Gerard Richardson MBE
Events Organiser and Local Business Owner
We caught up with Gerard Richardson MBE...
When did you move to Whitehaven?
I have always been a local lad. Born in Cleator Moor but I left and joined the Navy becoming an Aircraft Engineer. I came back to Whitehaven in 1987.
When did you set up The Whitehaven Festival co and why?
Set it up in 1998 with a few friends because there were lots of development plans for the town but no one had laid out any way of bringing people here to show the developments off to. I came up with the Festival idea and it seemed to be the right idea at the right time.
What did the first Whitehaven Festival consist of?
1 tall ship, a helicopter display from my old Squadron in Scotland, lots of sea shanty musicians which was the first and last time we had dreadful music played at the festival and stalls by Made in Cumbria.
What is the biggest reasons for cancelling the festival?
Without attaching blame it was Health and Safety. Too many organisations are now totally risk averse as opposed to managing risks sensibly and the final straw came when we were ordered to fence off Mount Pleasant where people had always gathered to picnic. Decisions like that meant the costs were soaring and all I could see for the future were nightmares. By the time of the last event I was going to bed at night and not sleeping because of worries imposed on me by others.
What do you want the Whitehaven Festival Company to bring to the town in the future, will there ever be another festival?
All I can say is that I have no plans to re-create my nightmares and unless someone else comes along I can't see a festival in the near future. My aim for the new events is the same as for the Festival which is to promote and market the town.
What will your average weekday consist of?
I get out of bed and check my emails before showering in case there is something urgent to deal with. I work from home now as I have had quite a fight with depression so I usually check in with the shop by email or a call. I then set about my tasks fitting in as many calls or letters as possible between fixed meetings in my calendar. I used to work on long into the night but working from home without interruptions in the shop has helped me get a discipline about me so I usually finish by 7pm these days. There is no such thing as an average day by the way when you run a business and an events company. I can take calls from as diverse a range of people as celebrities to military top brass on a daily basis.
What do you like to do at the weekend?
To quote the Dowager Duchess off Downton Abbey, "Whats a weekend?". I take an extra hour to read the weekend papers and I'm trying to get back into reading books but I tend to slide back into work.
Do you have any hobbies or pastimes?
My hobby for a long time was collecting wine which led to the business. I used to enjoy running until health issues got in the way three years ago. I'd like to get back on the road if I can motivate myself to do so.
When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a vet but when I was in Grammar School, I got an urge to join the Navy and I never looked back from there. Since then I've been an Aircraft Engineer, Fireman, Emergency Medical Technician, Wine Merchant and Festival Organiser and for good measure I was a Magistrate for 19 years. I'm now a supplementary magistrate which means I'm on the shelf until national emergencies dictate that they need to drag the retirees out of bed.
How did you feel when you were told you were to receive an MBE and what do you think of the experience?
I was over the moon to be honest. It was also nice reading some positive comments by the public saying it should have been a knighthood! The fact that someone went to the trouble of recommending me and getting others to back that up is the most flattering experience ever.
What does the future hold for Richardson’s fine wine merchants?
Well, we survived Foot and Mouth and the recent 5 years of recession but the problem is more people seem to think its nice to have a quaint shop like ours in their town than the number who actually support it. Wine Merchants are a dying breed but were starting to specialise in vintage ports and that hopefully will give us survivability.