Friday, May 15, 2009

Ants Nest!

Wow - what a busy week - full of diversity and full of lots of people very energetically going about their business - hence the ants nest analogy!

Fox have carried on filming all week (despite the attempts of the weather to disrupt scheduling, etc with the odd sharp shower!) and we are virtually at the end of their stay here at Blenheim Palace. It is a very large crew and it has been impressive (if not slightly daunting!) to watch the hard work being applied by the various skilled technicians on site - hopefully the end product will justify the time, energy and investment; and hopefully Blenheim Palace will be magnificently showcased when "Gulliver's Travels" launches in Summer 2010.

The last two days have seen them filming inside the Palace (yes, that was a basketball hoop that appeared in the Long Library in front of Queen Anne!) and we took the difficult decision to close the Palace to the public on these two days as it was impossible to run both operations side by side. The response from our visitors has been on the whole fantastic and I apologise for the disruption and inconvenience that has arisen - such decisions are always a difficult balance but hopefully they have been taken in the best interests of the Palace and its future.

The film company pull off site early next week and we then face the challenge in re-presenting every area of the Palace, Gardens and Park in pristine condition ahead of the next Bank Holiday weekend - yes, another one is already virtually upon us.

I was very lucky on Wednesday to be able to look down from a penthouse balcony onto the emerging Olympic site - what an amazing construction site. It looked like a crazy ants nest - with activity in every direction and with flashing yellow hazard lights on millions of dumper trucks, etc and with people moving and working in every direction. It looked very inspiring and the assurance that everything was on time (not sure I heard mention about budget!) was encouraging to hear ahead of their frenetic run in to 2012. The facilities will be world class - but I remain to be convinced that the legacy plan is robust enough and that the fantastic structures can secure meaningful, worthy and sustainable uses going forward. Much of the Athens Olympic site is lying unused, derelict and neglected - that risk must be avoided in London.

The opportunity to see the Olymic site - via East London's waterways into Prescott Channel - was facilitated through the 61st ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions) Council meeting which I attended as a representative of The Treasure Houses of England. The excellent day culminated with dinner at the Hall of the Waterman's Company and we were treated to a wonderful spread and excellent hospitality - formed in 1555, The Company of Waterman and Lightermen of the River Thames are steeped in history including the latest winner of the Doggett Coat and Badge!

The weather forecast is not great - and an inch of rain last night is not good for tourism (but great for farmers as my late father would have said and as the Duke said this morning!) - but hopefully the weekend trading will be strong as we move forward from the filming disruption and positively into some strong summer events - starting with a new craft show - "Art, Design and A Taste of Summer" on the Whitsun weekend - sunshine please and lots of it!

Good luck to Paul Orsi (our Rural Enterprises Manager) who is running this weekend in the British Heart Foundation - Blenheim 10k Bolt fun run to raise money in memory of our dear friend and colleague - Tony White - who passed away recently. Go Paul - we are all proud of you!

And so the ants carry on bustling away - I am sure the olympic site will only get busier as every day draws the site closer to Summer 2012 and I hope that Blenheim Palace will continue to enjoy success and lots of bustling activity through our strong connection with our growing annual pass database and through our excellent special event programme to be rolled out over the coming weeks.

And its off to the Chelsea Flower Show (another very bustling site) on Monday - but more about that next week!

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