Monday, May 31, 2010

Roll on June!

The last day of May and the last day of our three day craft fair - "Art, Design and a Taste of Summer" - a wonderful collection of exhibitors and displays.

May has been a topsy-turvey month with some very good weather/numbers and some very untimely poor weather. We started the month with the May Day Bank Holiday Jousting weekend hugely affected by damp + miserable weather and the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend at the end of the month has also been weather affected - with Saturday virtually washed out by the rain. Despite an underwhelming start and finsh - the middle has performed OK with some lovely hot weather at times and some strong weekends - not least the glorious Aston Martin Owners Club gathering which sat spectacularly across the front of the Palace.

Hopefully June will enjoy good weather and good numbers - so important that these critical summer months perform at or above expectations as once they are past there is not enough "volume" in the remaining months to pull up any shortfall. The month has a variety of sporting and cultural delights for everyone to enjoy - on the sporting front we have the Triathlon weekend (5 + 6 June) and this is followed by a Junior Sculling Regatta on the Main Lake organised by the Hinksey Sculling School (12 June) - culturally the month is dominated by a series of outdoor theatrical performances by the Oxford School of Drama at the Pleasure Gardens. From 9 to 12 June and then from 14 to 19 June performances of "The Comedy of Errors" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be staged on alternate nights - a great setting for some inspiring outdoor theatre.

June is also annually dominated by preparations for our summer Trustees meeting in early July - this meeting is held on site here at Blenheim Palace which adds to the pressure for all concerned. Papers and Agendas are beginning to be drafted and these include the accounts from the prior year - which mean that Dom's desk is covered by even more paper than usual! We are on track at this early stage and hopefully the month will run smoothly and that the pack of papers will go out to the Trustees on time at the end of the month - always a sigh of relief to get to that stage but not there yet!

On the national/international front, it has been a weekend of mixed fortunes for the Brits. Success in the Grand Prix with Lewis and Jenson storming to the front courtesy of the "fighting bulls seeing red" and the England Football team scraping a dodgy win in Austria thanks to the generosity of the Japanese defence - on this form the England team won't last long in South Africa but I have a hunch that we will actually do quite well - semi's or even the final should be in our grasp! On the failure front, Andy Murray skidded out of the French Open with hardly a whimper and our entry in the Eurovision Song Contest achieved a glorious last place on the night! We almost expect this outcome - but then Pete Waterman was successful several decades ago so why should we expect him to deliver the right formula for success in 2010 - we need a fresh young approach to have any chance of overriding the voting prejudices across Europe. And the jury is out on the England Cricket team - currently struggling to beat the mightly Bangladeshi team at Lords - could be an exciting last day's play.

Enjoy your bank holiday and say goodbye to May - lets hope that June arrives in positive mode and that it delivers on every front!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Enjoy it while it lasts!

The sunshine, warmer weather and blue skies lifts our spirits and visitor numbers each day reflect this improvement - a good, positive measure is that ice-cream sales are soaring! Fingers crossed that it lasts into the Whitsun weekend so that we can finally enjoy a sunny bank holiday.

The political horizons are trying to settle down with the new coalition still finding it's feet - only time will tell how it performs but I feel positive that the "can do" attitude will prevail and that collectively we will hawl ourselves out of the hole that we were left in by the last government. I am sure though that there will be some collective pain for us all to go through - both personally and from a business perspective - to get there and we will no doubt better understand this once we have seen the Emergency Budget on 22 June. I suspect that we will face some tough times for two or three years and that we may well have to again look carefully at costs, etc across the business. Lets hope that the continued sunshine mitigates the pain!

The working weeks seem busier than ever with a multitude of engagements throughout each day and into many evenings - the new Destination Management Organisation for Oxford and Oxfordshire (to drive a joined-up tourism message) is looking very positive and the "invited" Shadow Board is due to meet for the first time early next month - this will then formulate the work load around the launch of this exciting new venture for the County. It has taken a while to structure this public/private sector partnership but it will be good for the tourism sector once it is up and running - not long now!.

The managers from the various Treasure Houses met yesterday in London for one of our regular meetings and it was sad that two of the managers - Simon Seligman from Chatsworth and Celia Deeley from Woburn Abbey - are both moving on this summer to new challenges and thus this was their last meeting. Both will be hugely missed and both have contributed massively to the Treasure Houses group - we gave them both a good send-off over a yummy lunch! Always interesting to get feedback from the other houses as to how they are faring on the business front - we are all broadly faring similarly on the visitor front other than Harewood who had a storming bank holiday event with Peppa Pig - clearly a very popular little piggy given the crowds that descended on Harewood over two days in early May! Most sites reported strong wedding business and "recovering" conference + banqueting business - we certainly have a steep recovery line to achieve for our conference + banqueting trade which has been hit hard by the economic downturn - but there are signs that the range and extent of our stunning space, both within the Palace and at the Orangery - is drawing business back slowly.

We had a planning meeting for the Triathlon on Thursday - the big weekend draws closer (5 and 6 June) and several of our staff (but not me!) are in the final stages of their tough training regimes - will they all survive and will they improve/achieve their times? I will report the full gory details post event!

This weekend we have a stunning event lined up for Sunday under the sunshine and blue skies - the Aston Martin Owners Club are staging their 75th Anniversary Concours and they are going for the largest gathering ever of Aston Martins in one place. Around 400 cars are expected to be parked up in and adjoining the Great Court in front of Blenheim Palace - what a wonderful spectacle it will produce. HRH Prince Michael of Kent is attending and Carolyn Grace will be bring back her Spitfire for a stunning air display over the Lake at 2.50pm. Definately an event not to be missed and we hope for big crowds to enjoy this spectacle.

Enjoy the weekend; enjoy the sunshine; enjoy the ice-creams and enjoy the Aston Martin event.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Much has evolved since my last blog and as I sit here writing this we are still facing so much uncertainty.

On the political front, the Lib Dem flirting with both parties goes on and we all await news - currently the Conservative/Lib Dem "deal" looks the most likely which will hopefully soon see David Cameron in at No 10 and some stability returning to Westminster. So much needs to be done and the uncertainty needs to be removed as soon as possible.

On the economic front, the situation in Greece has created much turbulence but hopefully the recently announced 750bn euro stabilisation package will have calmed nerves and lessened the contagion risk into other countries - but clearly the ongoing uncertainty in Westminster continues to fuel the worries and doubts and keeps matters unstable until there is an outcome.

On the tourism front, we face a raft of uncertainty caused by the volcanic ash clouds still affecting air travel coupled with the recently announced raft of strikes dates within BA - all very negative and unhelpful to a business that relies upon smooth inbound travel.

On the meteorological front the weather has been bitterly cold and very non-condusive for tourism and visits to places like Blenheim Palace. The Bank Holiday weekend was hugely affected by the cold/wet/dreary weather and it has stayed cold ever since - hopefully it will warm up soon as we need certain dry hot weather to pull in the crowds and to drive business levels.

On the sporting front, there are as always many distractions from Formula 1 to F A Cup to the summer World Cup and much much more - and locally we will be impacted by Oxfordshire descending upon Wembley Stadium next Sunday to watch Oxford United take on York City in the Blue Square Premier play-off for promotion into the Football League. Good luck Oxford!

So much uncertainty - but we must keep working hard to get our key messages out to the market and to continue to showcase Blenheim Palace for everyone to enjoy.

We have a whole raft of wonderful events this summer and we look forward to welcoming everyone - not least to take advantage of our "Buy One Day Get 12 Months Free!" special offer.

Cheer yourself up through all this uncertainty and enjoy a wonderful day out here at Blenheim Palace!

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Anonymous John Hoy said...

Thanks Glenn - sorry for the delay in replying to your question.

The next Friends' Newsletter is just being finalised and should be out by the end of the week. Lots of exciting events are planned - hope to see you here at Blenheim Palace sometime soon.

Best wishes


May 11, 2010 at 7:55 AM  

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