BVEP - Business Visits and Events Partnership

  • *
    *
    *
    *
    *
    *

    Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

BVEP Blog

“In Wales, singing and storytelling are party skills, not professions” – Rhys Ifans

By Simon Hughes - I must declare at the outset that, despite my surname, I have absolutely no Welsh blood in me at all. Yet some of my memories of Wales are amongst the happiest that I've collected over the years. So the prospect of visiting Wales later this month with the BVEP has filled me with glee as I anticipate adding to that collection. In my formative years weekend trips up to Snowdonia with the local scout troop featured frequently. We'd all bundle into a minivan in South Croydon late on Friday afternoon and then head off to spend the weekend scrabbling up and down hills and mountains with unpronounceable names, often soaked to the skin and putting up with the baleful gaze of sodden sheep.

One trip when I was in my late teens found a group of us trying to get a beer in the only pub in the village after an exhausting but very satisfying spot of rock climbing. The conversation in the dingy interior was being conducted in Welsh and our entry stopped it dead. I approached the bar and ordered six pints of bitter. The landlord adopted the gaze used by the local sheep. "I don't think that's going to be possible young man. Your type are not welcome here see." Please bear in mind that this was the late 70's and in that part of North Wales the English were not as welcome as we are today. "Oh dear," I replied, "That's a shame. My granddad would be spinning in his grave if he heard that."

"Who was your granddad then?" the man standing next to me at the bar enquired. "George Hughes." I replied. "Hughes is it? Well that makes a big difference doesn't it – go on give the boys a beer." Shameful on my part of course – but as I've said it was the only pub in the village and we really wanted a beer. Even more shameful is the fact that on a return trip many years later I used the same ruse again in a very different setting. This time I was facilitating a formal consultation with some local DWP senior managers in Cardiff. By way of introduction a highly nervous official from Whitehall managed to patronise the living daylights out of the assembled audience in her opening remarks. The hotel air conditioning was not responsible for the visible drop in temperature when she blurted out "We've had to get up really early to get here today from London, so I'm expecting all of you to work really hard and come up with fantastic ideas."

There was nothing for it. I bounced on stage. "Bore da! My name's Simon Hughes and it's a great pleasure to be back in the land of my father's today to have the chance to work with you all on this new initiative – croeso." It did the trick and we actually went on to have a fantastic day, co-creating some really good marketing solutions that worked brilliantly. Was that wrong when the result was so right? Even as I write this I'm feeling a little embarrassed at my former antics – but sometimes needs must. I'm nothing if not flexible. This was particularly useful when we were hosted by the great team at the SSE SWALEC for one of Gordon Brown's regional Cabinet meetings in Cardiff. A rather long announcement was required to introduce the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales and the First Minister of Wales. They were all lined up behind me ready to enter the auditorium and I had to ask them to wait while I did the VOG. "What's a VOG?" enquired The Prime Minster. "Sorry it's what we call the unseen opening announcement – the Voice of God." I explained. Gordon Brown smiled "I thought that I was the voice of God." he joked. "No" I replied, "You're the Prime Minister – I'm the Voice of God." That told him.

So I'm really looking forward to more stories and the fantastic welcome that the Welsh always offer visitors to their truly beautiful country when we assemble at Celtic Manor in just a few weeks time. If you've never been to Wales you will be in for a treat and I look forward to seeing you there. One more story? One of my favourite Welsh jokes then. A Russian spy gets off a train at a local station somewhere in the valleys and casts around for his contact on the platform. There is no-one there so he approaches the ticket office for help. "I'm looking for a friend that is supposed to be meeting me – he's called Jones." The ticket clerk scratches his head with his pencil. "Well that might be a bit tricky sir. You see we have Jones the milk, Jones the post and Jones the bookie just for starters. Can you give me any more information about your Mr Jones to help me out?" The Russian ponders for a moment and then whispers, "It is raining hard in Leningrad today." "Oh," beams the ticket clerk, "You'll be wanting Jones the spy!" Diolch.