It’s been another tumultuous year for headlines … and I hope you agree it’s been a fairly big one for the London Press Club too. Security matters have dominated, whether through terrorism or the continuing UK political battles over Freedom of the Press.
The Press Club has maintained its high profile during 2015 with events as varied as a debate about arrests of journalists to the hugely successful Press Ball.
Our flagship Awards Lunch hit this year’s agenda with the keynote speaker being the head of MI5 talking frankly about his operation. At the lunch, the Londoner of the Year award was presented to Andrew Lloyd Webber whose acceptance speech included a headline-making revelation about why he believed the West End theatres were no longer fit for purpose.
The awards was followed by another success – the Press Ball which moved this year to a new venue which impressed all, the V&A, raising a magnificent £30,000 for the Journalists’ Charity.
We have though continued to put debates at the centre of the Press Club’s agenda. One of the best attended was one on Press Freedom and included on the panel Keir Starmer – Director of Prosecutions at the time of the hacking prosecutions – and The Sun’s associate editor Trevor Kavanagh. Other debates have covered such key issues to the industry as whether the Press would influence the result of the General Election, and if the media industry is doing enough to increase social diversity among recruits.
The year ahead promises to be equally vibrant.
It starts with a debate at Stationers Hall at 6.30 on Monday 11 January: Press Freedom in a Surveillance State. Roy Greenslade is in the chair and on the panel will be Liberty director Shami Chakrabati, Heather Brooke, a leading figure in the MPs’ expenses scandal being exposed, and Evening Standard home affairs editor Martin Bentham whose work includes many exclusives based upon Freedom of Information investigations.
On Thursday February 11 the Press Club teams up with LSE’s influential Polis department for The Media, Migrants and Reporting of Terrorism. The debate, held in association with the Society of Editors and sponsored by The Independent and the London Evening Standard, takes place at the LSE’s New Academic Building. The panel includes Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum, Today Programme chief correspondent Matthew Price, Independent editor Amol Rajan and Telegraph photographer William Wintercross, who set up a charity to help Syrian refugees after covering the story.
March sees a new partnership with the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture returning to its original host the London Press Club – with Kevin Maguire confirmed as the speaker for 2016. Established in 1999, the annual Cudlipp Lecture was created and named in memory of the late Lord Cudlipp, the former editorial director of the Daily Mirror and a doyen of popular journalism. On 1 March the Lecture takes place at the Museum of London.
If you haven’t already become a paid-up member, please join and you will be able to attend debates free of charge and get discounted tickets for the Awards and the Press Ball. Just go to londonpressclub.co.uk and join online. Please come along to as many of these events as possible. The London Press Club is only as strong as its membership. And that’s you.
Join us every First Tuesday of every month for a gathering over a drink at the Frontline Club at Paddington. It’s a chance to chat and network over a drink – with those who arrive early not even having to buy the drink as Gorkana have kindly agreed to continue to support this Fleet Street-style gathering. The first one of 2016 takes place next Tuesday, January 5 – all welcome from 6.30pm.
It is with great sadness that I have to report that Dennis Griffiths, chairman of London Press Club from 1999 to 2002, died on Christmas Eve. Dennis had been in Witney Hospital near his home and died of a heart attack. I have spoken to Dennis’s widow, Liz, and son Mark and have passed on the condolences of all club members. Details of the funeral will be made available once confirmed. He was a significant and influential figure in the Press Club for many years both as a director and as chairman, as well as being a senior executive in Fleet Street at a time when the industry was at its most exciting. We enjoyed Dennis’s stories and benefitted from his experience. He shall be sorely missed.
Doug Wills, London Press Club chairman