A Christmas Carol for All of Us

We review the highly anticipated UK premiere of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, by English National Opera ta the London Coliseum, and ask; if it’s all about festivity – then why do I feel so confused?

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is an opera by Jake Huggies in 2016, an adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra classic Christmas film.

I always used to think that if nobody dies, then it ain’t an opera. ‘It’s a Wonderful Life”, is indeed all about death and suicide – but also about  happiness and redemption. It is about the fall of a man, or the generosity of mankind. Take it how you will.

The reason that you and  I go to ENO, is because we know, we just know, that the boundaries will be pushed, the performance edgy, we will feel stimulated, saddened, surprised, excited – but not necessarily entertained. ENO opera explores avenues that  we are not expecting.

And so it is with this production. Right from the get-go, the audience audible gasp as the orchestra swirls into sound with it’s Hollywood movie style, and astonishing snow and starlight effects, and the sudden focus on Danielle de Niese as Clara high up in the dark of the staging – is mesmerising. Danielle is a tour de force, her opening monologue  is a full 15 minutes duration, astonishing vocal line that has no melodic element – it just soars along – and carries the opening of Act 1. I loved her complaint of being “Angel second class” – waiting for her wings.

This ENO production brings the best of a team of  specialists – conductor Nicole Paiement, a regular Heggie collaborator, making her ENO Debut – and Aletta Collins also making her ENO Debut as Director, – and I could go on –  – supported by three of the rising stars of  Harewood ENO members.

But the standout performance has to be Jennifer France as Mary, her absolutely perfect clarity of vocal line and engaging dramatic art, is the glue that holds the storyline together. Usually it is the ENO Orchestra that covers this function, but for once, the balance has shifted to just the key vocalists. You follow the vocalists – and the music takes care of itself.

The production says that it is suitable for children. Yes, it is timed around Christmas, there are great ensemble and happy moments – but I think the message is universal and quite dark.  You do not leave the theatre singing a happy tune.

But what  do I know?  We had a train strike on this opening evening – and I had to leave before the end, otherwise I miss my last train. Even then, what should have been a twenty minute little hop – took more than one hour. Worse, if anything subdued the atmosphere, it was the opening pre – announcement by Annilese Miskemmon, Artistic Director, of the savage cuts in opera funding across the board, by  Arts Council England, and the complete removal of funding for ENO itself. I suppose the argument in 21st century England is that, well, why fund the arts if you cannot travel to see them anyway?

There was a palpable anger and shock, across the audience, and the queue for #LoveENO memorabilia stretched across the meeting and coffee areas of the theatre itself. 

At a time when the health and society benefits of music inclusion are increasingly recognised for their therapeutic and educational value, and ENO’s position as a Uk leader of that demarche – this situation is at best shortsighted, and worst case,  a damaging catastrophe for so many children that are just coming to realise music’s importance in their own lives.

But there is a bright side; we do now have a clear choice this Christmas; sure we can go see the Nutcracker as usual. Or we can go just a little deeper, and follow the narrative of It’s a Wonderful Life. After all, George Bailey, our anti-hero – does not  die; and Clara does get her wings, first class.

Does Social Media work?

We discuss the corporate focus on “digital”, and ask the unthinkable – does Social Media actually work any longer?

it started as a way for corporates to engage better, with their prospects and customers. What was obvious was that the classic CEO-style of interview – was not getting traction – and we felt that there needed to be a more engaging style of delivery.

Better still – if we can add some completely different and disruptive elements, to get attention – hence the use of the music setting in the Interview here. Sitting at the grand piano is a great way to chat to people, who get comfy snuggled in the curve of the piano itself. The above Interview is the first of a series we are doing, called “Podcasts around the Piano”, for that reason.

And so we talk. We “chat” about social media. Have we reached a tipping point? In the same way that Conferences and Trade Fairs that focus on the fact that their delegates and/or vendors are “digital” – well the reaction now is “so what?”

Of the four latest Healthcare Conferences in London that we ourselves have covered in the last few weeks alone – the most engaging – were the ones that did not sell technology, but talked about a specific clinical benefit.

What we have found over the last 12 monads, is that the rush to meet face/face has not diminished in its appeal. That face/face selling is still seen as the key to closing. And that online interaction, whilst expedient – is still what it always was – simply that. Simply expedient.

So we are asking the question; like in all things in life, and as Irina says in her video here – she does prefer going shopping in a place called a High Street.

Is it time to rethink our strategies of how we engage with our market, and that social media might need to become social awareness?

Yes, – it’s Personal.

The emotional turmoil of people starting a new life in the UK – is exemplified by our Interviews with Vlada and Danylo, two leading members of the United Ukrainian Ballet corps, as they do their standout Giselle performance at the London Coliseum. Irina Dinch gets behind the mask, and listens to their stories.

The Interviews were informal, and conducted in Ukrainian. An English translation follows below…

Об‘єднаний український балет- це трупа, до складу якої входять танцюристи з національних театрів Києва, Львова, Одеси, Харкова. Танцюристи належать до  різних шкіл танцю, різного рівня підготовки, різних методик але працюють разом як єдиний колектив, підтримуючи і допомагаючи один одному. І така злагоджена робота стала можливою не лише завдяки таланту всесвітньо відомого хореографа Олексія Ратманського, а й тому, що кожний член трупи розуміє ту високу місію, яку уособлює кожний з них.  В цей трагічний для нашої країни час танцюристи Об‘єднаного українського балету   не лише демонструють свою майстерність, а й нагадують миру, що Україна бореться, відвойовує кожний метр своєї землі. Наша культура жива і несе миру радість від спілкування з прекрасним. Але ми, як і кілька місяців тому, потребуємо підтримки мирової спільноти. Мир не має відступити, забути про війну чи втомитися від неї. І це їхня лінія оборони.  

Дивлюся в очі Влади та Данила, вони дуже молоді, на вигляд років 19-20, по суті ще діти, але них є своя історія, як і в кожного з нас в цю важку годину. 

Влада – танцюристка «Національної Опери України», відновлювалася після операції, яка відбулася рік тому, і була вже готова повернутися на сцену до репетицій, як почалася війна. Вона не збиралася від’їжджати за кордон, але родина та близькі  наголошували на від‘їзді, бо  без постійних тренувань і репетицій на кар‘єрі можна було поставити крапку. І вона поїхала, спочатку до Словенії , а потім, отримавши запрошення в Об‘єднаний український балет, переїхала до Голландії. 

Гарна, тендітна, струнка українська дівчина. Але така сила в її рішучому, безкомпромісному погляді темних очей! І коли чуєш як за останні півроку змушена стати твердою, рішучою , що відбулося в житті переосмислення цінностей і має вона зараз брати більше відповідальності за свої вчинки, ретельно обирати з ким спілкуватися, то розумієш, що немає вороття. В цьому віці надій, мрій помилок  та сподівань у Влади вже є сумний досвід, який загартував і  зробив міцною. І все в неї буде гаразд, тому що вміє тепер розпізнати де добро, а де  причаїлося лихо.

Данило закінчив Київську муніципальну академію танцю імені Сержа Лифаря.  На початку війни знаходився на реабілітації у Литві через травму руки. Коли почув що почалася війна, став волонтером і почав допомагати українським біженцям, але саме усвідомлення  цього жорсткого акту насилля вибивало із колії. Тренуватися не виходило, гіркі думки не давали спокою. І він прийняв рішення. Сів на волонтерський автобус, який прямував до України, з наміром піти на фронт воювати. Дзвінок матері пролунав вже у дорозі: «Я відправила до тебе брата, завтра зустрічай». На це Данило не розраховував, та і родині про свої плани не розповідав, але залишити 15-ти річного брата самого без підтримки не міг, тому вирішив повернутися.  Соромно було перед людьми в автобусі, але  добровольці поставилися з розумінням . 

Наприкінці квітня він повернувся до тренувань, а потім звільнився зі свого театру і поїхав на гастролі розповідати про Україну в різних країнах світу. Балет «Жизель» мав справжній фурор  в країнах Латинської Америки. Натомість, а  ні в Чілі, ні в Перу не чули про війну в Україні, дуже дивувалися вони цій новині, і для Данили це було боляче і дуже незрозуміло. Тому і вирішив він приєднатися до Об‘єднаного Українського балету, щоб розповідати миру про криваву  жахливу несправедливість, яка відбувається в Україні. 

Олексій Ратманський, відомий хореограф, який звільнився з «Большого театру» у перший день початку війни та створив нову інтерпретацію балету «Жизель» для Об‘єднаного українського балету, сказав в одному зі своїх інтерв‘ю британському видавництву, що український балет завжди був в тіні російського балету , артисти з України втрачали там свою ідентичність. 

Я запитала у Влади і Данила чи вважають вони створення  Об‘єднаного Українського балету першими шагами до відродження українського балету та виведення його з російської тіні ,  але вони мають своє бачення. 

Влада наголошує ,що зараз відбувається не «виведення з тіні», а робиться акцент, що український балет існує і завжди існував окремо від російського і завдяки Об‘єднаному українському балету зараз закордоном відбувається розуміння і переосмислення ролі українського балету в всесвітній культурі. 

А Данило, як танцюрист та майбутній хореограф народної хореографії, дуже пишається тим, що наша народна хореографія одна з найсильніших і найяскравіших в світі. Виступи наших колективів завжди мають фурор закордоном і дух захоплює як танцюристи на сцені вдало показують український характер та культуру. Педагоги навчили їх відкривати душу в танці і це багато говорить про талановитих українських викладачах 

А тим часом у Лондонському Колізеї зі справжнім фурором пройшла вистава  балету «Жизель» у виконанні Об‘єднаного українського балету. Бурхливі овації,  сльози, надія… щирі емоції від дотику до прекрасного високого мистецтва. І за всім цим невтамована, наполеглива праця наших танцюристів, їх віра в майбутнє і жага показати світу, що Україна – понад усе! 

United Ukrainian ballet – is a troupe that includes dancers from different national theatres from Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odessa. Dancers belong to various dance schools, different level of methods and training, but they work as a single team supporting and helping each other. Such coordinated work became possible not only owing to the talent of the world famous choreographer Alexey Ratmanskiy but also due to the deep understanding by every member of the troupe the importance of their mission.

In such tragic for our country times artists of United Ukrainian ballet not only demonstrate their skills but also they do remind to the World that Ukraine is fighting for every piece of its land. Our culture is alive and brings the joy of communication with the beauty. But as well as couple of months ago we need support of the World community. World should not step back, forget about the war or get tired of it. And this is their line of defense.

I look at Vlada’s and Danylo’s eyes, they are very young, look no older than 19-20 y.o, children so said, but they have their own stories as well as each of us has in difficult times like these.

Vlada is a dancer of National Opera of Ukraine, she was recovering from the operation that she had one year ago and was ready to get back on the stage to trainings and rehearsals when the war began. She didn’t want to go abroad but family and beloved one insisted on her leave because without constant trainings and rehearsals she could put an end to her career. And she left Ukraine and went to Slovenia, and after receiving invitation from United Ukrainian ballet she moved to the Netherlands.

Beautiful, tender, slim Ukrainian girl. But there is so much strength in her resolute, uncompromising look of the dark eyes! And when you learn that for the last half a year she was forced to become firm, determined, she has revaluated her views and became more responsible, she chose carefully who to talk to, you understand that there is no way back. In her age of hopes, dreams, mistakes and expectations Vlada already has got hard experience that made her stronger. And everything in her life will be just fine because now she knows how to recognize the good and reveal the evil

Danylo has graduated from Kiev Municipal Academy of Dance named after Serge Lifar. When the war started he was in rehabilitation with hand trauma in Lithuania. Immediately he became a volunteer helping Ukrainian refugees but awareness of such brutal act of violence was knocking out of the way. He failed to train because bitter thoughts has haunted his mind and finally he made a decision. He took a volunteer bus going to Ukraine to fight. But his mother’s phone call reached him on his way : “ I have sent your brother to you. Meet him tomorrow” . Danylo didn’t expect such turn of events and his family wasn’t aware of his plans but he couldn’t abandon 15 y.o brother alone without support so he made a decision to get back. He felt very ashamed in front of other volunteers but they understood.

At the end of April he restarted his trainings and then quitted theatre where he was working and went on tour to tell about Ukraine in different part of the World.
Ballet “Giselle” had a real splash in countries of Latin America but neither in Chili nor in Peru haven’t people heard about war in Ukraine and they were very surprised with a such news. This fact was very painful for Danylo, he couldn’t realize it. So he decided to join United Ukrainian ballet to tell the World about bloody terrible injustice that was happening in Ukraine.

Alexey Ratmanskiy the world famous choreograph who has quitted the “Bolshoy theater” the first day of war, created the ENO interpretation of ballet “Giselle”, said in one of the interviews to British press that Ukrainian ballet always has been in the shadow of Russian one, artists from Ukraine were losing their identity there.

I asked Vlada and Danylo do they consider the creation of United Ukrainian ballet as the first steps of revival Ukrainian ballet and taking it out of Russian shadow? But they had their own point of view.
Vlada pointed out that it wasn’t not really “taking out of shadow” but emphasizing that Ukrainian ballet always existed individually and now this realization and rethinking of the role of Ukrainian ballet in World culture is taking place in foreign countries due to the United Ukrainian ballet.

And Danylo as a dancer and future choreograph of folk choreography is very proud that our folk choreography always has been one of the most powerful and brightest in the World.
Performances of our Ukrainian dance troupes always have a splash abroad, the way our dancers successfully demonstrate Ukrainian character and culture in a dance takes your breath away. Pedagogues teach how to open your soul in a dance and that says a lot about talented Ukrainian teachers.

Meanwhile in London Coliseum ballet “Giselle” performed by United Ukrainian ballet had a splash. Standing ovations, tears, hopes….sincere emotions from the touch of a beautiful high art. And behind there is tireless persistent work of our dancers , their belief in future and the thirst to show to the World that Ukraine is above all!

Giselle. A ballet for our time

We are privileged to be part of the opening night of the United Ukrainian Ballet and their new production of Giselle, at the London Coliseum.

We live in times of patriotism but not of nationalism. The bringing together of two disparate cultures from the far sides of Europe into one harmony, is the testament that human nature works for all us. We can be proud of our origins. And heavens knows we have enough cause to be.

The interpretation of Benjamin Britten’s “God Save The King” as a prelude to the Ballet itself, performed by the fabulous ENO Orchestra and Singers, – that they were still practicing even as we waited sipping drinks in the foyers and bar areas – just taking your breath away by its sheer power – was balanced at the finale of Act 2, by the morphing into the National Anthem of Ukraine, sung with mesmeric conviction by the ballet ensemble and once again the control of the ENO orchestra, that encouraged at least half of the audience to stand and sing with equal resolution.

But this was not the standout feature. It beggars believe how just six months ago, none of the ballet protagonists were in London. They came from Holland, from anywhere, as refugees from their homeland, to put together this motley crew of professional performers, and that, as Matthias Bongertman writes in his programme notes, has grown to 70 people and is capable of mounting a fully staged performance of one of the mostly famous classical works – in one of the worlds leading theatres.

At an individual level, Christine Shevchenko stole the show. The subtlety of her transformation through the end of Act 1, her darting eyes and vacant expression such a contrast from the earlier happiness, was phenomenal. The Pas de Deux with Veronica Hordina and Nikita Hodyna, was sharp and enthralling.

The opening was an untypically ENO, traditional set, but you sensed there were going to be some sharp edges. In reality, the performance became more assured and almost relaxed, as it continued, there was a control and flow in the second Act. It had a very Slav flavour, of the supporting girls all dressed in white, redolent of times I have seen them perform in Kyiv itself.

This was a performance the Ballet Company had to make. It was a recognition that above all the anguish and personal emotion of each dancer, they could rise and produce something of class and star quality.

My colleague Irina Dinch writes separately on that topic in her own interviews with the performers.

Whether this could have been done with another orchestra, who knows? We have seen over the past few COVID years that ENO and the London Coliseum are inspirational in their ability to be creative. Certainly, the ENO orchestra was the glue that kept momentum, but in the same way that there were Ukrainians and Brits mingling as the audience, so the synergy of driving music and artistic ballet expression captivated all of us.

You can only imagine the work behind the scenes that has gone in to making this production – but that’s not the point. As the sad entourage of the late Queen Elizabeth 2nd came into London at the same time, we too were there on a special evening of our own.

In our Digital World – have we lost sight of the Patient?

EIDO Healthcare is the UK’s market leading provider of informed consent services in healthcare, with a 20-year pedigree. At a time when everything digital is seemingly blessed with gold dust, we ask Phil Evans, EIDO’s Director of Partnerships, where he sees the future of the consent process within the digital landscape.

They say that what goes around comes around. I am sitting at my iPad and the good people at Apple tell me that – wonderful news! – I can now do “mail merge” into something called “letters”, print them out and send personalised documents in something called “the post” – to individual people.

This is indeed exciting news. Originally this was a standard feature some 10 years ago, in Apple Pages version ’08. They then removed it and, after everybody complained, put it back into Apple Pages version something else, many years later. Progress is a wonderful thing.

Which raises a question. EIDO made its name by producing hard copy surgical information for patients, to support shared decision making prior to surgery. At the time of the upcoming HETT Show 2022, and now that EIDO’s widespread content is also available digitally, is it “job done” as far as digital consent is concerned?

Phil takes a second and then looks at me across the screen. We are chatting on Zoom. He is wearing a simple grey T-shirt, and has a serious expression.

“Absolutely not”, he says.

“True, we live in a digital mobile world, and we have become accustomed to immediate access to information. And the EIDO model fits nicely into this. But the “delivery” of content is only one part of the informed consent puzzle. More important is how that content has been tailored to the individual needs of the patient in question, as well as being able to evidence a patient’s engagement with it.”

“We strongly believe”, continues Phil, “that consent is a culture. So EIDO’s role is not just to supply tools that take a paper process and turn it into a digital box-ticking exercise. It’s our responsibility to perpetuate a good consent culture. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology; it’s about the people using it, and their desire to genuinely improve what has historically been a deficient process. If we can introduce clinical time-saving and resource- saving efficiencies into it (and we believe our software can), then that’s a welcome by- product.”

“The question organisations need to be asking is not simply ‘Who can do this digitally?’ but ‘Who can do it best?’.

The conversation turns to the “how” of EIDO’s proposition…

“What makes EIDO attractive as a solution is our ability to meet a hospital wherever it may be on its digital transformation journey. Is it looking to deliver content digitally but continue taking consent on paper? We can support that. Is it looking for a full digital consent service with no more paper in sight? We can support that too, and everything in between.”

“In addition, what stands us apart is our partner strategy, where we link seamlessly to other solution vendors that are also specialist in their own areas of expertise. In that way, we are being much more focussed on giving the patient and the hospital the exact consent process that it wants to have. This can be a mix of many styles of delivery and can include a variety of data sources.”

We take a pause and start to look to the future. The topic of Net Zero comes up, and how the shared decision-making process needs to adapt to align with strategic NHS targets. Digital consent pathways can play a significant part in reducing the carbon footprint of the NHS, not only through the elimination of paper, but also in the potential reduction of unnecessary patient visits to hospital.

Phil continues “We will be at the HETT Show at ExCel London this September, on Stand C48, where we are inviting individual Trusts and partners to meet us and discuss the consent-related pain points they are trying to address. Defining the problem is important – it allows us to understand what is important to an organisation, and present a tailored solution to them.”

It’s a good place to end our chat. I switch into my Mac apps and print my Notes. I click on Send – and a copy zaps across to Phil.


Is there a link between our everyday noise from politics, that we think we can ignore, – and the way we live our life? And should there be one? And if so – is this a Good Thing? Our random Interview at the Triple Chocolate retail store in Halmstad, Sweden, is a bell – weather of our time.

Tricky questions, all of them. And not so much because we cannot answer them, but because we underestimate the damage that continual negative political news can have on us. We are so used to bad new surrounding us, that we have grown used to it.

But on the other hand – at what point do we as individuals say to ourselves; “enough is enough”. That the arrogance, corruption, lack of concern, happy abandon of ethics shown by politicians for the people they are supposed to lead – drives us quietly to a point where we stand our moral ground and stand up for our basic human values?

Tricky stuff indeed. Or maybe not.

Perhaps the alternative view is the more concerning, – that we are all so immersed in the non stop unhappiness of news broadcasts and hypocrisy of our politicians, that we really are immune to it all. We just carry on our individual lives. We cannot do anything. We do not need to do anything. Concerning, because if we are not affected by these daily broadcasts, then indeed we will not mind that we are losing our barometer of right and wrong, good and bad, ethical or corrupt, of democracy or dictatorship.

Hardly a discussion for the corner shop. Or again, maybe not.

Susanne steps into her sales area behind the counter at the Triple Chocolate retail shop. It is situated in the high street, a narrow lane between narrow houses, each pastel decorated, in the seaside town of Halmstad in Sweden. It is a boutique compact counter, full of trays of artisan chocolates. The chocolates are all individual specialities, they are works of love and care. I point to a small box of items, which are in a tastefully decorated box, tied with a ribbon. Hardly a centre of political activity.

“I’ll have those”, I say.

Susanne is not listening. She arrives with a small bunch of yellow roses, and puts them on the counter.

“Ok, … I’ll have those too”, I say.

“No, – no!” Susanne cries. “The roses are for everybody. They make the shop look nice”. Yes, I know that – it was a simple moment of humour, and we both laugh. And then we get talking. We have never met each other before.

“ I am not voting this week”, she says. It is the Swedish national elections in a week or so. “It really makes no difference who I go for, because we are a 50/50 population, whoever wins cannot deliver for the other half of the population. And for that reason, the promises are never fulfilled”. Gosh, we are in difficult territory now.

But the ambience has subtly changed. It is a recognition that despite the lovely little shop, the nice arrangements, the care shown – it is not extended into being able to make a difference for the people as a whole. The most she can do, is put out a nice vase of flowers.

It is a negative position, and wholly understandable, and misses the point. For two reasons; because, if you care enough to display some beautiful flowers, then by definition you are caring about humanity and its values, it is on display. And if you care enough, somebody by happenstance, will also see, and also care.

Susanne laughs a little. The fact is, the care about bijoux chocolates is the symbol of care for society. “You just have to have faith”, I conclude.

I walk towards my hotel, and call my wife, I have an idea; “do you fancy some chocolates?”, I ask.

“Oh, I just love some chocolates” she happily responds. Sure, the constant flow of negativity of our media and surrounding content, does indeed affect the motivation of our life. But there are deeper values at play here, that sometimes we forget are part of our routine, and that can restore our morale.

Morale indeed. Have faith, and eat chocolate.

Triple Chocolate can be contacted on +4635122444


We look at the sudden arrival of the FourTwentyTwo company from North Macedonia, and their range of biodegradable tights and hosiery and ask – are Millennials going to buy this?

The phrases “ecologically friendly” and high volume fashion – don’t really go hand in hand. Cheap as chips ladies fashions, designed to be thrown away after just one or two outings, even if they last that long, – are the hallmarks of so many teenage buying patterns with their limited budgets. And the focus of high level brands with their focus on “technology”, usually comes at a high price tag, because it’s high tech. It’s cool.

Or maybe it isn’t. Launched just a few weeks ago in London, the FourTwentyTwo company message is that is that ecological and looking after the planet is a millennial focus, and that their biodegradable range of tights with aloe vera extract – and their antibacterial tights with green tea extract – are spot on in the current mindset of people of all ages.

Sure, there are some compelling stats; the Presentation that Sanja at FourTwentyTwo sends me, has a solid business case for where this aspect of fashion is going. And it has one big advantage over others, which is that the Four Two Two range is both fashionable, but it is also a volume business that is in tune with our desire to lower fossil fuel and plastic consumption.

And whilst there are plenty of domestic producers of plant based garments or food, they tend to be hidden away, almost niche. This launch, looking for retailers and commercial partners – is bold and open.

Full details of the FourTwentyTwo offering and their discussion about plant use, can be seen at: https://fourtwentytwo.eu/ 

Registration opens for Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2022

Nicola MacDonald has written to us to tell us excitedly about the upcoming Food Fair in London. I’ll drink to that. What she says is this:

Visitor registration has opened for Speciality & Fine Food Fair as the event prepares to welcome the speciality food industry back to Olympia London on 5-6 September 2022, with visitors able to register to attend here. 

Speciality & Fine Food Fair is an annual trade show celebrating independent, artisan and craft food & drink suppliers from across the UK and internationally. Each year the show attracts quality buyers from key sectors in the speciality and fine food industry, including key decision-makers from the worlds of retail, catering and wholesale. They have the chance to meet with new-to-market businesses in The Discovery Zone, unearth sustainable businesses in the Sustainability Zone, discuss the latest speciality food trends on the Food for Thought Stage and explore an unparalleled collection of unique suppliers across the show floor.

The Fair will invite independent retailers, farm shops, delis, high-end caterers, speciality wholesalers and more to discover the very latest new products and trends in the world of speciality and fine food & drink and to enjoy an industry-leading seminar programme across three stages.   

As always, the event will be an unparalleled showcase of innovation in the British food & drink market, from established speciality brands to start-ups in their early years of operation, plus an opportunity to meet with unique international food & drink brands from countries including Belgium, France, South Korea, Italy and the Netherlands, plus regions such as the Caribbean and West & Central Africa.  

Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards judge, management consultant Bruce Langlands, comments: “Speciality & Fine Food Fair is the annual event that has become a focal point in London’s food calendar. It is an amazing platform for producers, suppliers and retailers to launch new products and share industry knowledge.”  

One of the Fair’s most popular returning features is the Discovery Zone, an area dedicated to food & drink brands which have been operating for less than three years. The bustling Zone has become one of the most highly anticipated gems of the Fair and has served as a launchpad for many successful and well-known businesses. 

Speciality & Fine Food Fair Event Manager Nicola Woods explains: “The Discovery Zone is a must-attend for visitors to the Fair. It’s a fantastic opportunity to discover unique, new-to-market products and see first-hand the innovative start-ups beginning to make their mark on the industry.” 

Among the businesses taking part in the Discovery Zone 2022 are G&Tea, a tea-distilled gin brand, plant-based chewing gum Oh My Gum, luxury free-from ice cream producer Mama Dolce, and blueberry wine Blue Aurora.  

The Food for Thought stage at the Fair returns to cover some of the most pressing issues facing the independent retail and speciality food community, from the power of a personalised customer experience to the road to net zero, and from 2022’s supply chain challenges to making the online model work post-pandemic.  

Visitors to the event will have the opportunity to hear insights from a wide range of industry experts and business owners including Charles Banks of thefoodpeople, Jan Robijns of The Broadway Deli & Grocery, Paul Hargreaves of Cotswold Fayre, Stephen Minall of FDReviews, Ben O’Brien of Session Kitchens and many more.  

New for 2022 is the Taste the Trends kitchen, where culinary consultant and chef Steve Walpole will be welcoming a host of industry experts to explore the latest trends, flavours and opportunities in global cuisine and using a range of products from the Fair to cook up some delicious dishes.  

Among the sessions and demonstrations in the Taste the Trends kitchen are ‘East meets West’, a look at the influence of Japanese and Korean foods and flavours on western cuisine; ‘Striving for Plant-Based Perfection’, exploring some of the revolutionary products in the plant-based space; a session with the Great Taste Supreme Champion (revealed on 5 September) in partnership with the Guild of Fine Food; and World Charcuterie Live, showcasing some of the quality cooked meats on offer at the Fair.  

“I can’t wait to be back at Speciality & Fine Food Fair, cooking up a storm with some amazing guest speakers,” said Walpole. “Join us on 5-6 September to discover some of the most exciting trends in food & drink and to sample some of the best products on offer at this year’s Fair.” 

As fantastic new drinks products continue to launch onto the market, the Drinks Cabinet at Speciality & Fine Food Fair is a one-stop-shop for visitors interested in everything from soft drinks to low & no beverages to quality spirits and beers from thriving independent breweries.  

At the centre of the Drinks Cabinet, the Inspiration Bar will see in-depth sessions across the two days from Mixology Group providing advice and guidance for visitors looking to make the most of the drinks products they stock.  

Zoe Cunliffe, Director at Mixology School commented: “We can’t wait to head back to Speciality & Fine Food Fair this September to help the Fair’s food & drink buyers learn about the very latest trends and products in the drink sector.” 

“There are a huge number of new products on the market and our session at the Fair will give retailers and wholesalers the tools to make the most out of these exciting and creative drinks offerings.” 

A full list of exhibitors and products on offer, is on the Speciality & Fine Food Fair website, where you can also register for your free ticket.


We spend the day casually talking with exhibitors at the new Pure London and Pure Origin FashionShow at Olympia London.

I am walking my dog at silly o’clock in the morning near a beach somewhere in Devon and one of my neighbours passes by.

“I’m taking the train to London, to a Conference”, I say.

“You must be out of your mind”, he says.

This is the Monday 18th July, and I should have visited the Show yesterday, but yesterday was the hottest day of the year, and even the trains weren’t running, so no – let’s go today instead. And they have promised free drinks and food at the end of the day.

Today is even hotter. I am already sticky. This is the first day ever in the UK where we have a red danger warning. The train companies say we should only go “if our journey is absolutely essential! ”

What wimps. I remember my student days working in a textile factory in Prato Italy in the summer. God that was hot! No, London will be fine. The trains have airco.

The Pure London and Pure Origin Shows, combined, are having a makeover, a resurgence, after two years away. Billed as a Show with “Real Wow Factor, and everyone is very excited, it is the start of the buying season for retailers and their suppliers, new and old.

It is a pity about the weather. They do have airco on my long distance train, but it arrives 1 hour and 40 minutes late into London. The tube also is cool. But the bus from High Street Kensington is steamy and overcrowded. The 200 yard walk to the Show entrance is stifling.

The organisers have done their best; I already have my Invitation which included the Catwalk and the free cocktails and the two courses of canapés, and the girl at Reception insists she gives me a voucher for a free cold drink.

The 200 – or so Exhibitors are fabulous. There is an immediate splash of colours and long flowing garments.

But it is 14.00 and already, nobody is interested in having any conversation whatsoever. It is not insufferable, but it is just too much of a trouble for most of the exhibitors to get up and try to be excited. Only one Exhibitor that we talked to, had an Order pad on their knee.

Yet, hidden away, in plain sight, there were some jewels of excellence.

Best was The Wicher company, a two-sister Partnership, where Inez Wicher, the designer, proudly showed me the spectacular choice of dresses and styles. Her flowing dress pictured here is one of their favourite pieces. It is their first time at the Show, they are launching in the Uk from Poland.

“People said we are expensive”, she said, worryingly. I said no, “you should focus on perceived value’ – the actual cost is not important”.

Tasha at SuzyD London, was far more pragmatic. “We are already international and it has taken years from the ground up”. We talk about everything, including scary movies.

Salvador Wowenicki, owner of the Nosugar Clothing label from Poland, had brought his young daughter to front the Stand, as she was the designer of their range. Completely different from others, they had a range of sharp women’s suits.

Zoe at the Bl-nk Stand was deep in her paperwork but had a super range of long garments, and introduced me to her design team. She smiles at me and looks up. They had done this before, they knew their customers.

Ruben at Marie Mero was a little more hesitant. “We are not sure about this” he says. The stand is deserted. But his team are smiling, and it is not anybody’s fault. It is just hard work getting up the energy to have a meaningful conversation, and so many stands are just talking among themselves.

People gravitate towards the Catwalk at 17.00 – Suzanne Ellingham is already delivering a sharp and flowing small speech and video about their plans. It is all great stuff, convincing. We exchange cards.

But I am already tired. I take a glass of Prosecco – thanks – but I can’t face another 5 hours on a train for my return journey, so I skip the canapés and the live music. I snatch a pasty from the bakery shop at Paddington station and call my wife to say I should be home sometime after 23.00.

Will I go next year? Yes of course. This Show has tremendous potential. The trick is to link it to the Wimbledon Tennis, where, as we all know, it rains every year.


We are privileged to sit on the second of two concerts, on 17th May, by Mitsui Uchida and Mark Padmore, as they explore the subtlety of songs from Beethoven and Schubert.

The Wigmore Hall – situated just behind Selfridges and in between two of the more upmarket kitchen showrooms – can be easily missed. Unless you are actively looking for its modest but classic entrance, you could be forgiven for walking by, as I have done zillions of times, – without ever knowing it is there, or even why it is there.

And that would be a pity. The Concerts that they host pretty much every evening, are a beacon of excellence, bringing to the general public, outstanding chamber music individual talent. Up-coming future stars rub shoulders with established names who are only to pleased to be on their list of “residents”.

And so it is with this “discussion” of Lieder songs. It is almost seminar in its approach and educated style. You don’t go to Wigmore Hall is you want a night out with your mates. You go almost to be educated. There are pages of Lecture Notes so to say, already neatly printed out, for you to collect, for free. It’s just that, the audience are already educated. They mill about in the modern very friendly bar, they meet their friends, they congregate in the street during the interval, eating ice cream, they exchange discussional points;

“I do think the way he did that recording was better”… and people smile and laugh.

They are still talking and smiling across the rows of nice seats, even when the House Manager announces the concert starting. It is a mix of a club for people with like minds, and my old university days where I knew the topic would be on a bigger level. Except that I used to fall asleep in those days, the girl next to me would nudge me and wake me up if I was ever asked a question. There was no chance of falling asleep in this concert, and no girl sitting next to me. I didn’t know the person sitting next to me.

If there is a misnomer, it is that the singer would be leading this concert, the accompanist doing, well, I guess, accompanying. In fact this was almost the reverse. Mark Padmore’s lyrical expression was being driven by the constant subtlety and change of direction by Mitsuko Uchida, who herself was singing silently along as she played. She controlled the narrative. Even from the start – the hesitation at the beginning, the wiping her hands on her handkerchief – before launching into the first song – it was her pressure that was pushing the recitative in the vocal line.

As an opera freak, this sort of singing was for me, a different experience, and a different audience. Whereas perhaps in say a Jazz concert we are part of the musical expression, the intimacy that is created – this concert was a recognition that we are not part of it, we are voyeurs. And we are lucky to do so, and to be there.

It is well into 30 minutes before Mark Padmore stops and talks about the philosophy of the words he is expressing – he talks about the sentiment of “being exiled from your home country” – how poignant. There is a feeling of shyness as the two of them take their applause.

I have to leave to catch my train, I gently avoid the audience who are still milling and discussing with their friends. Perhaps it is a night out with your mates after all.