The big day dawns29 March 2010 | 0 comments | Print This Page
Hello everyone. It’s been a while. My apologies.
It’s dawn in Hong Kong on Monday, March 29, 2010. Today we will learn the identities of the five regional winners of the Tannery of the Year Programme, and then the name of the winner of the global award. We were talking about this last night, and nobody in our team could quite believe that the moment had arrived. We were all a bit numb.
This morning, I feel excited, so much so that I’ve got up earlier than I intended (this will be a long day). It’s still Sunday night at home; I am waiting for the midnight news to come on BBC radio, which you can listen to anywhere online. It’s the perfect time to blog briefly about what Tannery of the Year has meant to us.
I was only six months or so into this job when the industry gathered for the International Leather Forum in Paris in September 2007. First impressions were excellent. The venue was the stunning Palais Brongniart, the one-time Paris Stock Exchange, la Bourse, which the city now uses for conferences and seminars. You couldn’t move without a beautiful young woman pressing glasses of champagne on you. My colleague, the eminent David Buirski, was so impressed by lunch that he kept the menu, which was tied into a scroll held in place by a strand of basane, sheepskin vegetable-tanned in the ancient way by French artisans.
It took longer to digest the import of the messages from the forum than the lunch.
When we realised that the forum had called the entire industry to do more, much more, to fight leather’s corner, to speak with one voice about its beauty and benefits in the face of facile criticism from some non governmental organisations and a tiny, but noisy, handful of celebrities, we were sure at first that there was little we could do. Stella McCartney denies the link between leather and the global meat supply chain (“I don’t know anyone who eats lizard”) and all news media from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego pick up on it. Britney Spears holds up a plane-load of people in Los Angeles by arriving late and then storming off the aircraft because its seats aren’t leather, and most news outlets who bother to report it dismiss her as a crank. That wasn’t the way on leatherbiz.com or in World Leather, but, beyond that, what could our small team do?
As weeks went by, the subject came up for internal discussion again, and eventually what emerged was Tannery of the Year.
David has worked out that in the course of writing our reports on the ten brave, honest, amazingly hospitable tanneries in nine countries that are today’s finalists, technical editor, Richard Daniels and I flew a quarter of a million kilometres. You’d think that between us we’d have secured by now one of those cards that permit access to business class lounges, but we haven’t been able to advance beyond the basic puddle-blue level on anyone’s programme yet.
But no complaints. It’s been an immense pleasure and privilege. Five of the nine countries were places I had never visited before. Our hosts were invariably, absolutely without exception, wonderful to us in their hospitality. Much more than that, the very fact that they opened their doors to us and allowed us to write the thousands of words we have written—about their businesses, their struggles, their triumphs, their pride and joy, their ambitions for the future—shows that they understood and accepted the challenge presented to the leather industry at the International Leather Forum two-and-a-half years ago. My deepest and most sincere thanks to them all for their vision and generosity.
The chimes of Big Ben are striking; the BBC news is starting. Tannery of the Year won’t feature, but today in Hong Kong, those of us gathering for the opening of the APLF exhibition will barely be able to think about anything else. It’s going to be a great day.
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