My nephew is doing one of those fancy MBA courses at the London Business School and told me a few weeks ago that Brompton inventor, Andrew Richie was going to be in attendance speaking at one of their 'Tell Series' events. With tickets being free and grateful for the heads up I booked myself a ticket. I had asked Mrs Orange if she wanted to attend a talk by Andrew Richie. She replied, Andrew Ridgeley from 'Wham?'
'No, Andrew Richie, inventor of the Brompton,' says I.
Mrs Orange then said, 'no.'
Meeting my nephew for a quick bite to eat beforehand, upon reaching the London Business School we parted company and I made my way inside. Those of you who have read my efforts for a while will know that I am not overly good with directions. I thought I would just put that out there as it does have some relevance later on.
Reporting to reception I was given directions and headed off to the location. This is where things started to get a little strange. If you have ever seen the excellent film, 'Spinal Tap' you will recall a part where the band are backstage and trying to get on stage. They go to where they think the stage is shouting out 'hello Cleveland!' only for it to be back where they started. The London Business School was a little like that. Before long I was back at reception, saying 'hello Cleveland!?'
One of the security staff then escorted to me to the correct location and said that it was just through those doors. I went through those doors and it soon dawned upon me that I should have said, 'hello Cleveland again!' I was in a room with round tables set up for drinks and other refreshments? Thankfully a member of staff was around who looked on her printout of what was taking place and after questioning whether I had actually come to see Andrew Ridgeley from 'Wham' give a talk, I ended up back at the reception! 'Hello Cleveland.'
I can tell you I was almost ready to give up the ghost but the security guard at reception apologised for sending me on a wild goose chase and pointed to a set of stairs less than 10 metres away! Thankfully, this was the correct location and no it had nothing to do with 'Wham!'
Sitting down it was obvious that the vast majority of the audience were not Brompton fanboy-geeks like me. This was later confirmed when a chap doing the introductions asked for a show of hands to indicate who were students at this establishment. Almost all hands went skyward.
The first thing that caught my eye was that Andrew Richie was sporting a P-type Brompton and looked as if he had cycled to the event. After brief introductions the great man was off talking about how it all started. While this was going those in the audience could submit a question that might be put to Mr Richie at the end.
I have seen Mr Richie at various Brompton events over the years but not heard him speak about Brompton. For a Brompton fanboy-geek I was captivated and it was of great interest to hear how it all started and what hardships he had to go through.
He talked about the first prototype and how difficult it was to get this off the ground. He then talked about the design and how he felt it could be made less complicated and ultimately better. It seemed clear that Mr Richie by his own admission was not a businessman but more of an ideas man and someone who was keen to get his hands dirty refining a quite brilliant idea.
He mentioned some of the differences between himself and the current Managing Director, Will Butler-Adams who became his successor. Mr Richie was not totally enthusiastic about the Brompton Docks, where you can hire a Brompton, whereas Will Butler Adams was. He alluded to some other differences between the way he would like things to be done and the direction of the current leadership but there was genuine affection towards Will Butler Adams. Mr Richie talked about what WBA had done as a surprise when he got married and the plaque he had organised when the Duke of Edinburgh recently visited the new factory in Greenford. He also said that WBA's enthusiasm for Brompton was incredibly high. Having seen him at a few Brompton events I agree.
With Mr Richie running over his time slot having, 'only covered a quarter' of what he wanted to, it was time for the question and answer session. Some of the questions above were answered and if truth be told I could have listened on for several hours more to hear about the remaining three-quarters.
Before ending Mr Richie showed the audience how the bike unfolded and folded. There were a few people who had not seen this done before judging by the reaction from some. With questions answered the event sadly came to a close.
It was lovely to finally see the great man talk about his wonderful design and the process behind it. It was also great to hear that he was still thinking about designing things and that he had a few projects he was interested in pursuing.
Brompton would not exist if it were not for Mr Richie but I do have to give a nod to the current management and WBA. I go back quite a long way with Brompton. When at university I had my first Brompton bicycle in 1990 before stupidly selling it a few years later (believe me there is a story to be told one day about all that). Despite me having a few moans about Brompton in recent times, they need the enthusiasm Mr Richie refers to. They also need to sell Brompton bikes and keep selling them. They also need existing enthusiastic owners like myself (although I suspect this is not what Brompton think), my partner in Crime Andrew and more importantly YOU out there to support them and spread the word!!