An Interview with Three Counties John Wilesmith
We were delighted to receive this interview with OV John Wilesmith (Ca 72-77), Head of Operations at the Three Counties Showground about his exciting work and the preparations for last week’s Royal Three Counties Show…
It’s fitting that we’re chatting to John Wilesmith (KW, 72-77) after a torrential downpour at the Royal Three Counties Show. For it is the programme of investment he’s overseen at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern during the last five years which has prevented the show from becoming another casualty of the unseasonal weather.
So while John may not be able to control the weather quite yet, he can rely on a brilliant team both above and below him to ensure each of the 150-shows-a-year which take place at the venue go according to plan.
“Whether you like it or not, you can have the best content, the best marketing and the best offers but if the weather is against you – and farmers know this well – it can make or break you,” John explained.
“Last year was a doddle with all the great weather but this year has just been really tight.”
As Head of Operations, John is in charge of, as he says in his own words, “basically everything that needs fixing”.
He hosts daily meetings of all the contractors and is on-call every weekend for every show. But he’s a glutton for punishment.
“I enjoy solving problems and I love to make the showground look amazing. We’ve put so much resource into everything: better drainage, superior grass which can absorb more water, picket fencing which we made ourselves, improved hard-standing areas – it’s a constant campaign to refresh and refurbish.
“Wind is our biggest peril,” he says gravely. “Rain is ok and the car park can get a bit gummed up, but wind is the one thing that puts everyone on high alert.”
While John’s role has evolved over the years, he can pinpoint at least one element of his job to his time at King’s Worcester.
“One of my jobs at school was to organise the Sixth Form balls and I remember the headmaster saying I had ‘a penchant for organising parties’,” John smiles. “And it’s true! Over the years I’ve been involved in so many events where people come together and have fun. It’s a real privilege.”
Born in sight of the Malvern Hills where John now works, the Royal Three Counties Show has always been a highlight in the rural calendar.
“I’ve probably been brought to the show since the day I was born and in many ways it’s strange that I’m back here running it.”
It’s a job which, unsurprisingly, keeps the married father-of-three fit.
“I walk everywhere,” he chuckles, looking down at the statistics report on his phone. “Yesterday was 30,000 steps and I will do over 100 miles in the week just walking.”
John was just as energetic at school, playing a lot of rugby, but it was his artistic side which shone through and is very much in evidence today.
“I did a lot of art at school and still do it now,” he says triumphantly before scrolling through the pictures on his phone and showing me some of his creations.
As well as painting he set up The Bird Table Company, making his own timber products including rabbit hutches, dovecotes, kennels and poultry housing.
“After I left King’s I went to Middlesex Polytechnic to do a BA in business studies before going into the timber trade. It made sense to put that knowledge into practice and The Bird Table Company has been going for 30 years.
“I moved into the agricultural supply industry after that and worked for Midland Shires Farmers before it became Countrywide. I’d been looking after their property portfolio and then ran all their events, giving me experience of every major showground in the country. But after the business went bust I came here in 2007.
“I was initially recruited to get some agricultural trade stands back because the show was on its backside. It was post Foot and Mouth and they were down to about a dozen trade stands. Now there’s a waiting list and I’m really proud to have lit that fire.”
As for what’s next, the improvements continue.
“The Royal Show at Stoneleigh died because it didn’t evolve so we cannot make that mistake. As a result we’re going through ISO 14001 to help minimise our impact on the environment. We’ve already implemented energy-saving lighting and waste management, and we’re working with the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty when planting our hedges.
“You have to keep moving forward,” John explained. “When I first took over we really needed to get support from the farming community and we did that by being truthful and not promising something we couldn’t deliver.
“Now we have to keep raising the bar and setting the standard for others to follow.”
(With Thanks to the Three Counties Showground for the photo and interview)
OV Guy Claxton back for research
We were delighted to receive an impromptu visit this week from Guy Claxton (S 57-65) as he was visiting Worcester to conduct research for a new book that he is writing on educational theories put into practise and also he had hoped to watch Worcestershire play Sussex at the county cricket ground. Unfortunately due to the flooded cricket ground, the game relocated to Kidderminster, which was our gain as Guy decided he would call into King’s for a visit.
Development Director Liz and Head of Alumni Relations, Sophie were thrilled to meet Guy, who has previously been a Barnabas Speaker at King’s. He talked about the work he is doing, both in the UK and also abroad, with schools in New Zealand. Guy is Emeritus Professor of the Learning Sciences at the University of Winchester, a post he took up in September 2008 together with the role of Co-Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and he is the author of more than twenty books including the best-selling ‘Building Learning Power’. His practical ideas about how to expand young people’s appetite and capacity for learning have influenced educational theory and practice across the world and he spent some time at King’s St Alban’s previously sharing his ideas and experiences.
Guy recalled previous floods during his time at King’s – albeit mostly in the winter months! And he also met with King’s Marketing Director, Emily Ward, who has been busy filming at King’s this week. Guy was very interested to talk to Emily about the importance of the marketing message about the School and bringing out those things which embody a King’s School education.
OVS galore at L6 Business Skills Workshop Day
Thursday 20th June was a very exciting day as OVs, parents and local business delegates took part in a fantastic Lower Sixth Business Skills Workshop run by Head of Careers, Helen Airdrie. It was a full timetable with the aim to help students recognise the value employers place on transferable skills such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, cooperation, leadership and flexibility.
In the morning, the Keynote Presentation was given by OV Paul Rostand (Ca 73-82). Paul is Managing Director of his own business, the Great British Biscotti Ltd, and spoke passionately about what inspired him to start up in the first place, the journey it took him on, and the future of the business.
Various business advisers including OVs Laura Osborne (Br 93-01), David Leppard (H 63-73), Nick Clark (H 88-90), David Scrimshaw (W 63-68) and Lt Lorna Wilson (Cr 94-01) then shared their career stories with pupils, helping with the Notepad Challenge, guiding pupils as they assigned team roles, produced designs, worked on marketing and finances and then presented their business pitch. The OVs were just as competitive as the pupils in this fun and testing challenge, with the team advised by OV David Leppard winning overall.
OV Anthony Lock (W 05-11) not only helped with the careers event but he even managed to squeeze in a computing lesson! Anthony is a software engineer at Infinity Works, and he spoke about his career since leaving King’s and about his work, breaking down the stereotypes surrounding the software industry and explaining what a fun and exciting field it is to work in. The pupils had lots of questions for Anthony; he had such a good time that he hopes to come back and help again.
After lunch the workshop resumed with Careers Networking in the Sports Hall and we were delighted to be joined by more OVs including Steve Perera (Cr 86-93), Rob Airdrie (S 03-10) and Luke Weaver (S 98-03). The afternoon was designed to help the students learn and develop important communication and networking skills, and OVs commented on how much they had enjoyed the experience and what good conversations they had with pupils.
Helping to Open the Door
David Scrimshaw (W 63-68) is a parent at King’s and also an OV. He is a keen supporter of The King’s School, both by way of attending various Careers events and advising our pupils, and also David contributes regularly to King’s bursaries via a monthly donation. On Thursday this week David was one of the many members of the King’s community to take part in the Business Skills Workshop with the Lower Sixth students. Liz Elliott talked to David about why he thought supporting pupil bursaries at King’s is important.
David said, “The reason that I contribute to King’s bursaries is because I myself received a very good, free education at this fine school. I have always been extremely grateful to the school, not least for the excellent education, but also for the continuing pastoral care I received after leaving school; when I was approached to support the Bursary Appeal some years ago I wanted to support others and allow them to receive the same great education that I had. I am a big fan of King’s and that is one of the reasons that my boys come here.”
If you are interested in finding out more about pupil bursaries and you can make a contribution, please see our website link HERE.
More rowing success for OVs!
Congratulations to OV Andrew Salkeld (Cl 11-18) who was one of the coaches for the Fitzwilliam College M3 crew who have just won blades in the Cambridge May Bumps!
Andrew told us, “All the rowers were new to the sport in October. We were the only Fitzwilliam crew to achieve blades (when a crew scores a bump on each of 4 days) this year, bumping Jesus College M4 on our last day.”
Andrew also said, “Whilst Bumps is far more chaotic than any racing I did at school, it was the coaching and support I received from the Boat Club at King’s that allowed me to pass on the enjoyment of rowing to others at university.”