I would like to extend a warm welcome to the British Business Club Düsseldorf (BBCD) website to all our members, friends and visitors. The club held its annual general meeting on 25 April at the Industrie Club in Düsseldorf. We needed 20% of members to attend to get a quorum and we did it by a whisker. Hopefully more of our members will make it in twelve months’ time to give us a more comfortable margin. The excellent and free food and drinks provided should hopefully encourage more of you to make it next time.
An honoured guest at the AGM was Colonel (Ret’d) Steve Owen OBE, President of the Rheindahlen Branch of the Royal British Legion, Deutschland e.V. (branches.britishlegion.org.uk/branches/rheindahlen). He thanked the club for its donation to his branch, which cares for many servicemen, veterans, reservists and their families, albeit with declining resources as British military bases are being closed.
I would like to thank Andrew Gardiner, Clodagh Durkan and Tam Pearce, who have stepped down from the committee, for all their hard work over the last few years, as well as the committee members who are continuing, both personally and on behalf of the club. Andrew was presented with a voucher for a flight simulation in an Airbus A380 and Clodagh with a bouquet of flowers and a book about Munich at the AGM. We wish Clodagh well in her new job in Munich.
Tam was unable to make the AGM, but has now received a gift of two books about Düsseldorf and Joseph Beuys as a token of the club’s appreciation. Tam is organising a visit on 10 November to the Gx glass works in Essen, part of the Gerresheimer Group, for the club. He has also kindly agreed to manage the Krefeld British Flair event for us this year from 8-10 September. The Open Air Proms concert will be held on the evening of 9 September.
I was elected as the new chairman at the AGM, Vincent McCue as vice-chairman and Trevor Kerslake as secretary. The new committee also co-opted, during the AGM, Paul Stheeman to continue as treasurer and Monique Kerslake to the role of social secretary. There were many suggestions and comments made at the AGM, which the new committee will respond and react to over the coming weeks. We have added the club statutes to the website.
For those of you who do not know me, I am a Yorkshireman who has lived and worked in Düsseldorf for the last six years, primarily as a market research and business development specialist, but also as a journalist. I work mainly in energy-related sectors, including renewables, heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration. I was vice-chairman of the club from 2013 to 2016 and organised a variety of events during that period, including the evening with Oberbürgermeister Geisel. Our new vice-chairman, Vincent McCue, is also a Yorkshireman, so hopefully the club can be a Northern powerhouse during this coming year!
I have some new club events in mind, a few of which reflect my own personal and business interests, including how to provide energy, transport, food and medical care for the world’s growing population. We want to continue with the business lunches at the Nikko Hotel, which have proved very successful through Monique’s excellent organisation. The next ones will be held on Friday 30 June, Friday 25 August and Friday 27 October. We will be giving the opportunity for one or two members to talk about their business at these meetings, or any any subject of particular interest to them. We are also looking to have some regular business dinners at the Hotel Nikko in future, to alternate with the lunches.
I am trying to arrange a talk from either Hyundai, Tesla or Toyota about their electric and fuel-cell powered cars, together with test drives. The first fuel-cell powered cars have just been launched in Germany by Hyundai and Toyota, with BMW soon to follow.
More for the ladies, perhaps, will be a visit to the new Lush Cosmetics facility in Benrath, near where I live, what is now the main European production centre for this UK company. The company promised to arrange this for us last year.
I studied chemistry and biochemistry at university and I hope to get a speaker from Düsseldorf University’s most successful spin-off company, Qiagen, now a world leader in the field of molecular diagnostics.
As you may well remember from our evening with Oberbürgermeister Geisel in 2015, Düsseldorf and Reading are celebrating 70 years of their special relationship this year, so I hope that the club will continue to participate in these celebrations. We have already played a role through Wolfgang Hofmann, who ran in the Reading Half Marathon on 19 March on behalf of both our club and Stadt Düsseldorf, as he also did last year.
I watched the Düsseldorf Marathon on Sunday 30 April, where there were about 20 runners from Reading, including many members of Reading Joggers and Reading Roadrunners, one of whom finished in the top thirty. They were cheered on by a large contingent from our twin town, including Robert Dimmick, the chairman of the Reading-Düsseldorf Association, who was a guest of the club at the Oberbürgermeister event.
I am in discussions with the Düsseldorf Lyric Opera, a fresh and exciting addition to the local cultural scene, about holding an event for the club, provisionally arranged for 5 September. Its president, Julia Coulmas, is a member of our club. Following the superb performance of the Magic Flute, we also hope to have another visit to the Düsseldorf (or Duisburg) Opera House this coming year. The annual club cricket match and BBQ is pencilled in for Saturday 2 September.
I am a member of the Düsseldorf branch of SGV, Sauerländischer Gebirgsverein, an excellent walking club. I hope that we can establish an annual Club walk or Wanderung, to help us keep fit, see some pleasant parts of the German countryside and enjoy good company.
Finally, like about 12% of men and 8% of women in the UK and Germany, I am left-handed and have a deep interest in this subject. I have a renowned left-hander in mind as a potential speaker for the club in the coming year.
If any of you have any suggestions about other possible future events, we would be delighted to hear from you. I do hope that you will all continue to enjoy being members of our friendly club and also enjoy the programme for the year ahead. As they say at the start of SGV walks, Frisch auf! Thank you for your attention.