Wed 08 / 12 / 21
Brighton Summit wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for...
Now in its eighth year, Brighton Summit is returning in 2022. Sarah Springford writes about how the Summit started, what we've learned along the way, and some of her standout moments.
By Sarah Springford of Brighton Chamber
Brighton Chamber's Chief Executive, Sarah Springford, reflects on the origins of Brighton Summit, some of her favourite moments, what it is today and what it means to members.
Seed funding helped us
Back in 2012 it was the 100 year anniversary of the formation of Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce! Our then President, Julia Chanteray, said ‘Let’s do something big’. I can admit now, I felt a little queasy.
Around this time we met Clem Hunnisett who wanted to find a way to commemorate her father, Derek Hunnisett, a member of the Brighton community and a philanthropist who had helped many local charities and organisations. Clem like our ideas and supported us with seed funding to create something ambitious and new. The aim was that, if successful, it would become an annual event and showcase everything the Chamber and its members stand for.
Brighton Summit – then and now
A date was booked. The 2013 Centenary Summit was Doing business in a city built for pleasure or The Business and Pleasure Summit as it became known. Peter James and Sam Roddick were our keynote speakers and seeing them sitting on the stage happily chatting together was a huge thrill. The audience shed tears with Sam when she spoke about her mum, the Body Shop Founder, Anita Roddick. The Summit was a big success and was my most exciting work-day up to that date.
Another striking moment of that day was Dean Atta’s poem – written about the day, during the day, and performed by him on the day.
That was eight years ago and yet his observations about diversity are still so relevant today and giving us goals to strive towards.
Aiming high and doing something different
We did it again with Come on an adventure in 2014 and A day for growing your Business in 2015. That was the year that Nikki Gatenby gave her keynote and then wrote the book ‘Superengaged’. Everyone wanted to work for her.
As you might have twigged, one of my favourite jobs is finding our keynote speakers. It’s such an adrenaline ride and a complex jigsaw to find that perfect mix of speakers that complement each other, speak to the audience, and have so much to share.
Your desires, dreams & real business and Embracing the Unknown were 2016 and 2017. Keynotes included Marc Koska who provided so much inspiration. Guy Standing, the economist, who made us cry (again), discussed the concept of universal income and got a standing ovation.
In 2017 Daisy Cresswell did our opening keynote and her energy was palpable. Towards the end of her talk she mentioned her passion project and asked the audience what they thought. The feedback was overwhelming. Loads of people wanted to be involved. A new business was born…
Lessons learnt along the way
By our Look UpSummit in 2018 and the Crack On Summit of 2019 we had learnt a lot about creating the day. Lots of people are involved in making it happen, from the Brilliant Brains (my nickname for the Curators) to the huge number of Chamber members who help run the sessions and become speaker buddies. And not forgetting our wonderful local food and drink businesses who provide the sort of food and drink that makes you feel good.
The HOURS are something we introduced early on. In a nutshell, it’s an hour during the day when everyone has a choice of doing something completely different. It might be Samba Drumming, a VR or an escape room experience, chocolate making, beer drinking, a visit to a secret garden, singing with a choir, life drawing. Some serious but mostly fun. I love to hear the excited noise and chatter that erupts over lunch after these sessions when people are catching up on what they have just experienced.
Like many businesses we did a pivot during the pandemic and created Brighton Base Camp: Bananas and Brighton Base Camp: En Route, two online events to fill the gap until we could host a Brighton Summit again. Loads of people came to these online Summits. Speakers included the impressive Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton (another personal favourite).
Highlights of 7 Summits
I rarely get to see much at Brighton Summit because there are so many people to chat with and so much going on. But one session I didn’t miss and I was glued to was …
The final keynote of 2019 (the last Summit before Covid) was Gina Miller and it would be hard to think of a more fitting high to end on before our enforced Covid break. Gina was impressive and gained another Brighton Summit standing ovation. We’d been advised to have some security people for Gina. Not something we’d had to arrange before. Where to start?!
One special memory is half an hour before the first Summit. We had had the idea to asked 40 Chamber members, all who had bought their tickets to attend, to take on a job on the day. We asked them all to arrive early so we could brief them. Like an army they arrived in the early morning light, full of excitement and good will, collected their coffees and waited patiently for their instructions. I could have kissed them all.
The thing that I and the Chamber team are proud of is the great number of connections that happen on the day. There are too many too mention here but many Born at Brighton Summit opportunities are seized, collaborations developed, careers changed, businesses started, books written and more.
Brighton Summit: UNITE
This year, after a two year break, we are taking everyone to the fabulous Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts at University of Sussex. We can’t wait to turn all of our ideas into reality and welcome you to be part of the fun on 29 April 2022.
I hope to see you there.
PS - we have some brilliant photos from past Summits, browse the albums on our Flikr.
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