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    'The Future of the Book' Wednesday 11th January

    John Mitchinson is famously head of research for the TV show QI. Educated at Oxford, he cultivated a brain that his wife refers to as the 'skip'. Before he linked in with QI and became the managing director of Quite Interesting Ltd., he worked in publishing, running the Harvill Press and Cassell & Co. He has been deputy publisher of the Orion Group and the marketing manager at Waterstone's chain of book stores.

    There are yet more strings to John's bow, as he is also a fellow of the RSA and a director of the Jonathon Burrows contemporary dance group; Chair of the London Centre for International Storytelling and Vice-President of the Hay Festival. He is co-author of a series of QI books, the million copy seller The Book of General Ignorance (2006) and more recently The QI book of the Dead (2009).

    John's latest (ingenius) publishing venture Unbound seeks to bring the author and reader closer together: together with editor and author Dan Kieran, and the historian Justin Pollard, he  has created an online forum in which authors can pitch an idea for a book to its potential reader. If the reader likes it, they can donate towards the author's funding target to make the book happen, thus allowing otherwise forgotten book bulbs to be nurtured and to bloom. John makes good sourdough bread, plants by moonlight, and is one of the few people who knows how to cook a pig's spleen properly.

    Lisa Gee is an author and journalist. She write reviews and columns for the Independent and Independent on Sunday; Beat Magazine and LondonJazz. Indeed, it was her excellent piece about imaginative  e-books and book apps which landed her here. She works with Chris Meade at the Institute for the Future of the Book on a range of projects concerned with the interface between literature and digital technologies.

    Lisa's first book was Stage Mum, which documented her experiences when her daughter was cast in Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian's production of The Sound of Music at the London Palladium. She has also edited a collection of Hartley Coleridge's poems and written a book examining friendships between men and women. It is a collection of  interviews and her own writing entitled 'Friends: Why men and women are from the same planet'. She is currently helping develop a film about the longterm repercussions for a family whose mother enlisted with the SS, as well as proposing a book interweaving family history and political activism. She spends any boring moments learning the piano and Yiddish.

    Michael Sissons began his professional life teaching history in New Orleans. However, his prodigious career truly began when he met the great literary agent Augustus Dudley Peters. Peters had lost his son, who would have come into the business, during the war. Sissons had lost his father and the two got talking. He started working for A D Peters and Co in 1959, and has recently celebrated fifty years of service to that company and its descendant. He counts himself lucky to have found a profession so well suited 'and never wanted to do anything else'. In 1973, he took over from the founder as head of the agency. It was a top literary agency at a time when the publishing industry was hostile towards agents. This is far from the case now, partly thanks to the formation of the Association of Authors' Agents in the 1970s, in which Sissons played a hand.

    At an early stage, Sissons saw the merit of a multi-media approach. 'I've seen the people to whom we sell [rights] get bigger and bigger' he says – in other words, they have more and more media channels. Thus in 1988,  A D Peters & Co merged with Fraser and Dunlop - a leading agency for the film, TV and theatre industries - to create the powerful Peters Fraser and Dunlop literary and talent agency, whose expertise is eminently multi-media. Sissons has been Chairman and MD of PFD, where he continues to work as a senior consultant and agent in the Books Division, representing the likes of Simon Schama, Max Hastings and William Hague. Links with these figures of foreign affairs have sometimes raised questions over what sort of 'agent' he really is; such allegations, however, he invariably refutes with a wink and a wry smile.

    'The Meaning of Making' 23rd November 2011

    Stephen Bayley is a commentator on modern culture - aesthetic, ethic and political. He observes a worrying parallel between the arc of his own life and that of John Ruskin: from art critic, to political commentator, to madman ('Consistency is a puerile temptation' he once wrote, somewhat ominously). He grew up in Liverpool, marvelling at the space and clarity of the few modern buildings, which stood out against the backdrop of Victorian and Edwardian houses. His father worked in an aircraft factory where Stephen got a first taste for machines: he was transfixed by the Comet and the other 'diagrams of perfection' which he saw in the hangar. 

    After studying at Manchester and the Liverpool Univeristy School of Architecture, Bayley lectured in History of Art at the University of Kent. His life in design took shape when Terence Conran chose him to head up The Boiler House Project at The V&A in London, Britain's first permanent design exhibition. The project was the precursor to London's Design Museum, of which Bayley was made Chief Executive.

    He is a prolific author whose writing is recognisable for its nimble sense of fun. He has written several books on many subjects, from a co-authored book about how to present yourself and sell your ideas, to the controversial Woman As Design, which explores the notion that the female body is a designed object. He has been the architecture and design correspondent for The Observer. He also loves to write postcards, wisely observing that 'four or five inches requires real ingenuity to make sense or be funny.'

    Sam Bompas is the co-founder (with Harry Parr) of Bompas & Parr, a company which arranges food projects grand and intricate. They lead a team of cooks, specialised technicians, architects, graphic designers, and administrators, all working on innovations with and without jelly. They explore how taste is influenced by elements of performance, setting and the other senses.

    The pair create projects in which people can take part. Recently, they hosted a 'Secret Sensory Supper' in the Masonic Temple at the Andaz Hotel. Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult film Holy Mountain was shown, while Bompas & Parr strived for the total work of art, matching the food to the film. During the summer, they created a green lake on the roof of Selfridges. Visitors rowed around, wondering at the waterfall, cocktails and stevia plants. Their other achievements include flooding a Grade-1 listed building with four tonnes of alcoholic punch, creating a breathable cloud of Gin and Tonic and hosting a banquet for the 100th anniversary of the Futurist movement. The services of Bompas & Parr are in high demand from brands who want their product presented imaginatively.

    Sam describes himself as more 'narrative-minded' than Harry, apt to consider projects from the point of view of the partcipants, while his partner dwells on the process and the technical elements. Sam describes his work as 'a glorified hobby that's reached all-consuming proportions'.

    Asad Raza is a writer, filmmaker and producer working in the art world. He was born in Buffalo, New York and studied literature and film at Johns Hopkins and NYU. In the last capacity, he works mainly with the artist Tino Sehgal, whose works consist entirely of interactions with people but otherwise function like traditional material artworks. Asad produced Sehgal's recent exhibition in the Guggenheim Musuem in New York. As visitors passed up the museum's spiral ramp museum, they were asked for their thoughts on 'progress' by participants of four different generations, from children through older adults.

    Sehgal has won the 2012 Unilever commission for the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, and Asad is working closely with him to create an exhibition founded on similar principles, opening in July. Indeed, he is returning to the Turbine Hall after his speech tonight to continue hosting a workshop with the artist. They are also engaging people to participate from around London. Anyone (even tentatively) interested in finding out more information on the Tate exhibition should e-mail

    Asad is also currently producing projects with the artists Sarah Morris and Jordan Wolfson, and a book with the uber-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist of the Serpentine Gallery. In 2009, he produced Alia Raza's film and video works, including her series, ‘The Fragile White Blossoms Emit a Hypnotic Cascade of Tropical Perfume Whose Sweet Heady Odor Leaves Its Victim Intoxicated,’ featuring Kim Gordon, Chloe Sevigny, and Devendra Banhart. Asad writes on topics as diverse as contemporary art and film, academic labour, and food culture, and is a frequent contributor to ‘Tennis’ magazine. 

    'Inspiring futures' in Edinburgh 16th November 2011

    Aamer Anwar is a top Criminal Defence and Human Rights Lawyer and an influential racial equality campaigner, who is renowned for his radical and left-wing views.

    He was a very politically active student, occupying the Principal of Glasgow University's office, and organising numerous rallies. He did a Mechanical engineering degree, but his political interests led him to a second degree in Social Sciences. Later, he worked for The Commission for Racial Equality and Anti-Nazi League.

    He pursued his desire to promote justice and 'fight the system' by becoming a solicitor in 2000. He served on the Stephen Lawrence Steering Group and fought for justice after the killing of Imran Khan. More recently, he represented Tommy Sheridan in the phone-hacking case against The News of The World.

    He takes the view that 'silence is not an option' and is a refreshing example of someone who has chosen to make a difference rather than chase the big bucks of commercial law. He has voiced the need to continue to fight for freedom and justice in a legal system that is 'run like a gentleman's colonial club'; he advocates making a stand against the Draconian legislation of the conservative government. 

    Lucy Moorehead is the Visits Coordinator at Jamie's Farm, where a combination of 'farming, family and therapy' is used to transform the lives of hard-to-reach children from challenging urban schools. The aim of the farm is to empower vulnerable young people from urban areas by improving their capacity for personal and social achievement. In turn, this should increase their engagement with school. Without a doubt, Jamie's Farm has changed many lives. Working with animals fosters a range of qualities: it teaches how to care and nurture, engage in physical activity and be peaceful. As one girl put it 'well, you can't be aggressive to a sheep, can you?'

    Lucy hasn't always been living it up in the countryside. She was educated in North London state schools, and then studied Music at Edinburgh University, graduating in 2004. She subsequently joined the innovative Teach First scheme and worked in an inner-London school for four years, two of which as a Head of year. She focused much of her time on some of the toughest kids, and ran a successful collaborative arts project at London's Roundhouse using dance, drama and music to help 30 disaffected young people back into education and their community.

    She has just started a Foundation year in Psychotherapy, and is currently setting up her own charity to support youngsters in London. In her free moments, she can be found playing the saxophone in some of London's finest jazz joints.

    Karyn McCluskey is a woman of many talents, brought up to believe she could do anything. Having trained as a registered nurse, police intelligence analyst and having studied forensic psychology, she is now Scotland's top gangbuster.

    In 2002, after working for several police forces in the UK, she swapped her 2-murders-a-year job in West Mercia Constabulary for a post in Strathclyde police, averaging 71 murders a year (most of them within Glasgow). When this number dropped to 55 in 2005, McCluskey, shocked by the excitement of her colleagues towards the 13-year low, persuaded Strathclyde to undertake the task of tackling the world's most violent city. Influenced largely by Boston's ceasefire project in America, Glasgow's Violence Reduction Unit was established in January 2005, of which Karyn is the force, heart and co-director. She has advised the government's anti-gang taskforce, which was set up after London's August disturbances.

    Aside from crusading against gang crime, 'Sparky' (nicknamed by her colleagues) can be seen training for triathlons and tearing around Glasgow's housing estates in her battered Audi, pumping rap out of the car stereo.

    "Life at the Helm", 2nd November, 2011

    Margaret Mountford hails from County Down in Northern Ireland, to which she attributes her 'level-headedness' - 'Much of business depends on that' she says. She attended a grammar school in Belfast before studying law at Girton College, Cambridge. Mrs. Mountford then pursued a successful career as a solicitor in the City, ascending to the rank of corporate partner at the law firm Herbert Smith. When the electronics company Amstrad floated on the LSE, Mountford was involved in the legal side of things and first met Alan Sugar. She must have passed her interview, as in 1999 she switched jobs to become a non-executive director on the board of Sugar's company.

    Sometime later, she was asked to take part in a television show, which she 'thought would just be a one-off'. She did not suspect that she would become half of The Apprentice's 'fruit and nut' 'Nick 'n' Margaret combination', which was to last 4 series. Nick Hewer recently expressed his nostalgia for the partnership, which was revived in a genuine one-off for the final this summer. Her role was to observe the contestants and scrutinize their solutions. Among other services, she has represented the Food for Thought Africa Charity and chaired the board of governors for an inner-city school. She is currently working on her papyrology PHD. 

    Baron Evans of Temple Guiting (Matthew Evans) is a British Labour Party politician. As a child he attended a Quaker School. He started off as a bookseller and rose to become first Managing Director of the publisher Faber and Faber, and later Chairman. He stayed with the firm for nearly 40 years before resigning, not wanting to 'hang around as other publishers had done'. He served as a governor of the British Film Institute from 1982-7 and Vice Chairman from 1996-7 under Lord Attenborough. He has given invaluable time to public services, which have extended across numerous panels associated with the nation's culture, including the English Stage Company, British Council Literary Advisory Panel, Arts Council National Lottery Advisory Panel and Royal Opera House.

    In May 2000, he became a life peer as Baron Evans of Temple Guiting. He served as government whip from 2002-7 and government spokesperson for office of the deputy Prime Minister from 2002-3. He once made the news for giving short shift to corrupting offers from the Gaddafi administration.  

    Timothy Melgund, the current chief of Paperchase, always had an artistic bent. At the age of 16, he wore his hair long, bought his shirts at Deborah and Clare, and sported Mr. Freedom suits. Years before the Paperchase Stripe, he instructed the barbers at Sweeney Todd's to put a blue streak in his hair. He was always doodling. Yet it took many years for those gifts to be married with retail. As a child, Timothy refused to enter shops at all. 

    After school, he served for five years with the Scots Guards, in both Germany and Northern Ireland. After this, he spent a short time working in property before returning to university to do Business Studies. This equipped him for a job with WH Smith. At the time, Paperchase was part of the struggling Smiths, and in 1996, Melgund was involved in a management-led buy-out of  Paperchase with the backing of a private equity group. Later, Borders bought most of the company, and expanded its reach to the US. They sold it in 2010. Nowadays, Paperchase has over 100 branches, based largely in the UK. Timothy works in the flagship in Tottenham Court Road, overseeing proceedings from a glass bird's nest. His true home is Scotland.  

    "Recipes for success", 19th October, 2011

    Marco Pierre White is considered by some the Godfather of moderncooking. It all started when he left Allerton High School in Leeds with no qualifications and began his chef's training. He started in Yorkshire, before moving to London aged 16 with"£7.36, a box of books and a bag of clothes". Albert and Michel Roux supervised White's early classical education as a commis at Le Gavroche.

    At 24, White became Head Chef and joint owner of Harveys, where his kitchen staff included the young Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. By the age of 33, a multitude of notorious chefs had trained under him and he had become the first Brit to be awarded three Michelin stars. At the time, he was the youngest person ever to receive the honour. In 1990, he published the ground-breaking cookbook White Heat, a landmark in the genre, whose cool photography cemented his rock-star-chef status.

    In 1999, White retired from the kitchen to lead a different, more family-orientated life, returning his Michelin stars in the interests of integrity. Thus began his era as a restaurateur. White worked in association with Rocko Forte hotels to create restaurants throughout Britain and the world, while another partnership produced the successful Frankie's Bar & Grill. And, of course, there are the Marco Pierre White restaurants around the country; his flagship, Wheelers of St James; the Marco Restaurant inside Stanford Bridge Stadium and a country pub or two along the way. White has made several TV appearances, most notably in the series 'Hell's Kitchen', a culinary competition in which aspiring chefs got a taste of his high standards.

    Niamh Shields is the Irish ex-pat behind the foodie's blog Eat Like a Girl. The blog is unbelievably rich. It houses Niamh's own and her favourite recipes, her restaurant-reviews, her carefully-taken pictures of food and her travel notes (about food). It is a comprehensive, personal record of Niamh's life with food - in her words, 'a monument to pleasure and weight gain'. You are converted by the title of her most recent recipe alone: 'Cauliflower cheese to Sooth the Nerves & Iron Out your Soul'. This psychological insight, together with Niamh's focus on accessibility (because 'anyone and everyone can cook') has won the five-year-old blog a tremendous following, a high commendation in the Observer Food Monthly Awards (October 2010) and a place in The Times list of the 'forty bloggers who really count'. Niamh goes to the places and meets the people. A recent post features a video interview in Google HQ with Ferran Adria of elBulli, the pioneer of 'molecular gastronomy'. 

    On top of the blog, Niamh writes freelance for various publications, including iVillage, while she released her debut cookbook, Comfort and Spice, at the beginning of September. Niamh's recipes owe their scientific grounding to her training as a physiologist (which included nutrition and toxicology).  Despite such engagements, Niamh still manages to answer many of her readers' comments.

    Daren Spence is the founder of We Are Tea, a business which sells absolutely delicious...teas. Hard to back up such statements, but, all the same, over the last three years We Are Tea have won 31 gold stars at the Great Taste Awards. The idea for the company came when Daren and Suzanne (now Daren's wife), visited a tea cafe in Hungary and were amazed at the concept and the range of teas. Rather like the Hungarians who built the Budapest Houses of Parliament, borrowing a little from the British original, it struck Daren and Suzanne to take the tea cafe to London. After that trip, Daren continued to work in private banking, where he had represented Arthur Anderson, HSBC and Deloitte. But the seed had been sown, and five years later he broke away and started a tea shop near St. Paul's Cathedral in 2007. His ambition was to counter-act the hegemony of fast coffee and its status as the cool hot drink, while all the time maintaining high ethical standards. We Are Tea is on the cusp of exciting things. Their integrated approach is paying off. The shop is now complemented by an online one, while the teas are available through independent delis and prestigious retailers, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Dean & Deluca. 

    Simon Prockter is the co-founder and CEO of Housebites, which was launched in September. The innovative idea is that people can order meals from top chefs in the neighbourhood and have them delivered to their door. It's a brilliant bit of internet-localism. Prockter's background is in e-commerce. Prior to this, he launched Adventura, a tour operator for solo travellers and founded the popular dating website SpeedDater. He grew the latter into Europe's leading singles events company before selling in 2008. Prockter is a keen cyclist and skiier. His signature dish is chicken and Parma ham in anchovy butter sauce.

    "What I know about design", 28th September, 2011

    Susan Crewe has edited House & Garden since 1994 and has consolidated the magazine's reputation as an international influence on design and decoration. She describes herself as 'a quintessential House & Garden reader, passionate about interiors, gardening, travel and living well.'

    She is always moving the magazine forward and introducing new elements such as the popular 'Green by Design' and 'Hotels by Design' supplements; at the same time, she guards its reputation for publishing the most beautiful and inspiring homes in the world and seeking out the most innovative artists and craftsmen. She must have been well prepared for this role of finding the crème de la crème by her professional training as a dairy herd manager! She was less well qualified for the job of social diarist 'Jennifer' on Harpers & Queen, on account of having a little known condition which means you can't recognise people. On the other hand, Sue could, no doubt, teach even William Yeoward a thing or two about selling - she has worked flogging sofa covers to the British army and micro-lights to the Turks.

    Susan writes, lectures and broadcasts, dividing her time between her London home in Notting Hill and her Cumbrian coastal retreat. She has two adult children and three grand children.

    William Yeoward calls himself 'a shop keeper'.

    If you've been reading William's 'Diary of a somebody' in the FT 'How to spend it' section this week, you might find it hard to agree. He is the keen eye behind the William Yeoward collections, which span furniture, fabric and the exquisite crystal, for which, in 1998, he was awarded a Royal warrant to supply The Prince of Wales. He produces design ideas for his suppliers and team to realise, often travelling the world with open eyes.Recently, for example, Argentinian horse rugs and the Benaki museum in Athens have provided inspiration for textile designs. After school, William spent ten years of hard graft in Tricia Guild's design guild. Immediately afterwards, in 1985, he set up his first shop in the King's Road, where his flagship store is located now. Back then, he faced a choice between the route of 'shop-keeper' and interior decorator for private homes. After decorating Maggie Thatcher's house, he chose the former.

    The company is now international and their collections are sold in 30 countries - hard to glean from the friendly atmosphere in the London store. Recently, William has expanded into America and is represented in NYC, Washington, Dallas (where he loves the odd line dance), Atlanta and counting. Despite these international ambitions, meetings are held in the greasy spoon - so no one can overhear!  

    Nina Campbell has had enormous influence, directly and indirectly, on how people decorate their homes worldwide. Among her sources of inspiration is the eclectic style of British country houses. Her clients are too impressive to mention by name here and her design expertise is as renowned as her wit. Although Nina tailors her work to people's character and lifestyle, she does consider it good practice to have a drinks tray in the hall. Pop into her shop in Walton street in Chelsea, in its 25thyear, to see 'a window to her mind'.

    Aged 19, Nina started off carrying John Fowler's bag at Colefax & Fowler. Shortly afterwards, she co-founded a decorating business and secured impressive early commissions to design a castle in Scotland and Annabel's private members' club. Nina's next step was to open her interior design offices and studio, where she created a fabric and wallpaper collection which is now internationally distributed by Osborne & Little. Perhaps her most famous job was Sunninghill Park, the home of the Duke and Duchess of York and the only Royal Residence to be built last century. Ted Baker, among others, recently bought permission to use Nina Campbell designs.

    Nina has won many awards, including an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Middlesex in 2001. She is a Trustee of the Prince of Wales Drawing School and on the Fundraising Committee for Kids Co.  

    "Is this Sporting?", Talk about sleaze and corruption in sport, 19th September, 2011

    Paul Kelso is currently the Chief Sports Reporter for The Daily Telegraph, before which he worked for ten years at The Guardian. His twenty thousand followers suggest he writes for twitter too. Last year at the Sports Journalism Awards he was highly commended for the best sports news reporter. Paul's columns delve into all corners of the sporting world, while keeping an eye out for devious play on a grander, institutional scale. Recently, he has scrutinised preparations for the Olympics, planning legislation that threatens community playing fields and, of course, the upshots of 'thecommercial explosion that strains [football's] integrity' - matchfixing and a beast called 'FIFA'. He broke the 'Bloodgate scandal' - What a scoop!

    Paul is the man in the know when it comes to shady practices in sport. This Summer he followed Sepp Blatter to Brazil for the World Cup draw to cast a beedy eye on the 'cosy system of patronage' which persists despite the 'legitmising' dismissal of 3 of its members. Today, most aptly, he has been watching Portsmouth's chief-exec, Peter Storrie, being fined for shifty tricks with the balance sheet.  

    Brian Glanville is a footballer and novelist. Having ghost written his first book 'Cliff Basten Remembers' in 1950 at the age of 19 he has continued to be a strong presence in both footballing and literary circles, reporting on every world cup between 1958-2006. He has been a columnist for the Sunday Times for the past 30 years and World Soccer for 15 years. His novel The Rise of Gerry Logan, recently republished by Faber, was described by Franz Beckenbauer as "the best football book ever written". Whilst Peter Shilton stated that his novel Goalkeepers Are Different was the only novel he had ever finished. Glanville also wrote the screenplay for Goal!, the BAFTA winning film for the 1966 world cup.  He is not afraid to be outspoken concerning footballing issues and describes the Premier League as 'the greed is good league' whilst also referring to Sepp Blatter as 'Sepp (50 ideas a day, 51 bad) Blatter'. Glanville is a lifelong arsenal fan and has written several books on the history of the club.

    Jim White, an award winning sports journalist forThe Telegraph,attended Manchester Grammar School before studying English at Bristol University. However, it's clear that much of his education came from the terraces of Old Trafford. He has also written and presented several documentaries for Sky on the likes of Sven Goran Eriksson and Jose Mourinho and often features on Radio 4 and 5 Live.

    While his job took him to South Africa last year for the Football World Cup, his recent destinations have been purposefully more British. He made it to the beach volleyball Olympic-taster at the Horse Guards Parade back during the riots, and braved the rain at the 'equine glastonbury' of Burghley Horse Trials to interview Britain's hopeful duo: veteran Mary King and teenage Laura Collett. England's recent cricketing hegemony has shown him what it feels like to be Australian.

    When not writing about sport, Jim coaches the local football team 'the Summertown Stars', in Oxford. But even this humble sideline got written up in the best selling book 'You'll win nothing with kids'. 

    "From Bathtub 2 Boardroom", Entrepreneurial Talks, 7th September, 2011

    Simon Woodroffe OBE was 45 when he visited Japan, saw a concept for a restaurant chain and, sensing a last chance for fame & fortune, poured every last copper into YO!Sushi. He left school aged 16 without many certificates and worked as a roadie. Later, he designed sets for The Moody Blues & Rod Stewart (a huge white stage for the latter). Yet, despite 30 years' work in entertainment, it was the tremendous success of YO!Sushi which brought him fame. He became one of the original 'dragons' (judges) in the programme Dragons' Den, which was followed by many other appearances: as a presenter; in his own show at the Edinburgh fringe; and, now, across the world as a public speaker. His desire to enthuse has even led to RadiYO!, a series of interviews broadcast from his eccentric home - a houseboat on the Thames.

    YO! Sushi was but the first step in the development of Simon's YO!brand, which seeks to deliver luxury cheaply, through innovation. YOTEL, for example, reframes another Japanese idea - compact hotel rooms. And he has exciting plans for YO! Zone, a spa-nightclub hybrid destined, perhaps, for the roof of Battersea power station. 

    Rob Symington is the founder of Escape the City. He studied history at university and started his career - like most of his peers - on a graduate training programme in 'the city'. Shocked and frustrated by the unhappiness and lack of fulfilment that he witnessed there, and determined to spend his short time on this earth doing work that mattered to him, he set out to build a network for the hundreds of thousands of corporate professionals who want to do something different, but don't know where to start. 2 years on, and Escape the City has over 36,000 members, has found hundreds of people exciting new jobs and has introduced dozens of business partners. They have been featured, among other places, in the FT and The Sunday Times, as well as on Reuters and Bloomberg TV. Now they are expanding across the Atlantic.

    Rob once drove a 35-year-old Land Rover from Cape Town to Cairo. He owns an orange double-decker bus called Esmerelda. He loves Manchester United. 

    Sarah Hilleary founded b-tempted, a gluten-free cake company, when she spotted a gap in the market which frustrated her personally. She had always dreamed of starting her own business and, after spending several years as a junior portfolio manager at Merrill Lynch, she decided to build something of her own. In2008, she discovered that she was gluten-intolerant. All the available products seemed to be 'either packed with preservatives or branded as hippy shit' - and so b-tempted was born. Initially, she slept on friends' sofas and paid her way by working in bars. It was a far cry from the city, but it was fun and balanced the stresses of her start-up. She first established demand for her wares at the BBC Good Food show in November 2008, and spent the following year doing more market testing and research - and learning to bake (probably sensible). Now she has assembled a highly-skilled team who work to create products which they all love in the ever-expanding gluten-free market.

    Her story has been covered in The Times and The Sunday Times, as well as in Germany and Spain. Journalists have even been tempted in Japan.

    "Climate change....What the hell?", 22nd July, 2011

    Peter Melchett is policy director for the Soil Association, which sets and inspects to organic standards, and campaigns for ethical, environmentally friendy farming and food. The 900-acre arable, pig and beef farm in North Norfolk that Peter manages has been organic since 2000. Following a law degree and a masters in criminology, he became a hereditary Labour peer, and was a minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments, ending up as a Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office. He left politics in 1984, tired of the 'lying game' of Westminster. From 1985-2000 Peter was first Chair then Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, during which time he oversaw a vigorous campaign against genetic engineering. He led by example, and was arrested along with 28 others for a dawn raid on a farm growing a field trial of GM Maize. Along with all the volunteers, he was acquitted by a jury of any wrongdoing. While his recent activity is focused on food production, he remains active in the climate debate, participating, for example, in DEFRA's Rural Climate Change Forum.  

    Richard Ritchie is a man for all seasons. He is currently Director, UK Government Relations at BP and is by all accounts busy: his role is to advise the CEO and managing directors of BP itself on matters political, to coordinate BP's communications with the UK government and to manage other facets of BP public affairs. In the 1970s, he ran as a Conservative candidate and served on the Spelthorne Borough Council, while later he worked as an aide to Enoch Powell and edited two collection of his speeches. He was also Chairman of the Libertarian Selsdon Group.Richard in fact trained as a musician and has composed musicals and songs. He continues to participate in theatre and films andmanages the oldest amateur dramatic society in the world,The Old Stagers, for whom he often acts, directs and writes. Next month, he is appearing in Anthony Shaffer's comedy thriller 'Whodunnit' at the Gubenkian Theatre, Canterbury.

    Niel Bowerman is the paradigm of apathy. (Only joking!) In March, Niel was shortlisted forClimate Week's Most Inspirational Young Person Award. His achievements to date include co-founding theClimate Justice Project, which aims to bring about international consensus on a sustainable quota of greenhouse gas emissions, andClimatico, an independent network of more than 20 researchers and experts who prepare reports on global climate change policy. He was executive director atClimaticountil January 2010. He has contributed regularly to international climate change forums, such as the UN's Copenhagen summit in 2009 and Barack Obama's Energy and Environmental Policy Team during the 2008 US Elections.

    He is currently preparing a phd in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics in Myles Allen's research group at Oxford University; his focus is on using climate models to work out how best to avoid dangerous climate change 

    "Decisions we've made", 20th June, 2011

    Keith Abel is a fruit and veg entrepreneur. He failed the bar exam and started off as a one-man-band carting potatoes around south London in his van. Today, Abel and Cole is one of the largest deliverers of organic fruit and veg boxes in the UK with 40,000 regular customers, leading the way in slow, ethically sourced food. The company also runs many innovative charitable initiatives. Last year, for example, they collected and serviced 1000 bikes, which were then sent to Kenya. How did he do it? The head of marketing at Abel and Cole accredits Keith's success to 'great vision', while an un-named source puts it another way: 'Keith can enthuse anyone. He's one hell of a smooth talker.'

    Raffaella Barker is a novelist, journalist and creative writing teacher (both freelance and for the First Story charity).She has written nine novels, in most of which the North Norfolk setting plays a leading role. Idylls clash with realities and private desires with familial obligations. Whether experience has provided Raffaella with her novels' scenarios or merely their voice and angle, it was the events and eccentricities of her family life which first brought her to writing. And, no doubt, her own eccentricities. Aged seventeen, Raffaella plumped for a year out of school and spent it cruising in her pea-green Citroen and wallowing in Stiffkey marsh with the eels.

    Adam Boulton has been the political editor for Sky News for twenty three years and presents the lunchtime news programme Boulton & co.. His prolific interviews range from Sir Alec Douglas-Home and every British Prime Minister thereafter to Al Gore and Lech Walesa. He covered President Obama's first one hundred days in office, and spoke with the President on matters personal and international during his subsequent visit to Ghana. Adam used to present Prime Minister's Questions and has covered every General election with Sky since 1987. In the run-up to last year's election he fought to instigate the televised leaders' debates and chaired the second in Bristol. His pre-election coverage irritated certain leading Labour politicians who thought they detected partiality, while Adam prides himself on his neutrality to the extent of forfeiting his vote. More recently, he narrowly escaped death after tumbling head-first into a crevasse in Kenya. Mercifully, his ankle caught in a snag.

    Read his blog at



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