Saturday, 22 October 2011

Serendipity triumphs

This is a sneak preview of an article written for Friends of Brewery Arts Newsletter in November:

SERENDIPITY is my favourite word in the English language. Not only does it have a lovely sound, but it also has such a positive meaning: “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”
Since I left The Westmorland Gazette, where I was Editor for ten years, I have been running a media consultancy, Lakes & Bay Communications, which keeps me in touch with many friends and contacts in this part of the world. I now have the time and freedom to make links that would not otherwise be made, and hopefully benefit all those involved.
Such a series of coincidences certainly came into play recently for The Friends of Brewery Arts.
When still Editor I got to know Mike Pennington, owner of Burgundy’s Wine Bar in Lowther Street, which hosted a micro-beer festival the newspaper sponsored.
Several years later, in autumn 2010, I went to interview the principals of Littoral Arts who own the Cylinders estate at Langdale, which was the site of the last installation by the German emigree artist Kurt Schwitters. I was preparing an article for Independent on Sunday about the proposed rebuilding of the Cumbrian barn that housed the artwork, at an exhibition of 20th Century Sculpture at the Royal Academy off Piccadilly in London early this year.
Ian Hunter of Littoral asked me to find a local film-maker to record the events, which I did. I was then asked to help develop the script for the film, arrange interviews and raise funds. So I went to see Mike at Burgundy’s and he kindly agreed to partly sponsor the film.
As a result I found out he was building an extension to Burgundy’s, to include a micro-brewery, and had obtained the recipe for the legendary Auld Kendal beer, originally brewed by Whitwell and Mark, whose brewery became the home of Brewery Arts.
In a completely separate sphere of influence I had met Hilary Claxton while being touted to help set up a new branch of the Rotary in Kendal, a venture that didn’t get off the ground. But Hilary and I had kept in touch and she had proposed I get involved in Friends of Brewery Arts, which I was happy to do as a long-term supporter of the venue.
I attended the fund-raising night, reacquainted myself with Ian Hoyle, who I had known years earlier through the Talking Newspapers charity, and he kindly invited me to attend a couple of Friends committee meetings as an observer.
At the first meeting I attended, I found out for the first time that Margaret Thomas and the Friends were planning a Brewery Story evening, including a talk by historian John Coopey on the building’s time as a brewery.
And what is more, by an amazing coincidence, the date of the event was the same week that Mike planned to produce the resurrected Auld Kendal.
Without my fortuitous intervention no-one would have made that link. It was then just a matter of persuading Mike to bring the new brew down to the Brewery Story evening so the audience could sample it. Very well it seemed to go down, too.
Serendipity triumphed. Perhaps that is what I should have called my company.

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