‘360˚ at the Gherkin’ books for NSPCC - March 3rd 2014

The NSPCC announced that a sponsor has been confirmed for the special  edition of my ‘360˚ at the Gherkin’ books for the 2014 Gherkin Challenge and that each participant who reaches their target fundraising of £200 will receive a copy. That's such great news - I hope people like the idea and it makes them want to register for the event. I love seeing people use the book at the top of the building and know people love taking it home and now it will be memory of both their effort and of the building. 

The cover of the first edition of '360˚ at the Gherkin' - all sold out now.

The cover of the first edition of '360˚ at the Gherkin' - all sold out now.

A special guest enjoys reading her copy of  '360˚ at the Gherkin'

A special guest enjoys reading her copy of  '360˚ at the Gherkin'


OSTC Visitors from Poland - February 24th 2014

OSTC have asked me to lead a guided visit to the Gherkin for a group of their brightest business students from Poland, something I did for them at this time last year. I rarely get to take large groups to the top of the Gherkin (as it's a working building of course) so everyone is very excited. The visit goes brilliantly and then becomes a conversation about their careers and about attitudes and I end up giving a stirring speech as we stand beside the lift about choices and the advantages of asking (people can always say no and they so often say yes!)  As I say goodbye at the bottom of the building I get a round of applause (lovely) and one of the group asks me if I've ever considered becoming a Motivational Speaker...

Later a member of the group, Mateusz Mucha, sends a LinkedIn request - of course I say yes.

The OSTC group 

The OSTC group 

Mateusz Mucha, who put my 'Always Ask' advice into practice immediately - well done!

Mateusz Mucha, who put my 'Always Ask' advice into practice immediately - well done!

Gherkin Challenge Steering Committee - February 13th 2014


Tonight Adam Lewis from the NSPCC’s Event Team presents the time line leading up to September 7th and we discuss how the committee can help enroll participants into the event. Lots is discussed, including a special event edition of my ‘360˚ at the Gherkin’ - as we (baizdon.com) are planning a second edition following the first one selling out I had offered to provide copies for everyone who reaches the top. Everyone liked the idea, and tonight we examine ways of sponsoring the books and at how we are going to let people know – if they just get it in their goody bags when they reach the top then the book is not helping encourage enrolment or incentivising fundraising so they need to know in advance. Various options are discussed.  We also look at overalls event budgets (Steering Committee Chair Francesca Valli is particularly exacting in her demand for minute details) – I am learning such a lot about fund raising!

 

Each member of the London Business Board promises to send details out of the event to their networks once registration opens. It would just be fantastic if the building was bursting to the seams of people reaching the top, enjoying the views knowing every step they’ve taken on the way up has helped children – I reaffirm (to myself and out loud) my personal commitment to helping make the event a massive success for all concerned – both those raising the funds and those benefitting. The rest of the committee does the same. What a team!! We are going to make this happen!

Johnny and Ben after completing the 2012 fundraiser.

Johnny and Ben after completing the 2012 fundraiser.

Apollo Tyres Gherkin Event - February 6th 2014


This is the day that the flu struck with a vengeance. On Monday I didn’t feel great, Tuesday was worse but Wednesday was a nightmare. I was convinced it was because I had been so smug when the rest of the family were ill earlier in the month "me and my vitamin C, I’m super healthy!" But now I was not. I couldn’t get out of bed. Luckily the tube strike had led to my first event of the day being cancelled but I was booked in the evening to speak to 100 people at the Gherkin - from 7.45pm to 11pm! (Sometimes I just talk and go home but tonight I was doing the version where I talk a little bit at the beginning and then come back and add more between each course – help!) I stayed in bed until 5.30pm then got up, got dressed (feeling about 93 years old) and went to work. Thank heaven for my work ethic, or maybe my ambition (or maybe just double Neurofen) – I did it and it went brilliantly. The Apollo guests were great, the CEO charismatic and charming and I loved meeting the people from C Jam who had organised the event. All in all a big success even if by the end of the night my voice was going. Woke up the next day to a voice that was lost completely and didn’t return for three days by which time the Flu had became Bronchitis… maybe next year I’ll have a flu jab (and not be so smug!) 

Thanks to Paul Brocklehurst for the photo - and for Apollo Tyres and C Jam's permission to use it.

Thanks to Paul Brocklehurst for the photo - and for Apollo Tyres and C Jam's permission to use it.

Welcoming LV= back to the Gherkin - 30th January 2014

It is fantastic to see LV= back at The Gherkin, for an evening event this time hosted by Victoria Wentworth. I soon see that everyone is really relaxed and an anecdote based, entertaining speech is what is needed - big smiles and lots of laughter tell me I’ve got it right.

Heidi Lees-Bell reminds me that when we last met in November she recommend I put a film of speaking at all the different events on my website – I have to admit it’s still on the To Do List! Thanks Heidi, it makes perfect sense - I make a mental note to move it a few places up the list.

 

Joining the London Business Board for the NSPCC - January 8th 2014

Today Neil Mirchandani, the Chair of the London Business Board for the NSPCC, welcomes me as a board member. I am honoured to be joining such a prestigious group of people who have done such amazing fund raising work in the City of London for the NSPCC over a period of many years.

I hope that my knowledge of the Gherkin and links with the building and it's tenants can help this year's Gherkin Challenge for the NSPCC be a huge success for the charity and for the day's participants.

‘360˚ at the Gherkin’ for Christmas - December 17th 2013


I am speaking at a lunch at the Gherkin today and all the guests are getting copies of my ‘360˚ at the Gherkin’ book. These are the last few copies of the first edition so I can start putting my plans for the second edition into practice, fabulous.

 

The books were well received, as always which was great, I love seeing people use the books in the building to identify what they can see in the views.  A nice surprise was that Singleton PR ended up with a spare place at lunch and kindly invited me to join them, their guests were tremendous fun, lunch was absolutely delicious and of course I was able to answer Gherkin questions all afternoon.

Wrapped '360˚ at the Gherkin' books at the Singleton PR lunch in Searcys The Gherkin's Hennessy Private Dining Room

Wrapped '360˚ at the Gherkin' books at the Singleton PR lunch in Searcys The Gherkin's Hennessy Private Dining Room

 

Sarah McQueen is a Hero - December 7th 2014

Sarah McQueen is Marketing Manager for Searcys the Gherkin and (along with GM Danny Kaljee) is in charge of the Top of the Building’s event calendar.  So to hold The Gherkin Challenge the NSPCC need both the 30 St Mary Axe Management’s support for the stair climb itself and for Searcys to donate the top of the building. The 30SMA team have already generously said yes and Searcys had offered dates in March, April and July but they were too soon, too near Easter and too-in-the-middle-of-the-Summer. September would be ideal but this is the start of the busy period for Searcys The Gherkin where their space is booked solidly until the end of December – and they already give two days for the Open House London weekend at the end of the month. What to do? I decide to plead! Sarah, Danny and I are all parents* and it only took a few minutes thinking about the work of the NSPCC for Sarah to agree to donate the top of the building space for September 7th. This is fantastic!! Sarah, thank you, thank you  – you are a hero!

 

*Not that you have to be parents to appreciate the vital work of the NSPCC!

The Gherkin Challenge for the NSPCC 2014 will be on September 7th 2014. Should it be held again in future years the aim is to hold it in the spring. 

Sarah McQueen

Framed ‘Gherkin Guide’ in The Gherkin - November 26th 2013

Another Gherkin Milestone! Today a framed picture of Baizdon's Gherkin Guide went on permanent display in the Searcys art gallery at the top of the building. (On the 38th floor of the Gherkin there is a glass walkway with the view on one side and an art gallery on the other. Of course the pictures have stiff competition from the view but there has been some stunning art on display and every three months a new exhibition goes up.) Beneath the picture there is a recommendation for my Gherkin Talks as Searcys expert on the building, which is just fantastic. I am beside myself with joy and pride! ‘You are grinning like a small child’ one of the staff told me '50% child, 50% businesswoman.’ I replied, still grinning.

 

Massive thanks to Yana Revenko from Searcys for the idea and to GM Danny Kaljee for approving it. Brilliant framing by Chris from Soho Framers - I had no idea there would be so many different coloured steels to choose from for the frame or that the non-reflective glass would be so key. 

Baizdon's Gherkin Guide goes on permanent display at the top of the Gherkin   

Baizdon's Gherkin Guide goes on permanent display at the top of the Gherkin

 

Grinning like a child - or  "50% child, 50% businesswoman"   

Grinning like a child - or  "50% child, 50% businesswoman"

 

Cars flying past The Gherkin? - 25th November 2013

In tonight’s Evening Standard Andrew Neather tells us cars might fly and asks how soon we will stuck in air traffic on our commute to work? It will be a while he concludes. The article was illustrated by a picture of the Gherkin surrounded by flying cars, while I regularly see helicopters and once two birds did land on the very top (there are no ledges for them to land anywhere else) cars would be quite a thing – I immediately wonder who would get the one parking space?...

http://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/how-soon-will-we-be-commuting-to-work-in-flying-cars-8961989.html

Today's Evening Standard - love this illustration!

Today's Evening Standard - love this illustration!

Gherkin Drama 35 Floors Up! November 15th 2013

Today the window cleaner’s cage that travels on an extending arm up to the very apex of the building got stuck, with two window cleaners in it! A small crowd gathered inside the Club Lounge to watch, the men seemed calm (and they never look inside at people looking at them – must be part of the training) and so the watchers were calm too. After a while the cradle that circumnavigates the building was brought out (technical details - it slots into the two rings at the top of the building and from there further cradles can be lowered down to clean the windows of the floors below) and it transpired that the men would have to climb from one cage into the other. (Now the watchers not so calm). Both men sat down and their cage began to tilt. When it had tilted past 90˚ (the watchers now nearly hysterical as we all thought they were going to be tipped out!)  they started to clamber across the sky from the cage into the cradle situated below and slightly to the left of them. Everyone held their breath while first one then the other made the journey. They both made it. The watchers cheered. The window cleaners still looked calm, the watchers however were wrecked! 

Millions of people at Gherkin for Open House London - 21st & 22nd September 2013

Last weekend I volunteered to answer questions at the top of the Gherkin for visitors during Open House weekend. I welcomed millions to the top and it has taken me a whole week to recover (well, ok, I exaggerate – it was only about 5,000 people and I did get eventually my voice back on Tuesday night…)

Day 1. The queue had already reached the end of St Mary Axe when Ben and I arrived at 7am, an hour before opening time. We chatted to everyone waiting and discovered that the couple at the very front had arrived at 6.15am. While Ben helped Jason from Searcys set up the Gherkin Guides I heard all about the success of Maggie’s Culture Crawl from three women who had made friends on the overnight route, watch the sunrise from the top of the building (the last stop on the Crawl) and stayed to chat. That was the last time I relaxed (or sat down) for the next 12 hours.

The building opened, the aim being 50 people every 15 minutes. It felt like an unstoppable ocean of visitors – I welcomed people as they came out of the lifts (congratulations you’ve reached the top of the Gherkin, thanks for queuing) , directed people (look out to the west on level 39, up the stairs to the glass dome – you must see the 360˚ view on level 40) answered everyone’s questions (Norman Foster, 7429 panes of glass), asked children if they could spot the only piece of curved glass in the building (they absolutely loved discovering it), took photos of people with their cameras for them (if you stand just here both you and your reflection will be framed by the diamonds of the building, it’s an amazing shot) and entertained queues waiting for the lifts down with facts and stories (one time for 20 minutes as the lifts stopped working!) It was a really lovely atmosphere at the top – we were all aware everyone had been waiting for ages to get in and all the Open House volunteers joined me in saying ‘Welcome to the Gherkin!’ ‘You’ve made it’ and ‘Thanks for waiting in the queue!’ as people arrived. The security staff were fantastic, smiling throughout and chatting as they brought people up in the lifts, and not a single person complained when their time at the top was over. Ben and Jason proved to be brilliant at selling books, which was just as well because I was hopeless – constantly answering questions, helping identifying things in the view or rushing to welcome another lift full of people. I spotted Victoria Thornton, the founder of Open House London, at one point and let everyone know who she was – she received a huge round of applause.

I did leave the top once when I popped out and speak to people in the queue – it took me 1.5 hours to walk around it!!! I thanked people for their patience, told them it was extraordinarily marvellous at the top and worth waiting for and that I would see them at the top to answer their questions. Of course, everyone wanted to know how long the wait was  and I could only tell them the 30 St Mary Axe team were trying to get 80 people in every 15 minutes (rather than 50) to try and fit in as many people into the building queue as possible. If they pushed for an exact time I had to say I was doing ‘queue encouragement’ and someone from the building would be round to do ‘queue management’! In the end we stayed open till 6pm, two hours later than advertised. The last people left by 7pm – I got home at 9pm and had to lie down the moment I got in.

Our first visitor of the day!

Our first visitor of the day!


Day 2. Twitter came into it’s own for me this weekend – in the early morning queue I met Natasha (@ishootandtravel ) who had tweeted the day before that the #gherkin queue had put her off, I had replied back that she should try coming early – she did and so got to the top in the first bunch of the day and took some amazing photos. There were loads of other lovely messages on Twitter throughout the day (and over the days since). The Sunday queues were really long and again the 30 St Mary Axe team extended the opening hours to try and get as many people in as possible. After the queues closed the Open House volunteers were allowed in to thank them for their work over the weekend – after that they went off to a celebratory party, I had no voice left and went home to lie down again.

The Gherkin Guides proved very popular which was wonderful, and on Monday morning someone who had visited showed hers to her boss – who immediately contacted Searcys and ordered 200 copies – hooray!

The whole weekend was great, I’m glad I did it. Right now I think I’m never doing it again!!

Our best dressed visitors! Thanks to Mum and Dad for photo permission. 

Our best dressed visitors! Thanks to Mum and Dad for photo permission. 

The Gherkin Guide sellers (in a rare moment sitting down!) 

The Gherkin Guide sellers (in a rare moment sitting down!) 

1,000 Gherkin Guides for Open House London - 13th September 2013

I meet Searcys The Gherkin GM Danny Kaljee today to discuss using one of the photos from ’360˚ at the Gherkin’ in his Christmas campaign – we decide on the South West view, taken at dawn on a snowy morning – it will look fabulous. I remember the morning we took it. It had been snowing all week, as yet it hadn’t settled in the City but I was positive that finally it would stay overnight and made Baizdon photographer Joe Plimmer promise to meet me outside the Gherkin at 6am. Searcys opened the Club early for us and Joe got the most spectacular shots – both the east and the south-west photos in the book are from that morning.

Danny also asks me to bringing 1,000 extra Gherkin Guides especially for the two-day Open House weekend, as they will be on sale at the top of the building. 3,000 visitors are expected over the two days. I am thrilled – but do wish I could offer them to people waiting in the queues, everybody will be a fan of the building so they will love all the information in the Gherkin Guide and Adam Parker’s unique metre long image of the building – it would certainly help make the waiting time more enjoyable! 

The 12ft Lego Gherkin - September 12th 2013

While I was in Sierra Leone the 30 St Mary Axe team held a three-day event where the UK’s only Certified Lego Builder was joined by tenants of the building and city workers, many who brought their families along, to build a 12ft model of the Gherkin in the plaza. They also commissioned 500 sets of Lego with profits from sales going to Teenage Cancer Trust and today Swiss Re’s lovely Lorraine Sage gave me the one she has been saving for me. Apparently she has had to fight off a big queue of people who wanted it. Thanks Lorraine!!

I was so disappointed to miss it! I also would have loved to see Sara Fox, she of ‘the woman who built the Gherkin’ fame, being directed on how she should be placing her Lego by a bossy seven year old. Kettle and pot come to mind. Lorraine tells me Sara took it very well.  :-)

Redland 175th Anniversary Lunch - September 10th 2013

Speaking at the Redland lunch today at the Gherkin in Searcys beautiful Private Dining Rooms on the 38th floor. As the event is to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Rosemary tile (the creator named it after his daughter) which Redland produce I thought I would start by talking about how London would have looked in 1838. I had enlisted the help of the brilliant City of London tour guide Carolyn Webb and she found out lots of interesting facts for me – the city would have been just as busy but with no cars, tubes or trains (although Euston had opened the year before, Fenchurch street didn’t arrive till 1841).  London Bridge was the John Rennie granite one that is now in Arizona, and there were no Southwark, Tower or Millenium bridges. The most striking difference compared with the cityscape viewed from the Gherkin today is that church spires would have been the highest points with the St Paul’s (the fourth on the site but still the one we know today) dominating the skyline. In 1938 a fire within the Lloyds of London offices in the Royal Exchange burnt down the building* and talk of the Royal Exchange brought us smoothly into the history of the 30 St Mary Axe site, once home to the Baltic Exchange. I enjoyed talking about the architectural genius of the Gherkin to such a knowledgeable group and, as not everyone had been to the top of the building before, loved taking them up into the glass dome. Redland Sales Director Andy Dennis had made us all smile during lunch by saying he assumed he was one of only three people (all from Redland) that thought the Gherkin would be improved with a pitched roof – my bet is that now even he and his Redland colleagues could see this was one building top even they couldn’t improve on!

*Queen Victoria built the present one six years later in case you’re wondering