Down and Out in London and Islington
Paraphrasing the well-known work of George Orwell about life in the Depression (in his case in London and Paris) seems somehow suitable when recounting the experiences at the London Mines & Money event of this last week.
As if the pall hanging over the sector was not enough, the attempts by the organisers to charge sponsors and sundry participants like it was 2008 did not evoke retro sentiments for that “golden age” but rather anger from those relegated to the Third Class accommodations on the SS Islington. The Conference Nazis (apologies to Seinfeld) managed to get the backs up of just about everyone.
It certainly did not help the mood that London turned on one of those exceptionally dreary weeks of drizzly weather, which reminded one of last year. Then again memories of last year ended there because scuttlebutt indicated that all the management (well, all the working management) from previous years has jumped ship and are setting up a competing event for next April in London (as well as events in Hong Kong and Jo’burg). This went a long way towards explaining how the troop of boy scouts that had taken control managed to not know who was relevant and who was not.
When Lord Fanning of Overwallop was excluded, because of holes in his cardigan elbows, they had not the faintest idea that they had slighted the scion of five generations of mine owners in the farthest Pampas. As for your humble correspondent he was beaten back at all entrances by a team of bouncers that guarded the velvet rope as if the Business Design Centre was Annabels, the exclusive Mayfair nightclub. Word had come down from on high (in dulcet Fawltyesque tones) that Ecclestone was riffraff and “no riffraff” was the new policy..
But Ecclestone has all the cunning of a sewer rat and was determined to storm this edifice of prestige and pomposity (the event’s ball ends with attendees being taken away in “carriages”). That means black cabs for the less tainted and Black Marias for those whose number is up..
After using all the pseudonyms he could think of, and yet still nobbled by Baden-Powell’s best and brightest, he was finally offered a discounted (only for friends and family) package in the order of a mind-boggling GBP1,500. Faced with the choice of spending enough money for an all-inclusive trip to Mustique on a couple of hours of wandering around a dreary hall having wraith-like CEOs lurching at him proffering ballpoint pens and chocolates disguised as gold coins, your correspondent churlishly decided not to accept their generous offer.
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Instead he lurked like a black-market vendor of “nylons” outside the event accosting even the vaguely familiar.
So what were the major takeaways?
Well there was one booth-holder that related that “most” of the people that came up to him were seeking jobs. Unlike the investors, who would move on and return later if he was engaged with someone in conversation, the job-hunters with a steely glint in their eye would lurk until he had finished. It started to get on his nerves.
Then two other booth-holders summed up the event as “too long”. Both agreed it should have been two days instead of three. Tuesday was generally agreed to have had good footfall, Wednesday was described as sporadic with “hours of no-one passing by” and Thursday was dull. I can attest to the latter as your correspondent was hemmed in by bouncers at the entrance during the “lunch hour rush” and maybe only 20 people passed by in the space of 15 minutes. Rushes should be made of sterner stuff…
Interestingly I was standing near one of the “label makers” where the girl in charge was doing a brisk trade in replacements for “lost” entry tags. This tallied with gossip that had reached me that a brisk trade in used tags was going on, with visitors who were “done” passing them on to cronies for a “wash and repeat”. I even was the recipient of a used tag when the clouds opened and it fell into my lap at 2pm on the Thursday, by which time I was so jaded and booth-holders were packing up like Vesuvius was about to erupt, so I decided to pass on the pass and keep my morality in a state of virgo intacta.
As for the social life surrounding the events, the parties were closer to wakes in their mood than the festivities of yore. That is what parties there were… I suspect I will be banned for life for the review of Jamie’s Italian (on TripAdvisor) where the TSX held its event. It won’t be the TSX going after me, but rather Jamie Oliver. As for the conference “awards ceremony” we have heard no reports but would not be surprised to hear that it had the mood of the aristos in Paris circa 1788.. Those aren’t “carriages” waiting outside, they are tumbrels..
Christopher Ecclestone is a Principal and mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company in London. Prior to founding Hallgarten & Company in New York in 2003 ... <Read more about Christopher Ecclestone>