This March 21 through 26, London is the destination for PBA President and CEO Milton Clipper. Through an exchange program organized by the British Consulate-General in Atlanta, Mr. Clipper will have the opportunity to connect with several British organizations that mirror PBA’s role as a public provider of information and cultural programming. Among them are BBC World Service, The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, and British Satellite News. He will also tour the Houses of Parliament, The Department for Education and Skills, the Museum of London, the Cabinet War Rooms, and The Film Council. The trip will create new lines of communication and a chance for everyone involved to gain a new perspective on a one of our important global neighbors. Check back here for journal entries from Mr. Clipper’s trip to London.
Before I begin the immediate detail of my visit to London, I thought it would be interesting to share with you a little trivia about the hotel where I am staying — St. Ermin’s — it is not far from the House of Parliament. St Ermin was a 6th century Welshman who settled in Brittany and founded two monasteries. King Henry VII firmly believed that due to his prayers to St. Ermin he was saved from shipwreck and, therefore, decided to build a chapel dedicated to him where the hotel now stands. There was also a nunnery on the site and tiny cells where the nuns lived and prayed still exist. When the area eventually deteriorated in 1887, the St. Ermins was opened as a block of mansion flats named the St. Ermin’s Mansions. Although it is not clear which year the mansions transitioned to a hotel, it definitely had changed by 1897 — by the outbreak of the first world war — and became one of London’s first major hotels.
Around the turn of the century a group of black ministers checked into the St. Ermin’s to attend a Methodist church conference. Some white American guests objected to their presence and it was they who the manager asked to leave. This action by the hotel manager prompted a welcome change in the racial attitude in London hotels.
Due to its close proximity to the Houses of Parliament, the hotel has always been popular for Members of Parliament as well as the House of Lords. There is even a passageway that runs from beneath the main baroque staircase to the Houses of Parliament a few hundred yards away; however, it is now blocked with no plans to re-open it. There is a division bell that has now been reinstated in the hotel that rings when politicians are required to vote in the House of Commons.
To prepare for a week of meetings, I was greeted in the hotel lobby by Natalie Doherty, Visits Officer and Gwenda Scarlett, Liaison Officer, both from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Gwenda is assigned to accompany me during my tours and meetings.
Onward to my first day of meetings at the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) World Service, CBA (Commonwealth Broadcasting Association)
The BBC WORLD SERVICE is the world’s leading international broadcaster, with 153 million regular listeners. They are on the air 24 hours a day in English. They also broadcast in 42 other languages. News and analysis forms the core of BBC WORLD SERVICE’s programming, renowned for its impartiality and international scope. This is supported by a diverse range of programming that include documentaries and features on the arts, science, business, music, religion, education, and sport — including programming that reflects the life and culture of Britain and, and many other countries. Programs are broadcast around the world on short wave and on the internet. Broadcasts are also available on FM in more than 120 capital cities around the world, including WABE 90.1 FM. In addition, more than 1,200 independent radio broadcasters worldwide carry selected World Service output in the local program schedule.
At this meeting I had the opportunity of joining in discussion with Brian Jarman, Business Development Manager.
After an enjoyable lunch with Ms. Scarlett, where we exchanged experiences in world travel, we left for our next meeting for the day at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association. Here I met with Elizabeth Smith, Secretary-General and Bisakha Ghose, Deputy Secretary- General and Project Director.
The COMMONWEALTH BROADCASTING ASSOCIATION is an association of 58 national broadcasting organizations in 51 Commonwealth countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Australia, Pacific and North and South America, pledged to work for the professional improvement of broadcasting in member organizations through collective study and mutual assistance, and of the technical facilities for transmission and reception of their services. The association is funded by subscription from members of the major public service broadcasters of the Commonwealth. The main objectives of the CBA are to secure funds for training in developing Commonwealth countries for management and broadcasting skills; to foster freedom of expression and the right to communicate; to extend the Association’s membership database; to further the concept of public service broadcasting; and, to provide a point of contact and a forum for discussion.
The CBA is located in the historic area of old London. Most of the original wooden buildings in this section were burned during the great fire of London in 1666. One of the areas most famous structures is St. Paul’s Cathedral, built to the design of Sr. Christopher Wren after the fire. The renaissance dome of the Cathedral is famous for its whispering gallery.
Today I began my morning meeting with Mike Nolan, Editor, at the British Satellite News (BSN). The BSN is a free television news service, which provides 420 overseas broadcasters with the coverage of worldwide topical events and stories from a British perspective. The service places an additional emphasis on stories of particular interest to the Islamic and Arabic-speaking world.
A ten minute bulletin is transmitted Monday to Friday providing exclusive coverage of major news events, analysis and stories from business, science, health, environment, culture and sport. The service is provided in English and Arabic.
BSN also has a bi-lingual web-site providing access to past, current and planned stories. BSN is transmitted via Reuters World News Service and is produced by World Television on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
After this meeting, Gwenda Scarlett and I were joined by my wife, Paulette, to visit the extraordinary Houses of Parliament. Our tour guide, Keith Phipps, House of Lords Doorkeeper, gave us a very informative tour. The Houses of Parliament, comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, occupy the site of the Palace of Westminster, the principal residence of the Kings of England from the middle of the 11 th century to 1532. The palace was nearly all destroyed by fire in 1834 - the only remains being Westminster Hall and the Crypt of St. Stephen’s Chapel. The UK parliamentary system has evolved over the last 700 years and for over nine centuries there has been a royal palace at Westminster and to this date is still designated a royal palace.
The present Houses, except for the Chamber of the House of Commons which was rebuilt after its destruction by air attack in 1941, were redesigned by the architect Charles Barry soon after the fire; they cover eight acres or 3.2 hectares.
In the House of Commons there is seating accommodations for only 437 of the 659 Members of Parliament (MPs), which is why quite often you see MPs standing around the Speaker’s Chair during major debates and statements. While many of the debates are lively and robust, they are also intimate and conversational. It is truly a debating chamber where every Member is free to express his or her view and where opposing arguments are presented frankly and passionately. Please note, because the House of Commons was in debate we were not allowed inside the chamber.
The House of Lords is the sight of one of the most familiar images of the State Opening of Parliament in November by Her Majesty the Queen — here we had an opportunity to walk in the steps of Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen gives a speech which is prepared by the Prime Minister setting out Parliament’s working agenda for the coming year. The House has existed as a separate chamber of Parliament since the 14 th century and is part of the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world. It is also one of the busiest, second only to the House of Commons in the number of days and hours it sits.
The House of Lords not only plays a key role in revising legislation from the Commons, but it also initiates legislation. It also keeps a check on the government by reviewing its activities. It does this by asking questions, debating policy and, through its Select Committees, taking evidence from Ministers and others. The house also has an important judicial role as the highest Court of Appeal in the land.
After our tour, we had a quick lunch in the Parliament’s cafeteria before my next meeting. On the way, I managed to take advantage of the kindness of our driver and the few extra minutes to stop at Westminster Abbey to take a poignant photo of 20 th century martyrs that has much meaning for the British, as it does for Americans, especially in Atlanta. Westminster Abbey is the most ancient of London’s great churches. It is where most of England’s monarchs have been crowned with great splendor. Many are also buried here.
My last meeting for the day was with the Department for Education and Skills. Jeff Hart, Education Advisor meet with me. This is a new department for the Ministry. It was initiated by government changes mandated in June 2001. The Department exists to promote growth and personal development by raising the standards of educational achievement and skill. This department receives the largest budget from the government. Aims are to build a competitive economy and inclusive society by creating learning opportunities for everyone; releasing potential in people to make the most of themselves; and, achieving excellence in standards of education and levels of skills.
This morning I had the opportunity of visiting VisitBritain at Thames Tower. I was met by Paul Gauger, Destination PR Manager. VisitBritain was established in April 2003 with the charge to market Britain to the rest of the world and England to the British. It was formed from the merger of the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council. Tourism is one of the largest industries in Britain. It ranks seventh in the international tourism earnings league, with more than 24 million international visitors annually. VisitBritain has 43 offices in 36 countries, including Russia, Poland, Korea and China. In addition to servicing the public, they work closely with British diplomatic and cultural staff, and the local travel trade and media to stimulate interest in Britain. VisitBritain’s market research, coupled with its expertise and overseas network, helps the British tourism industry to reach overseas customers cost-effectively. It also undertakes pioneering work in new markets to develop the basis for the British tourism industry.
After this meeting, we moved on to the Museum of London. Here I was greeted by Dr. Darryl McIntyre, Group Director Public Programmes. The museum was alive with curious adults and students using the exhibits for classroom study. This museum presents the story of Britain’s capital from prehistoric times to the present day. Built by Powell Moya and Partners, who received the 1974 Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, it is on the edge of the City’s Barbican development area within a short distance from St. Paul’s Cathedral. The display areas are arranged chronologically on two floors around a central courtyard and connected by a glazed ramp. One of the most important exhibits was the discovery of an actual section of the original city wall built by the Romans about 200 AD. The wall established the layout of the city of London as it is today. There is a separate Education Department, an archaeological field unit, and a Library and Print Room. Regular lunchtime lectures and workshops, and special exhibitions are held. Opened by Her Majesty the Queen in December 1976, the Museum was formed by amalgamating the former Guildhall Museum and the London Museum. The Museum of London, established by an Act of Parliament in 1965, is now funded equally by HM Government through the Department of National Heritage and the Corporation of London — each of whom nominates one half (9) of the Board of Governors.
Today marks my final day of official meetings in London. I begin at the Cabinet War Rooms where I was met by the Director, Phil Reed. If you’re a history buff or looking for places of interest, the Cabinet War Room is a must see when visiting London. The Cabinet War Rooms comprise the most important surviving part of the underground emergency accommodations which were designed to protect Winston Churchill, the War Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff of Britain’s armed forces against air attacks during the Second World War. The Rooms, which are situated in the basement of the Government Offices on Great George Street, were in operational use from August 1939 to the Japanese surrender in 1945 and were opened to the public in April 1984. The Cabinet War Rooms are managed by the Imperial War Museum.
My next stop was to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, whose staff worked diligently in cooperation with British Consular General Michael Bates’ office in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to host and coordinate my visit to London. While the work that goes on within this office is very important and demanding, it is a beautiful structure to have the chance to work in. Let me give you a bit of its history — when Charles James Fox was appointed the first Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in March 1782, he had a very small staff whose office consisted of no more than two former private houses in Cleveland Row, conveniently near the St. James Palace, where all foreign ambassadors in London were accredited. In 1793 the Foreign Office moved to what had been Lord Sheffield’s house on Downing Street and by the 1820’s it was also occupying neighboring properties and on Fludyer Street. This was an area of great historic significance — Fludyer Street, named after Sir Samuel Fludyer, a former Mayor of London, was built on the site of Axe Yard, where Samuel Pepys had begun his famous Diary and some of the many local inns could trace their origins back to medieval hostels established for pilgrims visiting the shrine of King Edward the Confessor at Westminster Abbey. Certainly after many years of political unrest, war, and differences in architectural philosophies, the offices moved several times. The government decided not to demolish the current building, instead invested heavily in its restoration. Today this building showcases one of London’s most beautiful and historic interiors.
After lunch my next stop was to the Film Council. HereNeil Watson, Strategy Advisor for The Film Council and Richard Patterson, Head of Knowledge at The British Film Institute, met with me. The Film Council has been set up by the government to be the lead organization for film in the UK. The Film Council officially came into existence on April 1, 2000 and unveiled full details of its plans and strategies on May 2, 2000. The creation of the Film Council is a particularly important initiative from both industry and government viewpoints because for the first time there is one organization in the UK responsible for encouraging both cultural and commercial film activity.
As a lottery funding distributor, the Film Council channels all public money for film production, except to the National Film and Television School. The scope of its ambition, however, is wide-ranging, long term, and most importantly, strategic. The over-riding objective of the Film Council is to develop a coherent strategy for film culture; the development of the film industry; and the encouragement of inward investment. The two basic objectives of the Film Council are to develop a sustainable UK film industry and to develop a film culture to improve access to and education about the industry.
My final official stop while in London was to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Here I had the opportunity of meeting with Stephen Rosser, Head of Public Service Broadcasting Policy, Chris Dawes, Head of Legislation Team, and Peter Doogan, Film Policy Advisor. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport was established in July 1997 from the former Department of National Heritage. It is responsible for government policy relating to the arts, broadcasting, the press, museums and galleries, libraries, sport and recreation, historic buildings and ancient monuments, tourism, and the music industry. It funds the Arts Councils and other arts and is also responsible for policy on the National Lottery and gambling and racing.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank British Consul General Michael Bates in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and his staff for making this trip possible. In addition, many thanks to members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, in particular Gwenda Scarlett, who patiently guided me through my meetings during my stay, and, of course, Natalie Doherty, who tediously put together a very rewarding itinerary. Also, thanks to my staff at PBA.