Confronted by the latest trolling scandal, Sophie said to
me: ‘Of course, we just used to shout at the radio or the tellie when people
said things that annoyed us.’
And it’s true that the situation has been transformed by the
availability via social media of direct access to the targets.
So, while threatening dire retribution on some public figure
is horrible in all circumstances, at least in our own lounge rooms no one else
is affected (aside from our own immediate family, who know already what loud-mouthed
bigots we are).
Cameron talks about reforming the European Union and getting a better deal for
Britain. But it seems that his only negotiating skill on view is to use
“strong-arm” tactics ‒ grandstanding, making unilateral demands and threats ‒ and
then to appear surprised that other countries are failing to fall into line.
were to make any progress at all, on any of the issues that matter, he would
have to build alliances founded on mutual interest and mutual trust. This
could only be achieved behind closed doors, not in open session. In reality,
he seems to have no friends in Europe at all and minimal leverage.
fact that he seems either unwilling or unable to build these alliances suggests
that his real agenda is to create a situation where Britain’s exit from Europe is
is not the case, perhaps a basic course in negotiating skills would be
appropriate. I’d suggest starting with a close reading of Fisher and Ury’s
Getting to Yes*.
*Getting to Yes:
Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury
I wrote about the new management of our local pub in King’s
Sutton (or gastro-pub I should say), the White Horse, not so long after they
moved in and transformed the place – food, drink, service, value, ambience etc.
I walk past just about every day, and we go in to eat there
with pleasure on a fairly regular basis, so it’s become clear that business has
steadily grown under the watchful eye of front-of-house Julie and chef Hendrik.
What I hadn’t realised is that they are already Number 1 on
Tripadvisor out of no less than 147 eateries in the Banbury area. What a gift for our
lovely country village.
Richard Sykes writes to me in response to my question (following
the Schubert Project at the Oxford Lieder Festival): "Where were all the students in this great city of
Roger, have you read A Clockwork Orange? Alex, reformed by
the drugs and aversion therapy to which he is subjected, finds that his musical
tastes have changed:
"It was like something soft getting into me and I could not
pony why. What I wanted these days I did not know. Even the music I liked to
slooshy in my own malenky den was what I would have smecked at before,
brothers. I was slooshying more like romantic songs, what they call Lieder,
just a goloss and a piano, very quiet and like yearny, different from when it
had been all bolshy orchestras and me lying on the bed between the violins and
the trombones and kettledrums. There was something happening inside me, and I
wondered if it was like some disease or if it was what they had done to me that
time upsetting my gulliver and perhaps going to make me real bezoomy."
I rather suspect that this is Burgess reflecting on his own
experience of evolving musical tastes and the ways in which we experience some
musical revelations only as we age. Certainly that was my experience with
Lieder. As an Oxford undergraduate I loved "classical" music, and
attended concerts in the city. But I would not have seriously considered attending
a Lieder recital. Now, in my late 40s, something has happened inside me, few
things give me more pleasure, and I love to slooshy Lieder in my own malenky
den and in Oxford's malenky concert hall too. In years to come, I'm sure some
of those students will, too.
to be reminded of the extraordinary polymathic Anthony Burgess, who regarded
himself as both composer and writer, although his compositions have rarely been
I came to lieder rather earlier than Richard Sykes – in my early twenties ‒ but if
I’d been a student in Oxford before connecting with the genre, I’d have missed
epiphany came when I bought Saga’s 1966 recording of Janet Baker singing
Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Still essential listening. Here she is with
pianist Martin Isepp in Schubert’s ‘Der Musensohn’:
To the final concert of the Oxford Lieder Festival. My ninth
in the series ‒ a
mere sampling of the 109 events on offer over the past three weeks.
It’s been a magnificent achievement, including all of
Schubert’s 650-odd songs ‒
the first time this has been done in Britain. And not just concerts, but also
masterclasses, family events, study days, lecture-recitals, socials and so on.
It has been the brainchild of the excellent accompanist
Sholto Kynoch, who recruited the finest singers and pianists, old and young, organised
the whole thing into brilliantly-conceived programmes, recruited a band of
cheerful helpers, performed personally in many of the events, and was around
meeting and greeting throughout. What a stunning achievement.
My own special memories?
The young Swiss baritone baritone Manuel Walser singing
Schlegel settings and the even-younger Slovenian soprano Nika Gorič singing Schlechta; the
Swedish mezzo Maria Forsström
singing Schiller; Schubert’s Octet, brilliantly played by the Principals of the
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; from the older generation, Sir Thomas
Allen singing Winterreise and the great Dutch bass Robert Holl singing
And, in the final concert yesterday, the seventy-something
year old Sarah Walker, melting hearts with a superb all-female chorus in one of
Schubert’s Serenades, and the last thoughts of Schubert in the Heine settings
from Schwanengesang, sung with profound stillness by Jonathan Lemalu (above).
Lastly the intimate playing of clarinettist Mark van de Wiel in “The Shepherd
on the Rock”.
But… where were all the students in this great city of
learning? Just a fiver for them on the door. Conspicuous by their absence.
I am currently steeped in German Romantic poetry – in
particular Schiller, Schulze, Mayrhofer, Hölty, Heine, Müller
and the Schlegel brothers ‒
preparing for concerts in Oxford filled with Schubert’s settings of their work.
This brought to mind one of those forks in the road that
confront us from time to time. I was working very happily for Garland-Compton
in its pre-Saatchi days, running our biggest client, Rowntree.
recently taken over a leading competitor, Mackintosh’s, and the brilliant,
glamorous young Tony Mackintosh had become leader of their merged European
Tony would sweep into our offices in Charlotte Street,
brought there in his black-chauffeur-driven white limo, a vision, all blue
jeans and fur coat. The latter he would hand immediately to our receptionist,
she on the verge of meltdown, and ask for me.
It was all very 1969.
In due course, Tony summoned me to his offices – not in
Halifax or Norwich or York, where the major factories and offices were (and
are), but in a fine Georgian house in Park Lane, Mayfair. There he invited me
to leave the agency and join his team in a senior marketing role. I was
flattered, of course, but turned him down ‒ graciously, I hope.
At one point in the meeting, we discussed European
languages. The plain fact is that, although I have some words and phrases in
most of them, I am reasonably fluent only in English.
“How's your German?” he asked.
“Well, I’m familiar with a good deal of Romantic poetry,” I
said, “but I’m not sure that the vocabulary would be very useful in marketing
Here’s a sample, useful in recent days in Oxford: Abendstern
(evening star); Einsamkeit (solitude); Abschied (farewell); Klage (lament);
Weinen (tears); Heimweh (homesickness); Sehnsucht (longing); Erwartung (anticipation)…
To Oxford again, latest in the Schubert lieder recitals.
This time it was the wonderful baritone, Sir Thomas Allen, singing the great song
cycle, Die Winterreise – the Winter’s Journey.
Schubert set this tragic series of poems by his
contemporary, Wilhelm Müller. Although the composer admired Müller’s work
immensely, he only set one of his poems as a single song, ‘Der Hirt auf dem
Felsen’, the Shepherd on the Rock. But he set two long series by the poet which together established the song-cycle
as a major form within music – Die Schöne Müllerin and Die Winterreisse.
Curiously, although I’ve known the Winter's Journey intimately from recordings
over several decades, it was the first time I’d heard it in the flesh. And what
an ideal introduction this was by Thomas Allen. He brings a lifetime of
experience to it, not just of singing and acting, but also of life itself.
The journey starts with a young man, disappointed in love,
and ends with him observing an aged street musician, an organ-grinder:
There behind the village,
stands a hurdy-gurdy man,
with stiff fingers,
he plays as best he can.
Barefoot on the ice,
he staggers to and fro,
and his little plate
remains empty for ever.
No one wants to hear him,
no one looks at him,
and the dogs are growling
around the old man.
And he lets everything go on
as it will;
he turns, and his hurdy-gurdy
never stands still.
Strange old man,
shall I go with you?
Will you turn your hurdy-gurdy to my songs?
When I started this blog, the posts were mainly about innovation, creativity and leadership matters. So if you want the see those, they are mostly in the earlier years. More recently I've been writing about the arts - music, literature and art itself. I still post from time to time on innovation matters and indeed anything else that intrigues me.
Roger Neill FRSA, FIoD, is Managing Partner of the innovation consultancy, Per Diem. He was Founding Director of the Centre for Creativity, City University London, and international managing partner for Synectics Corporation, a world leader in innovation and creativity. He writes, speaks and conducts masterclasses and workshops around the world.
Previously Roger worked in marketing communications. For ten years he was with Saatchi & Saatchi and was appointed to the board of directors aged 27. With Lintas (now Lowe) he became chairman in Australia/New Zealand and regional director for Asia/Pacific. He was deputy chairman of WCRS Worldwide in London. Roger was World President of the International Advertising Association 1990-1992.
An expert on the innovators, artists, writers and musicians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he helped Sam Wanamaker to re-build Shakespeare's Globe in London. He curated the exhibition Legends: The Art of Walter Barnett for the National Portrait Gallery in Australia. Roger was founder of Sinfonia 21 and chairman of Endymion Ensemble. He started his working life as a professional rock musician.