The silver-ferned devil’s got nothing to lose, I’ll only live till I die
We take our own chances and pay our own dues, the silver-ferned devil and I
– With apologies to Kris Kristofferson’s Silver Tongued Devil and I
What a difference a change of President makes. No, I’m not talking the US where sometime between now and Jo Biden’s inauguration day (20 January), Donald Trump will finally be prised like a limpet from a rock out of the White House. No I’m talking TFWA where a couple of weeks back, new President Jaya Singh made his presence felt almost immediately with a press conference out of a very different playbook from that of his predecessor, Alain Maingreaud.
It was a virtual press conference, of course, but that didn’t stop the new President from clearly setting out his stall in terms of how he will work hand-in-hand with his board in a collegiate, inclusive, and transparent style.
Each of the Board Members – Vice-President Commercial Donatienne de Fontaines-Guillaume (Moët Hennessy); Vice-President Marketing Aude Bourdier (Brown-Forman); Vice-President Conferences & Research Gemma Bateson (JTI); Vice-President Corporate Sam Gerber (WorldConnect); and Vice-President Finance Frédéric Garcia-Pelayo (InterParfums) – was very deliberately called on to comment on a range of association and industry issues.
The end result was an inescapable impression of unity and of a group of people (volunteers all) committed to ensuring the association’s future prosperity and, perhaps more importantly, relevance, after a curiously passive 2020.
That’s a high-quality board line-up, one well capable of steering the association through waters that are likely to remain stormy for some time. TFWA’s May 2021 Asia Pacific event (10-13 May) has been dubbed the ‘Hainan Special Edition’, incorporating both physical and virtual elements, and that is a prudent hedge. For given the constraints of health, travel, budget and logistics, I suspect it will be far, far more virtual than face to face. I speak from experience in saying that any kind of trade show in 2021 will face big challenges, just as they did in this wretched year.
Curiously, none of that media contingent other than yours truly had even written about there being a competitive election (in 2019 incumbent Maingreaud had been re-elected unopposed), which means they either didn’t know or chose not to report the fact. As they all read us, it had to be the latter. I’m not so sure that’s the way things should be. But I am pretty sure that Jaya Singh would welcome more open exchanges, be able to take proper reporting, tough questions, even criticism, without the kind of reaction that saw the association withdraw its advertising support from The Moodie Davitt Report after my denunciation of the choice of Tony Blair as a speaker at the 2019 Cannes conference.
Public bodies must expect occasional public examination and by holding his first press conference in the style he did, Jaya Singh was recognising just that, while also outlining a refreshing agenda based on being fast and flexible, qualities that TFWA, like all organisations and companies, will need to embrace in a difficult recovery year. All in all, a very good start.
Now I am finally able to keep sartorial company, COVID-19-style, with Dubai Duty Free and Dubai Airports bosses Colm McLoughlin and Paul Griffiths.
Let me explain. Readers will remember how Colm and Paul had starred as the masked men in a recent Blog and (not very difficult) readers’ competition to guess their identities. Apart from Colm, who quite understandably mistook himself for George Clooney, every participant got it right. So we settled on captions to break the tie (the competition’s not Colm’s or Paul’s below).
There was a nice postscript to the story as my Blog prompted the masks’ creator, Ann Barnard (a friend of Paul Griffiths’ wife Jo) to make contact. Ann is a musician in the UK and like many of her peers she has therefore found much time on her hands since the pandemic struck.
She has turned those hands to good purpose, creating bespoke masks that are 100% cotton, washable, reversible, adjustable, wired at the top to help glasses from steaming up, and contain a filter pocket with a complementary filter enclosed. Oh yes, and they are quite lovely. Ann makes her bespoke masks to help musicians made redundant due to COVID-19’s catastrophic impact on the British music and entertainment industry.
I asked Ann if she could craft me a silver ferned-mask and she came up with the goods, as you can see, just in time for Christmas. No self-respecting coronavirus would dare try to approach me wearing as I am the famed silver fern of our national All Blacks rugby team.
If you fancy your own personalised mask or wish to buy one as a gift, check out AnnieInStitchesShop on Instagram or online at https://www.annieinstitches.co.uk/. You may never want to be unmasked again.