to suggest that the whole thing was actually based on a car journey, or rather memories of numerous car journeys. During our extended preliminary musings several people lamented the demise of a cross-sectoral leisure industry conference, not necessarily for the quality of the conferences themselves (I for one have been too closely involved with too many to retain much affection for ILAM’s trips to the seaside) but rather for the opportunities for conversation provided by a conference bar at the end of a day. Here one could be fairly confident of meeting most of the people one might want to talk to without the need to consult diaries, secretaries and a variety of different timetables. Others pointed out that while the conference environment was interesting enough, the real learning experience came in the car journey to and from the venue in the company of their senior colleagues. Here, in the close confines of a family saloon, eyes had been opened, opinions had been formed and careers had been forged. Such learning experiences, it was generally agreed, were few and far between in recent times.
At The Leisure Review we were not quite sure what to expect of the summit environment. We were confident that the quality of the debate would be high and that we would come away with plenty to write about. If we had thought about it at all, our assumption would have been that the demand for further such gatherings would be predicated upon a need to deliver ever more senior figures – ministers, shadow ministers, government agency chief executives and the like – whose policies and expenditure could be influenced in favour of enlightened leisure service delivery. While this view was expressed during the afternoon, it was striking that the stronger representations were for the provision of opportunities to introduce junior colleagues to such forums, environments in which those starting out or building their managerial careers could rub shoulders with senior figures to learn, to engage, to be challenged and inspired. Several round the table said that they had people in their team who would benefit from – and eagerly contribute to – the conversation around the table.
As well as a good conversation, some good copy and a good lunch, the inaugural TLR summit also gave us much food for thought. Over the next month or so we’ll be pondering where we might go next to build upon a successful pilot. If you have any thoughts or suggestions on subsequent summits, or perhaps an expansion of the format, we would be interested to hear from you. However, perhaps the most pressing point provided by an afternoon at the Reform was the value of concerted thought and action. That we make better decisions collectively than individually is still the opening exercise in many a team-building course but it still holds true. It is the principle upon which the Reform Club, and the parliamentary democracy that it sought to improve, was built and until we can get a car big enough to carry a whole leisure sector we’ll have to continue getting people round a table.
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The Leisure Review editorial