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August 15, 2012

Hedgehog Issue 27

By Spear's

Spear’s spiky columnist on how to trade in mid-air, fundraise through twitter and (legally) take home your hotel’s bedside table.

CAMERA LUCIDA
  

To the Soho Hotel for a preview screening of Celebrity Exposed, a four-part Sky Arts documentary on the life and work of celebrity snapper Richard Young, a ‘documentationist’ of our time, according to David Bailey.

The programme, which follows Young’s rise from Stoke Newington to the Vanity Fair Oscars party, via late nights at the Dorchester, front of stage at rock concerts and a Romanian orphanage with Michael Jackson’s freak show, makes a good case for Young as foremost historian of the age of celebrity. Decline and Drunken Fall, you might call it.

Despite many celebrity friends in attendance — Heather Kerzner, Stephen Berkoff, Kelly Hoppen — and on screen — Elton, Kate, you know, the usual crowd — the evening felt a lot more like an intimate family affair, as the audience cheered at baby photos of Young and hollered at pictures from his particularly beardy years. Had Richard not confessed to being in his mid-sixties, you could have mistaken it for a bar mitzvah party.

Richard himself seemed to be taking to the role of watched rather than watcher rather well. When Hedgehog asked him how it felt to be the centre of attention for once, instead of its sharp observer, he said that he could see the pleasure in it.

Susan Young, Richard’s wife and the manager of the Richard Young Gallery in Kensington, told Hedgehog that it had been an epic task to choose 600 stills from the ‘millions’ of Richard’s career, especially the low-resolution ones from the early digital years. Susan also described the piles of invitations Richard receives daily, but added that he still goes into a tremendous sulk if he’s NFI.

The programme started with his Paul Getty Jr pictures, a significant scoop, but nothing compared to the global reach of his Burton-Taylor photos, taken at Burton’s 50th birthday party (see left). Through glamorous candid shots in private parties and at nightclubs to personal invitations to cover stars to PR stunts, paparazzi and insta-fame, the documentary explored with reasonably clear vision how celebrities and photographers have created one another.

This is not new, of course, but first-hand stories of doorstepping Richard Burton and a long-term association with Princess Diana made this account significant, inasmuch as this is a significant subject. (It’s getting less so with every issue of OK! and its ilk.)

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Tensions were brought out through talking heads’ contradictory remarks: celebrities are Richard’s friends but he thinks they would drop him in an instant; Richard captures your true self but always makes you look glamorous; he gets candid shots but will never take an unflattering picture; he’s independent but always co-operates; he’s ‘the zen master of gatecrashing’ but never goes where he’s not wanted. (Peter York, who conducted an interview with Richard after the screening, was a lone consistent voice.)

Plainly not all these things can be true and trying to find a clear theoretical line through his career is impossible, especially since a changing media landscape and the demands of access can require collaboration with subjects. Whatever the theory, Young has never been without a flash of inspiration.

richardyounggallery.co.uk


   
  
UNCIVIL SOCIETY
  

The smell of overripe bananas hung heavily in the air as minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd tried to deal with a rotten banana of the government’s making. Although the journalists attending the briefing in Mr Hurd’s office were told he wouldn’t talk about the debacle of the capping of income tax relief (now scrapped), it was of course the main topic of conversation.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. It was the day of the Giving Summit, originally a charitable jamboree at the Natural History Museum with donors and third-sector grandees chewing the fat about how to get people to give more, but now a reporting session for committees on the improvement of philanthropy. Those are important, of course, but not quite the all-singing, all-giving extravaganza ministers envisaged.

What happened was the Budget and follow-up comments by David Cameron, calling philanthropists ‘tax dodgers’, and, as pugnacious in its defence as Mr Hurd was, he nonetheless looked like a man who had been winded by the school bully, the Treasury, and then had to pretend they were just talking as the teacher, No 10, walked by — for fear of worse.

He dismissively and repeatedly referred to the relief cap as being about ‘the tax affairs of a very small group of the very rich’, as if their giving was insignificant; this is despite saying that 8 per cent of donors gave 48 per cent of charity. The important principle, he kept saying, was that everyone should pay their fair share of tax (even when tax relief is used for charitable purposes, apparently). It was the sort of truism that would play well in his constituency, as he kept reminding us, but it doesn’t work for those who deal with philanthropists.

Mr Hurd said the government would be able to rebuild trust with the charitable sector, which had expressed concerns ‘very strongly’, and that ‘we’ll work it through’, but he had no date or morsel of reconciliation to offer. He pointed to the 10 per cent cut in inheritance tax announced in last year’s Budget as an incentive to give, but deflected Hedgehog’s question about lifetime legacies, allowing donated assets to work for both charity and donor while they are alive. The charitable sector is in agreement that these would encourage giving sooner, rather than postponing it to death.

Philanthropists at least received a platitude: ‘We should celebrate philanthropists because they make fantastic things happen that wouldn’t otherwise happen.’ Celebrate them, yes — but apparently not encourage them.
 
 
  
   
DISCOVER, DELIVER, DELIGHT
      

Hotels long ago wised up to the fact that guests are going to steal certain items — shampoo, slippers, trouser press — and thus incorporated their cost into the room rate. But what happens if a guest so likes the bed linen or a chair or an objet on a table that they want to take that home?

Until now, you either needed a very large suitcase or had to do without. That was until Isabel Rutland, staying in the Greenwich Hotel in New York and about to start furnishing a new home in London, had a bright idea: persuading hotels, bars and restaurants to fess up to their designers and asking the designers to sell their high-end pieces online. The result was Discover & Deliver.

‘Selling furniture online is a big no-no for the big brands,’ Isabel says. ‘The difficult part has been convincing them that there’s a market for people who stay in hotels and like the furniture but have no idea where they come from.’ But convince them and others she has: from the chic table lamp on the bar in Cecconi’s (pictured) to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona couch found in Rio’s Hotel Fasano, hundreds of items are available online. And if you have a fabric you prefer, the items can be made up with that.

One of the most popular items on the site is Michele Bonan’s ringback chair (£1,132 plus VAT), made for JK Place in Capri. All you really neednow is a Negroni, a swimsuit and it’s just like last summer.
 
discover-deliver.com
    
   
   HEAVEN SENT
  

The government may have it in for philanthropy, but it’s taking a surprisingly helpful approach to something else those tax-dodging wealthy people want to do with their money: angel investing.

Straight after Nick Hurd’s Giving Summit press briefing, Hedgehog went to the offices of PlayJam on Old Street, part of Tech City UK, a technology cluster from Clerkenwell to Stratford. (Its hub is Silicon Roundabout, around Old Street Tube.)

PlayJam has developed a social games network for television, so you can play family-friendly games through your smart TV against others around the world. The games include simple Tetris-style ones, interactive general knowledge competitions and more advanced racing games. Competing with expensive consoles by Nintendo and Sony, PlayJam comes with your new TV and can be played with your remote.

The event at their offices was to celebrate the first investments made by the Angel CoFund, which has £50 million of government money to invest alongside business angels. Angels find the companies, do the research and due diligence and then commit their own money; then they can approach the government. PlayJam received £500,000 after angels had raised £1.75 million. In total, £7.2 million has been awarded by the Angel CoFund to five companies.

George Whitehead of Octopus Venture Partners, an angel-investing network, is the chairman of the Angel CoFund and said that the companies the fund would invest in had global ambition and significant growth potential: ‘The whole point of the co-fund is a simple one: getting government cash, targeting it towards some of the best, most entrepreneurial, most talented opportunities this country has to offer.’ With an average IRR to angel investors of 22 per cent, according to official figures, Whitehead said these could be lucrative opportunities.

The second ministerial encounter on that day was a lot happier. Business and Enterprise minister Mark Prisk MP seemed in a jolly mood as he spoke of the advantages of angel investing, which included not just the money but also the expertise of entrepreneurial backers. ‘That combination of the inventor, the investor, the entrepreneur is becoming something of a natural ecosystem,’ he said.

It was left to Richard Hargreaves, an angel investor into PlayJam, to sound a serious note: angel investing was needed because venture capital had dried up. ‘A business angel is nowadays, for investments under £2 million in this country, the single most important source of capital. Forget venture capital — it’s business angels.’ His words about these companies being ‘at the heart of the generation of innovation and economic growth’ would have been honeyed to Mr Prisk’s ears. The government has tried many times to be a venture capitalist, he added, but public sector funds had never been as ‘professional, pragmatic and personable’ as the Angel CoFund.

When Hedgehog asked Prisk whether angel investing was letting the banks off the hook — shouldn’t they be providing credit to small businesses? — he said access to finance should be improved, but it shouldn’t be the only thing: ‘We need to wean ourselves off the high dependence we’ve had in the past on focusing on loans and debt. The point about business angels is that it’s a small proportion if you think about it in total in terms of investment, £75 billion lent last year. What I want to make sure is that there’s much more choice for businesses within the lending market but also with angels, VC and so on.’

This is a frank and useful admission: banks are not helping, so a separate industry needs to arise. If the Angel CoFund’s projects are successful, perhaps the government will see its way towards kicking in a little more cash. 
        
   
THE LONDON SCENE
  

London has always had its fair share of nationalities that have grouped together, property-wise. The London Greeks have focused on Belgravia, but as a place to live more than a flat to visit on holiday. Though their ships may currently be laid up between Piraeus and Salamis, their offices are in the Square Mile, within walking distance of their bankers and shipbrokers. They are much too smart to be seen in some of what they would see as the arriviste new developments being touted as the ne plus ultra of the London property market. The Greeks are part of the London furniture and have been here for many years predating this crisis. If they haven’t got out of Greece and into London by now, it probably means that they haven’t been rich for very long — and they probably aren’t now.

The Middle Eastern buyers are focused on large apartments surrounding the eastern end of Hyde Park. Few venture out of Knightsbridge, Mayfair or Bayswater — the last of these now looking and feeling, particularly around the Edgware Road, more like Beirut than London. The Russians spread themselves wider geographically but prefer their property of the Candy kind — not necessarily bling, but with all the toys. A visit to some of the highest spec apartments in Moscow explains why many Russians have been disappointed by most London developments.

By definition the new Hollande refugees are likely to be those of the more well-heeled variety, and it is in South Kensington that they will want to base themselves. It is rumoured that the scruffy mews and shabby buildings around the Lycée are to be refurbished to reflect the gloire of the alternative France on the other side of La Manche. In the 17th century it was the Huguenots who made their mark on London, in the 18th the émigrés fleeing the revolution, in 1940 the Free French. What will the modern equivalent be called? Hollandaise?
  
Charlie Ellingworth, Property Vision
 
Cartoon above by George Leigh
  

       
  
WHAT A BLADE

Helicoptering money usually means getting rid of it, not gathering it, but Greg Secker, who spent five hours in late April flying a helicopter over London while trading shares to raise money for charity, has given us a new definition.

The Flying Trader event was the first of six such outings to take place between now and August. Operated by Secker’s trader coaching company Knowledge to Action, the madcap events, in which Secker is supported by a trading team on the ground, raise money for Barnardo’s, the Ubuntu Education fund and the Knowledge to Action Foundation, which Secker created in 2010 with his partner, Katherine Scott.

When he touched down for a champagne reception at the Verta hotel, Secker and his team on the ground had raised £27,000 — not bad considering they’d almost called off the event earlier in the day due to poor weather. Last year, Flying Trader days raised a total of £160,000; this year, over six separate events, the target has been hiked up to £250,000. Unpredictable English summer weather aside, that should be achievable.

Secker started his career as a trading technologist at Thomas Cook Financial Services, and then became VP at the Mellon Financial Corporation. At 27 he’d done well enough to leave the City, but continued trading at home and teaching friends how to do it, too. His love of teaching trading led him to set up his company, which gives its students the tools to trade successfully by themselves.

But where does flying fit into all this? ‘Alongside my job and my philanthropic work,’ Secker told Hedgehog at the lively reception, ‘flying has always been a great passion of mine. It seemed only logical to combine all three and use these passions to help other people.’ Thankfully for the children that benefit from his helicopter trading, Secker’s definition of ‘logical’ is pretty loose.
     
 Picture above: Erdem Dress from Victoria & Albert Ballgown Collection
    
     
MAKING A JAG
  

It’s easy to forget that the journey’s the thing. We have become so obsessed with the destination — seven-star this, thousand-thread-count that — that the travelling becomes the price you pay. And like most prices, it’s high, for those 24 hours on a plane aren’t redeemed by even the most comfortable bed in first class.

Which is why Hedgehog has decided to concentrate on improving the journey, the only bit you can really control. If you’re taking your car, whether it’s a quick jag out to the country or a cross-continental trip along Autobahns and Autostrade, it’s time to demand a little more from it.

For instance, the people at Jaguar are launching a brand-new convertible sports car. Inspired by the C-Type, D-Type and E-Type, they are bringing out… the F-Type.

Based very closely on the dramatic C-X16 Concept, the new F-Type convertible, unleashed on the world in New York in April, uses advanced all-aluminium construction to achieve a very low weight. The car is responsive, alive to the touch, says Adrian Hallmark, Jaguar’s global brand director: ‘Its development is a vivid representation of the confidence and ambition of the Jaguar brand.’

Like its forebears in the Jaguar sports car lineage, the F-Type provides a potent balance of performance and audacious design in its ‘One Plus One’ configuration.

The only pity is that Olympic recusants won’t be able to use it to facilitate our getaway this summer: the F-Type will be launched in November and will be available in 2013.

Jaguar is on 0845 600 2214
      
    
TWILANTHROPY

According to Social Media Examiner, there are more than 900 million active Facebook users and more than 100 million active Twitter users. What benefit do social media offer to the 21st-century philanthropist?

Fran Perrin, the founder and chair of the Indigo Trust, a grant-making foundation that funds technology-driven projects to bring about social change, explains that one of the major benefits of using social media is their cost efficiency.

‘Knowledge sharing’ is a key social media buzz-phrase. The American Red Cross, for example, tweeted the news of the Haiti earthquake which struck on 12 January 2010 within fifteen minutes. As monetary donations are traditionally the most effective way to support those affected by such a disaster, they regularly updated their followers on what was happening on the ground as well as ways to donate.

In order to maximise productivity, philanthropic organisations should begin to treat online engagement as a core business activity. Indeed, as Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, has said, ‘Creating channels between people who want to work together toward change has always been one of the ways that social movements push the world forward and make it better.’

Steffan Jones 

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