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Twenty Seven Glorious Years…

September 10, 2022
Walk This Way…

The Seven Dials Club, Covent Garden, London WC2

Friday 9th September 2022

Simon Wright celebrates 27 years as a consultant working with sustainable food and rock’n’roll

“Hello everyone

Thank you all so much for coming out tonight. After attending a brace of funerals over the summer plus the Queen dying so suddenly yesterday I have been thinking a lot recently about loss, community and friendship. I imagine that within this room there is a spectrum of views, ranging from staunch royalist to ardent republican. What I hope we can all agree on is the importance of celebrating friends and colleagues whilst they are still with us.

Things tonight is not:

  • It is not a birthday party
  • It is not a retirement party
  • It is not a launch party

It is a thank you, pure and simple.

When I announced I was having a works do the most common response was “what are you celebrating?”. The answer is “twenty seven years as a consultant, working with great people in food and music”. Many – but sadly not all – of those great people are here tonight. It was actually meant to be a twenty-fifth anniversary party but Covid necessitated a two year postponement. Those of you with good memories and robust constitutions might recall my tenth anniversary party, held upstairs at The White Horse in Parsons Green a mere seventeen years ago.

So here is the history bit which explains why food and music are so intertwined in my life. I was deposited on St George’s Hill in Weybridge at the tender age of 17, a hopelessly naïve student at the National College of Food Technology. I soon decided that being a rockstar would be more fun than being a Food Technologist. The result was Trash, a short lived band that amazingly recorded two singles for Polydor, copies of which are on the Nature Table, please do not nick them.  

I realised my limitations as a vocalist quite early in and when Trash split I decided to shift my attentions to writing about music. Luckily the editor of seminal London music magazine Bucketfull of Brains lived round the corner so I started writing reviews and articles for the mag. The internet did for Bucketfull eventually but the last ever edition is on the Nature Table. Following the demise of Bucketfull I started writing a music blog as which continues to this day. I also graduated to writing live reviews and occasional articles for Record Collector magazine.

These days my other musical outlet is 1960s Records, a vinyl  reissue  label that puts out music that has previously been overlooked. Again examples of our output are on the table. We have just released our tenth Rolling Stones LP, helping to make up for the time and money I have spent on seeing them all over Europe on every tour since 1976.

My vinyl habit has grown through the years. With a collection of over 1100 7” singles I started up as an old school vinyl DJ, graduating from playing at birthday parties to DJing at The Roundhouse, Shepherds Bush Empire, Koko and The Band On The Wall.  I have supported the Cheaters, the Replacements, Mott The Hoople  and The Only Ones. Of all the bands I have met whilst writing about music The Only Ones remain my favourite and I am currently planning the publication of my book about the making of their first LP.

Al this music stuff is great fun but it does not pay the mortgage. To do this I had to resume my food career. First up was getting a degree  which ended up taking ten years and three different colleges. Then I needed a proper job. Reading  The Telegraph one day in the library of Oxford  Poly I found a job  advertised by a company I had never heard of, Whole Earth Foods. After an inspiring visit to the factory in Warrington I accepted the challenge and so began a fascinating 8 years where I learnt so much. Whole Earth was very much ahead of its time, early advocates for organic and Fairtrade. I had found my tribe. During my time as Technical Director I started working with fellow food insurrectionists  such as the Soil Association, the London Food Commission and the Fairtrade Foundation. I was also part of the team that launched Green & Black’s chocolate

On the 6th February 1995 I went freelance and formed my own consulting company to work with sustainable foods – organic, Fairtrade, Free From and more and that is what I have done ever since. There has been far too much fun to mention it all but highlights have included 

  • Ben Elton and Tony Robinson agreeing to fund the launch of the Divine chocolate range over dinner at Kettners
  • Going to Malawi to explore the possibility of Fairtrade tobacco for the much-missed Simon Dunn
  • Running The World’s First Organic Cocktail Bar for Sainsbury’s in Cirencester
  • Helping to organise the Whole Earth Foods 20th Birthday Party at the Groucho Club
  • Having to speak after Prince Charles at a Lancaster House conference
  • Launching The Handbok of Organic and Fairtrade Marketing at a very upmarket hotel in Paris

I have collected together some photos from throughout my working life and these are on rotation on the TV screen – you might even see yourself!

Today I have gone plural, as Alan Leighton so memorably put it. Amongst other projects I run the Gluten Free Industry Association for the FDF, building on my interest in Free From foods which stems back to some very indigestible dinner parties in the early days of the Food Matters magazine.

I Chair the judging for the Quality Food Awards, a job I have done for decades but a job that keeps evolving. Basically this involves eating and talking, though ideally not at the same time.

And there is Abundance Southfields, the community cider producers where we take fruit that would go unpicked and turn it into delicious cider. Our commitment to terroir is so great that for every bottle we can tell you which back garden grew the apples. A delicious way to combat food waste in Wandsworth, and one that has been praised in the House Of Commons by our excellent local MP.

For the last 12 years it has been my privilege to work for Icam, a family-owned chocolatier based outside Milan in Italy. Icam are major processors of organic and Fairtrade cocoa, so this fits with my interest in the ethical manufacturing of food and drink. We make private label chocolate bars for nearly all the U.K. supermarkets so I spend a lot of time with supermarket buyers, always a pleasure. Considering my very first job at the Leatherhead Food Research Association was trying to make a better mint imperial I really have not travelled very far.

Everyone who is here tonight has helped me in some way and I thank you all. But I have talked for long enough. I have asked a couple of friends to each relate a short anecdote or story that I hope you will find illuminating and / or entertaining. If this proves not too ghastly I might ask for further contributions from the floor. Then we will have a toast and then we can all get on with the serious business of drinking and gossiping.

(Cliff Moss of Healthy Sales & Marketing, Nick Duckett of 1960s Records and Craig Sams of Whole Earth Foods / Green &n Black’s all spoke)

So a toast. In the words of my beloved Big Star

“Thank you, friends
Wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you
I’m so grateful for all the things you helped me do”

It’s on Big Star Third if you want to hear the full version

And a very special thank you to Wendy, who has been at my side all the way and has been a constant source of massive support and constructive criticism, both of which have been invaluable.

So please raise your glasses – the toast is “Friends”.

And here are the friends who came:

Abundance Southfields

Richard Konig

Simone Konig

Serena Potter

Bucketful Of Brains

Nick West

Alan Hauser


Gareth Broom

Sadhbh O’Connor

Chantal Cody

Silvija Davidson


Ian Bretman

Free From

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson

OF+ Consultancy

Lee Holdstock

Tim Lang

David and Teresa Church

Justin Hopper

Adrian Whitefoord

Tracy Kane

Peter Langsam

Richard Austin

Diane McCrea

Quality Food Awards

Jane Milton

Katie Theofanos

Atma Hyett

Beth Treleaven

Beckie Dart

R ’n’ B Records

Nick Duckett & Mandy

Jai Rathbone

Rolling Stones Fans

Chris Davies

Julia Kostic

Mike Baess

Paul Monk

(ex) Sainsbury’s

Melissa Addey


Keith Steptoe & Sue

Wendy Rose

Wendy Rose

(ex) Whole Earth Foods

Cliff Moss & Lee

Craig Sams

Jo Fairley

Bill Henry

Robin Bines

Renee and Brian Elliott

Photos taken by Chris Davies, for which many thanks

From → Gigs, Music

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