I just want to say this evening a huge number of thank yous really, particularly to Mr Alfred Pisani, who has been absolutely wonderful in terms of his support for what my Trust is trying to do; and I also wanted to congratulate you [Mr Pisani] on your remarkable achievements in converting and restoring this extraordinary building, which I suspect before you managed to get your teeth into it, was in a terrible state. I just think, having seen something of it on my way in, it is really remarkable what you’ve done with your whole team of people; and I much enjoyed meeting some of your staff who I know have sweated and laboured to create this wonderful cake, only to have me come in a defile it! But thank you for all you do and the difference you make to these wonderful buildings.
Ladies and Gentlemen, so many of you here this evening I know have been involved in everything that my Trust has tried to do over the last 15 years, so I owe all of you, as you can imagine, a huge debt of gratitude, because nothing would happen without all of you. To me, it seems that it’s a great deal longer than 15 years – it feels like at least 25! I remember that the person I owe the biggest debt to is Kit Martin, who I asked if he’d come and see me at Sandringham all those years ago, very nearly 20 years ago, because I couldn’t bear what was happening at the time – huge numbers of buildings being sold off, being made redundant from the public sector and so on. Being one of those people who can’t resist a challenge, living dangerously, taking a jolly big risk here and there, I wanted to see if there was a way of meeting this enormous challenge, and Kit, being his usual, remarkable self saw the point and that’s what led to the start of the Trust. But actually, the person who did so much of the work was Manon Williams, who’s standing here today, looking very smart in her pink dress. I gave her the almost impossible task of trying to put all this together, and so I really can’t thank her enough for all the incredibly hard work that you [Manon Williams] put into it and as you get older and wiser, you’ll end up in very important places in Wales and I hope the experience you had in doing all this will stand you in good stead for in future.
Of course Ladies and Gentlemen, I am incredibly fortunate in having a Chairman such as Ian Marcus, who’s explained to me just how dangerous it is for him, but it does make a huge difference having somebody who has such a wide knowledge of the property sector and has such really good contacts because as a result of all his contacts he’s brought in an enormous amount more funding and support, which of course as you can imagine is what counts at the end of the day. He’s also helped the Trust to remain in the black most of the time which again is a huge achievement.
But again, nothing would happen without the Chief Executive. We are unbelievably fortunate in having Ros Kerslake, who’s put so much unbelievable dedication and professionalism into making sure that the Regeneration Trust is perhaps now known about more than ever before. I discovered with these things that I’ve started over the years, that nobody pays the slightest attention for at least ten years! But now the Trust has become the biggest building preservation trust in the country, taking on some of the very difficult tasks, and I hope also it is in a position to be able to help all those other building preservation trusts around the country, so many of whom I know are doing fantastic work, struggling against the tide in so many ways.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, you, here, have made a whole difference, and as a result we now have been involved in or delivered projects attracted more than £100 million of investment and regenerated over one million square feet of redundant floor space; contributed to over seventy heritage-led regeneration projects and are currently working on forty-five active projects across the U.K. And one of the ones I must say I’m very proud of is Middleport Pottery - another one written in blood on my heart – it’s taken years off my life and probably contributed to early onset dementia! Anyway, thanks to so many of you and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved there and I hope there will be a worthwhile legacy remaining after we’ve all gone and perhaps also an example of what you can do to bring many of these great buildings back to life for the benefit of local people.