From the grandeur of the Brazilian embassy to the cosy surroundings of the Frontline Club, the resurgent London Press Club had a very busy 2014 – a year which saw it halve membership fees, revive a much-loved tradition and raise a record amount for the Journalists’ Charity.
The first of almost 20 debates, Q&As and social events that the Press Club would host in 2014 saw us join with the Diplomatic Press Attaché Association of London (DPAAL) in January to co-host a forum on diplomacy at the Brazilian Embassy. This rare visit inside one of London’s most exclusive addresses was repaid in April when we welcomed representatives of over 30 countries to Northcliffe House, home of the Evening Standard, Independent, Mail and Metro titles as well as the UK’s newest TV channel, London Live.
After a return to Fleet Street in late January for drinks at El Vino with Women in Journalism, we hosted our first Q&A of the year, with West Ham manager Sam Allardyce at Rileys Sports Bar. This series of intimate and illuminating ‘in-conversation’ events, which had been launched in 2013 with Sun editor David Dinsmore, was continued throughout the year with LBC host Nick Ferrari and Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands, both of whom had been honoured at May’s London Press Club Awards.
Our annual awards lunch saw a rare appearance from Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre to present the Londoner of the Year honour to Baroness Lawrence, while the Evening Standard and The Mail on Sunday were named Newspapers of the Year.
Our 2014 series of debates – under the continued sponsorship of Skoda – featured an impressive array of speakers, including Damian McBride, India Knight, Simon Heffer, Katie Vanneck Smith and Harry Cole, with chairs including Anne McElvoy, Andrew Neil and Isabel Hardman.
We got off to a fantastic start in the impressive surroundings of the British Library where we teamed with YouGov to look at paywalls. Our second partnership with the pollsters brought together leading figures from business, politics and media as we explored public trust. The accompanying YouGov poll saw broadcast journalists lead the trust rankings, while big business, mid-market and tabloid journalists were at the bottom.
As well as hosting our awards lunch, Stationers’ Hall was the venue for our debate on press regulation, while Weber Shandwick was the destination for our social media forum. The Telegraph opened their doors for The Internet, Newspapers and the 2015 Election, held in partnership with Pagefield, which was also live-streamed on the Telegraph website.
October’s sold-out Press Club Ball raised a record £40,000 for the Journalists’ Charity. HRH The Countess of Wessex was guest of honour at the Royal Courts of Justice, while both Lord Rothermere and Boris Johnson addressed the capacity crowd. Ball co-chairs Ray Massey and Rob Jobson then presented the cheque at a House of Lords reception to mark 150 years of the Journalists’ Charity.
The Press Club board, under the stewardship of chairman Doug Wills, this year moved to significantly reduce membership fees, which now range from £20 to £40 for individual members. And on the back of popular demand, monthly drinks evenings were revived, taking place on the first Tuesday of every month at the Frontline Club with the support of Gorkana.
“From some really stimulating debates at venues not usually open to the public to reinstating a monthly, informal drinks evening, via our hugely successful flagship annual awards and ball, I’m really proud of what the Press Club has achieved this year and looking forward to 2015,” said Wills.
The next monthly drinks at the Frontline Club takes place on January 6 and February 3, with 2015’s first debate on campaigning journalism with Pagefield at News UK’s new London Bridge HQ.