Article by Dr. David Dunkley Gyimah, keynote speaker at the Summer Banquet on 5th June 2018
Mesmeric, hauntingly beautiful with a richness in visual acuity that is breathless, gripping vice-like our senses.
I had two minutes before my keynote and my mind was preoccupied with a plasma of ideas and flash thoughts e.g. The BBC’s Blue Planet. And then the Royal Wedding, Vogue Magazine, The Knights’ Table, Conflicts in News, this magnificent edifice.
I had to still myself. Two days into the future I will be at the African Blue Economy Forum – a coming together of international policy makers and academics looking into the Seas that sustain the beautiful continent. My speciality from a TV background stretching almost 30 years (Newsnight in 1990) is turning research e.g. PhD into a watchable video form called Cinema Journalism, but I am ahead of myself.
For now, as I glance the time, I am humbled and excited by my ornate and mahogany surroundings – seeped in tradition and history. One of London’s most dynamic liveries, The Guild of Entrepreneurs, is building a reputation for doing things differently in business, strategy, ethos, and associations.
The Junior Warden, Lars Andersen responds to a gavel and eases himself into the Guild’s customs and acknowledgements, deftly piquing laughter here and there. A toast to the Queen is offered. There are several to her Majesty. I am introduced as an “excellent story teller”. Oh no, I think noisily, this can only go one way – down. A speaker’s kiss of stage fright. It is now my turn. Eight minutes. This is my story.
I relay findings that calls CEO psycopaths, tell my audience how I was my father’s briefcase carrier in Ghana aged 14, how I shook Nelson Mandela’s hand and thought of a wayward business idea, explored the interstices of a new storyteller at my university, and offer my heartfelt thanks to the Guild for a mentoring programme that should serve as a template to develop further and be rolled out to the corners of the UK.
But for this attention you’ve given me here, I’ll pick up about 5 minutes 11 seconds into my talk. Television’s achilles is self-inflicted. It shouldn’t be. Three points to stave of attention deficit.
Firstly, it’s been hemorrhaging noticeably since the mid 1990s, whilst it continues to do what it’s been doing since its birth around 1948, television news in particular. A former BBC executive Pat Loughrey, now a VC at Goldsmith, put it like this that, a way of doing news that hasn’t broadly changed since he was a child cannot be the answer to today. The most powerful medium in the world which the father of documentary John Grierson likened to a cinema in your front room, or (my words) a takeaway kitchen in your pocket in the digital age serving up anything on your mobile, shapes us. But what do we want? A boldness that new platforms are discovering.
Yet we’re still wedded to the mono myth – a continuum of the status quo. It has to be made a way that conforms with the boss’s, rather than leader’s, understanding of the world. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s marriage, now the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, was an imbuing spectacle of diversity. Yes a familiar narrative in marriages, but embracing differences. The broadcasters too responded with a variegated cast of onscreen talent. Behind? I don’t know. But we did not turn off. We watched. The bastion of aesthetics Vogue Magazine, under its new editorial team, with Ghanaian born Edward Enninful at its helm, is reaching beyond Boticelli’s symbolic gaze “The Birth of Venus” as beauty. There is a fresh confidence. The magazine is turning in profits. Diversity doth sell.
Our penchant for data, algorithms, blockchain is necessary. We must acknowledge facts, its play on the rational. However data persuades, it does not inspire. Climate change, diversity (BME) figures, women in boardrooms exemplify this. Blue Planet inspires, the Royal Wedding inspires, and news too, or factual can inspire. But it takes great storytelling. Robert Mackee, an authority of story telling says, it is our profound human need to grasp lived patterns not as an intellectual exercise but as a personal emotional one. Epic, incisive, teutonic- like an iceberg drifting great storytelling encompassing warts n’ all within you and unlocks our needs for empathy mirroring.
Everyone has a story, but not opportunities. Great stories have no boundaries, but a world of untapped hidden hosts. As I wind down my speech, a glimpse of back to the future, the ocean awaits, a synergy between African Blue Economy Forum and my exploration of Gallipoli. Just for a nano second I’m recollecting information and emotions 50 metres down about to confront a very personal story. But that too is for another time.
I hear applause and graciously sit down as the Master of the Guild Lee Robertson (to my right) responds. It will, I think, be a good evening.