We spend the day at the recent Chief Data & Analytics Officer, UK (or CDAO UK) conference in central London, to see if what people are saying – matches up to what is going on in the real world.

This was an excellent Conference. It brought together a wide variety of vendors, – all of whom were uniquely adept at their respective slices of competence in what is now such a large and technical area of work, that impacts on each and every one of us in our private and corporate lives.

Simon O’Riordan of the Kubicle company puts it well:

““ Data literacy skills are not only required by the analytics or the IT team; all departments and roles within an organization can benefit from data literacy skills. Data literacy enables employees to ask the right questions, gather the right data and connect the right data points to derive meaningful and actionable business insights. ”

And like so many good events, the show could not have gone on, so to say, without the delegates, the protagonists, the audience – and the synergy that the corporates who attended can bring with their interaction and opinions as they sip coffee in the mingling areas.

For many – the “mingling or networking areas”, were the reason for being there at all. It was the opportunity to get to the heart of what does this all mean, for you and your own level of practicality. There is nothing better than knowing how your peers adapt to the same issues that you have.

Probably best at that level of practical assessment, was Nick Barth, of Microstrategy, who took me aside and got to the point of his earlier Presentation :

“Yes, there is the assumption that, the more nerdy, the better – but that is not usually helpful. What we are talking about is the democratising of data, the governance of data in a way that ordinary people can understand. We at Microstrategy often find that we adapt our pitch, so to say, to suit the role of the recipient”.

It’s an important point – giving a practical view of what could be taken as a theoretical concept. We analyse data because we can, not necessarily because we need to have a commercial or practical reason for so doing.

I particularly liked my discussion with Dario Morelli, Head of Analytics at Truelayer, and the need for big connectivity within the financial sector and its need for a simpler process.

It was a contrast to the NHS Presentation that followed the next morning. This was a wake up call of a public sector approach that differed from the commercial ambience of the conference itself. There was a pause of silence when Ming Tang said that her department employees some 2000 Data Analysts. Bearing in mind that by comparison, the UK NHS itself has some 200 NHS Trusts in the UK, can it really take one Hospital area to require 10 analysts?

If there was a concern, it was that in certain key vertical markets, healthcare being the obvious one – data delivery has already moved on. If we compare the UK to say Scandinavia, data and personal info is via our mobile phone and iPad. PC systems have died away and those standards with them.

These discussion points are worth having. The value of the Chief Data & Analytics Officer, UK or CDAO UK, is in these friendly confrontations. And if we didn’t attend – then we wouldn’t get the value, would we?


On the birthday of ENO itself, We review this latest co-production with Norwegian National Opera, as one of the best we have seen.

You go to the Opera expecting some emotional involvement. What you don’t expect, are the emotions of betrayal, anger, scorn, – from the opening speech by Stuart Murphy, CEO at ENO, even before the performance itself begins.

We live in difficult times. The savage and completely undeserved financial cuts inflicted on ENO by the ACE, have left an audience and global ENO membership shocked and dismayed by the shortsightedness and lack of understanding by government of ENO’s presence in the social delivery of music. It is the first time I have seen and heard ENO Members openly criticise a UK government – and people around nodding and also vocalising their agreement. Apparently some 83,000 supporters signed an online petition for these cuts to be reversed. All of these people have votes, and many have a great deal of money and influence. Hardly a social group that you want to ignore.

You know it is serious, when each audience at this First Night, received a small pink Birthday Card, encouraging us to make a donation of our choice. The largest amount suggested, was some £9,200 pounds sterling. The usher stood over me as she handed me my Card:

“Richard, you put a cross in the box for the amount you want to give – yes, just there; and you sign, just here”. She offers me her pen.

“Right”. I say, a little perplexed.

And so we start. A very aggressive orchestral opening, we are here for a reason, and then Carrie – Ann Williams, making her ENO debut – appears hesitatingly on stage, as Micaela. It is an excellent beginning, she grows into the role as the minutes tick by, and her chemistry with Sean Panikkar as Jose, returning from the same role three years ago, is beautiful, poignant.

There are no weak links here – particularly standout are the close harmonies of Alexandra Oomens as Frasquita, and Niamh O’Sullivan as Mercedes – (Ellie Laugharne will join as Frasquita in later performances, reprising that role from back in 2020).

The melodies just flow, a bit like London buses, another one is just around the corner – but if we have to try to define the secret sauce of this unique production and its difference from earlier versions – it is the subtlety of delivery, at every level – the sudden appearance of “Carmencita” emerging from the single phone box as scenery on stage, – the soldiers emerging hidden in plain sight by clever lighting. There is no need for elaborate scenery here.

And above all the subtlety of Ginger Costa-Jackson, as Carmen, herself making her ENO debut, almost as a reluctant heroine. The growing fascination and inevitability with Jose, and similarly his own – as that chemistry develops, is so convincing even from the get-go. . Her delivery and ability to hold the stage is as good as any I have seen.

This is an opera production that leaves the story telling to its protagonists. In that sense, we are as before, simply voyeurs.

New to the process are the schoolchildren, selected from two local primary schools in London, part of the ENO Engage partnership with St Joseph’s Catholic School and Wendell Primary Schools, as the urchins early in the first Act. It its raw, and trained, and enthusiastic, If anything is to define why people come to ENO – this is probably as good a reason as any. The kids, and you and I, will look back on this performance; we were there .

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!


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: 

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 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.


At a time of global increases in prices for every type of basic food, we look at the upcoming Hotel, Restaurant & Catering Show ask; who is taking the lead here, – what does this mean for people in the food industry, and for you and me as mere consumers?

To judge by the hype – maybe nothing. This Hotel Restaurant and Catering event has brought together a range of business leaders, chefs, and tech-savvy people, to talk about, well, just about everything. In particular, the focus at the Tech X Stage will look at AI, as a way of solving the problems of lack of staff.

This is an interesting gambit, because if by chance – we are to have an influx of Ukrainian youngsters – and why not! – then where does this place IT in the grand scheme of things. Are we replacing Polish and Latvian baristas with their equivalent brothers and sisters from Nikolaev.?

So, nothing changed there, then. And yet, the key themes of the Conference are “innovation”, and “profitability”.

It’s not before time. After three years of drought and COVID lockdowns, is this a time of harvest, and if so, where is that new market coming from?

The difficulty, -according to noted Swedish chef Kristin Emilsson, who took her degree in food management in London – is that it is really about the costs facing the suppliers, rather than what the public would like to have.

She says “Obviously it is general costs – but what about staffing?” Her view is that the rapid changes in the world order have led to an acute shortage of chefs, who since lockdown, have now gone and found other jobs elsewhere”.

At the Hotel Restaurant and Catering event this Monday, we expect to see a range of new ideas, new ways of coping with these unforeseen challenges.

We expect to report further in due course.

The Conference can be viewed at:, from this Monday 21st March.

Human Nature. Just the same as before.

We take a fresh look at this new interpretation of the standout 2014 production of Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” and ask, as it returns to the London Coliseum here in March 2022; how come the the mix of Women and Men and Mozart, never loses its appeal?

There is a young business lady waiting hurriedly inside the Chanel Shop at St Pancras as I happen also to be stepping inside for something. We exchange a few words of greeting. She says that she is running for a train to Darlington. I tell her I am en route to Cosi, at the ENO.

“Oh!! I just love that opera!” she says. “I would love to come – when is it on next?” I quickly look at my ENO app, and smile give her some alternative future dates etc.

I am taking an early dinner at the restaurant just up the road from the London Coliseum and the maitre d’ squeezes me in at a single table just alongside two ladies who are well dressed, with obligatory bottle of chilled white wine, and they are talking animatedly.

“We are going to the Opera!” , they say.

“Really!” – I reply.

“Yes – we have not been for ages, and we are SO looking forward to going out again, And “Cosi Fan Tutte” is one of our favourites.

There is a lot of psychology talked in the media about the darkness of human nature within Cosi… and are we talking about all Women, or all Men, or all relationships – or just a few, and my answer to that is; Come on, guys – this is a Funny Story. That’s it.

The appeal of its story and attraction, is indeed based on several levels, and I will come to that shortly – but people do not come to the ENO production of Cosi Fan Tutte because of they want a seminar on human nature. If they sat down and thought about it, they come because they want to enjoy the constant melody, the incredible harmonisation, the forcefulness – and subtlety – of the direction, the spot on note perfect singing. People going to an ENO Mozart Opera want to be entertained and feel good, despite its underlying messages. I found myself still singing the tunes long after getting my return train from Paddington.

This production is the same as before in 2014 in many ways, the same Coney Island fairground set. There is the same Fortune Teller cabin, redolent of Tom Hanks in “Big”. The same concept of circus gymnasts skills ensemble. It is slapstick and very, very funny.

The additional playing the Ukraine National Anthem, before curtain up – added to that sense of absolute importance. It reminded me all those years ago of the Don Giovanni first night, on the first night of ENO at the Coliseum, – when the Russians had just invaded Prague. No, some things don’t change.

This performance gave a shop window to several of the Harewood Artists who are the future of ENO Operas. Nardus Williams as Fiodiligi is superb as soon as she starts singing; Benson Wilson is just great to listen to. But stealing the show, so to say, has to be Neal Davies as Don Alfonso, always in charge of proceedings, never losing his grip – and his synergy with Soraya Mafi, whilst not as crisp as Mary Bevan originally, was spot on note perfect. I think she can be even more acidic and sharp in her storytelling.

But what took all of our breath away – was the sheer complexity and delivery of the close harmony. It never let up. The complex intertwining of medallic lines, each protagonist singing as if their lives depended on it. It was absolutely glorious.

My colleague at the end of Act 1, stood up at the Interval and looked at me, in a state of shock. We all know that ENO performances and direction are always on the edge, the exploration of new angles and avenues. But nobody does Mozart better when it comes to opera for the people.

There are still a couple more performances at my time of writing this Note. Well worth making a point of going.


As gaps are starting to appear in the COVID stranglehold – we look at the background to getting back on the water, with a visit to the CRUISE SHIP INTERIORS EXPO in London Excel, – and what we can expect when we travel.

If you are going to have a Conference about Cruise Liners, then basing yourself by the side of the Thames, and just two tube stops down from the O2 Arena, is not a bad place to start. Adjacent also to City Airport, and equally close to Tower Bridge and some of the richest mooring spots in an already wealthy city financial area – it’s not hard to see why the organisers of this new Event, chose the Excel as their stopping off point.

They all had a party, the night before. If they say that every vertical market is like a small village – everybody knows everybody – then this was the ambience as you walk through the frankly deserted hallways of Excel until you come across Hall 3, and step inside the Trade Show area.

Perhaps the exhibitors and organisers, were expecting more? It didn’t help that just two days earlier, the UK went into a new series of COVID travel restrictions. More than one exhibitor confided that they had to fork out more than £100.00 on a sudden PCR test, that had not been made apparent before travel.

The chaotic travel scenario alas extended into the event itself. And this was a pity. Because CRUISE SHIP INTERIORS EXPO 21 – was actually rather good! There were some very, very inventive new products in the space-saving category, clever hospitality devices rubbed shoulders with travel agencies – and every Stand had at least one major decision-maker resident. Every conversation, was a productive experience.

I loved the Nautilus bedroom pod from Matalika; and the rather interesting invention from Icecooldesign, The nice lady at Franz Fertig showed me how to create a sofa-bed, without pretty much lifting a finger.

People come to Trade Fairs, to do business. There were far more European vendors, than British, and they had travelled there for a reason. There were more conversations in Italian – than English. Everybody was happy to have a chat.

The comparative lack of people created an intimacy – you could progress in a conversation beyond the usual “meet and greet”.

For that reason, although the Fair was not large in size, by comparison to others at Excel – this was a more worthwhile experience.

There was enough space not to need absolutely a mask, all the time. Just to be on the safe side, I put mine on, when re-emerging onto the Excel hallway. I think we are in for the long haul with COVID into 2022, but hopefully long gone by the time we all get back for the same event in 2022. I’ll be among friends.