Magazine article Management Today

Vital Signs: The Grass Menagerie

Magazine article Management Today

Vital Signs: The Grass Menagerie

Article excerpt

Entertainment on grass means going back, oh, about 100 years. It's hard to be modern sitting out in Windsor Great Park (polo) or at Glyndebourne. In fact it's pointless to even try. Most of the desirable plein-air events are what's left of the Victorian Season, supported by corporate money.

The corporate money thing is key. The green stuff is usually the absolute top end of the corporate spend. They take you away and feed and water you for the best part of a day; it's very well done -- and by a very nice class of company too. Pilar Boxford of Cartier is the doyenne of corporate hostesses and she does a lovely line in green entertaining, things like the Cartier polo, garden parties at the Chelsea Physic Garden and Style et Luxe at Goodwood.

A number of these green survivals are royal, some of them explicitly (Ascot), some of them because senior royal people go and do royal things.

What do the sponsors get out of it? Good photo-opportunities, obviously, and a chance to get close to the people they want to know better -- big clients, potential clients, key journalists. The fact is that people really want to go to these summer season parties, even those who get asked to everything.

This mix of upper-class turf and corporate purpose makes people behave oddly. At Ascot, according to John Morgan, Britain's answer to Miss Manners: 'People start to feel they're extras in My Fair Lady and they get very Edwardian.'

Anyway, you should be in there, boy; if you can possibly squeeze yourself into Glorious Goodwood or Glyndebourne or Henley or any of the rest on any ticket, you should. Because (a) the spend per head is huge if it's major corporate stuff, (b) it's terrific observation material, and (c) when everyone is thoroughly destabilised by being drunk and playing Edwardian there are all sorts of opportunities to network.

For most people from the sponsoring companies this kind of thing -- posh, rich, green, continuous good drink -- is a large part of their psychic reward for doing whatever it is they do. It's terribly important to them, because this is often the life they want their nice new money to buy them.

Dress people up for Ascot and they start acting the part. Dress them down/country them up a bit for a race meeting and something transmits itself from the brown shoe leather, the mud-coloured worsted and the dun tweed. …

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