I think in this photo I may be pretending to laugh at the fact that Michael Young and I appear to have the same glasses. In actual fact I’m secretly hoping the similarity could possibly prove a relationship closer than just style. Let’s not forget that on starting at the Young Foundation in 2009 I decided to inform a slightly taken aback Geoff Mulgan that Michael Young was responsible for my very conception*.
But my relationship with Victoria Park Square had begun a little before my moment of over-sharing with Geoff. Back in the day, before actually securing a job there, I was rather unhappily employed at the other end of Bethnal Green Road and would regularly trot along the street and harass the lucky Paul Miller and his colleagues in the School of Everything. Memorably once inviting myself over after having been dumped (CAVEAT: it was via email and with the seminal line “It’s just that with your love of Vogue, and my appreciation of Spanish medieval buttresses …”) I’m sure the open plan space at the back of 18 Victoria Park Square really appreciated my carrying voice that day.
Anyways – in order to access Paul and his cronies you had to get past the welcome committee. I’m not going to deny, for at least the first few months I was plain terrified of the lady sat behind 4ft of a wood effect reception desk. I’d try to smile winningly and then whisper to Paul “I’m pretty sure Monica hates me …”
Nearly 5 years on I think/hope she doesn’t. Turning the corner down in to Victoria Park Square and catching a sight of that dark bob just about visible over the top of her
empire reception always lifted my spirits. And I can only apologise to the generations of temps covering reception who I’ve greeted with “BUT WHERE’S MONICA?! I HAVE NEWS”
But it’s not just been the daily gossip with Mon that kept me so happy at The Young Foundation. Though, as an aside, I genuinely think that having the Financial Times delivered every morning, and needing to come pick it up from reception at the centre of the building, has improved my knowledge and appreciation of everything the YF and its network is up to.
For the role of a comms person can sometimes feel a bit ’emperor’s new clothes’ – inflating what an organisation does based on scant evidence or proof. The joy of the Young Foundation has been how much there is to talk about. Sometimes the great irritation, the lack of focus, has also been my biggest source of pride. That for almost every occasion I had not one, but often three of four pieces of YF work to pull out of the bag.
Apart from being able to make dinner party small talk, when I first took on the comms role here, the request was to start getting ANY coverage for Young Foundation work. As part of my legacy I’m incredibly happy to leave behind a happy and busy media centre AND an article citing us as “the future of thinktanks, and that a thinktank made in this image would be an amazing force for innovation and good”.
So with job so effectively done I’m off to pastures new, and will have to get used to turning left out of my door in the morning after seven years of turning right. I’m incredibly excited by my new role, but as many will appreciate, I am a child of routines and rituals. I’ve already been heralding my impending departure from the London Fields lido in the mornings with the lifeguards in the vain hope that they might want to throw me a party. So far they’ve just (all too enthusiastically?) suggested new potential swimming pools.
I remain sentimental in the face of this practicality though – and will miss the Young Foundation an awful lot. Aside from actually doing my job it’s thanks to this place I’ve drunk immeasurable cocktails in care homes, squiffily hosted quiz nights in a lamé jacket, become a bona fide runner, hosted a number of aubergine themed dinner parties and danced to Solange’s Losing You for Monica’s delectation more times than I care to remember. New Zealand House has a lot to live up to.
* The reality being that my parents had met through the Open University – Dad a lecturer, Mum a student (a massive old ’70s cliché – their eyes locked across the dance floor at the Summer School disco). And as we have Michael to thank for the OU – at least according to every Young Foundation blurb since 2005 – in my convoluted reasoning we also had him to thank for the creation of a mini Harvie.