Sun, sea and sore heads: MIPIM 2009

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The sound of silence on the Liverpool stand, group hugs aplenty with Bloxham and Bernstein over on the Manchester stand. Perhaps the doom-mongers were wrong; a MIPIM in recession had many of the same ingredients as previous years. Place North West might not have splashed the cash to be there this year but the intrepid PR gang at Paver Smith was on hand to capture the scene. This is their diary of the past week in Cannes. Words and pictures by Chris Hulme and Dougal Paver. Click on galleries to enlarge images.

Another year, another three-day showcase for the North West's property community at the all-out networking circus otherwise known as MIPIM.

Who turned up? Manchester rolled out the big guns, managing to avoid going weak at the knees under the weight of Le Crunch and all those fears about low delegate numbers. To the soundtrack of Elbow songs and various other bands from the ten metropolitan boroughs, it was business as usual on the Manchester stand. The public sector effort was led by Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, with Barbara Spicer, his oppo at Salford City Council, Colin Sinclair of MIDAS and Jackie Potter from Manchester Corridor playing supporting roles. Manchester's private sector did not totally shrink from the challenge. David Partridge, Chris Oglesby and John Atkins of Argent, Bruntwood and MAG Developments respectively all showed up, demonstrating their commitment by articulating engaging visions of the way ahead.

With no stand events at all and the traditional closing night party at the Morrison Hotel cancelled, Liverpool's presence was always going to seem comparatively tame. You might even say it lacked ambition. We even missed the once-ubiquitous Bootleg Beatles, left at home for budgetary reasons. Nick Johnson, he of Marketing Manchester and Urban Splash, was one to rejoice at this, recalling a Manchester presentation drowned out last year by the fake Fab Four striking up on the opposing balcony.

The great and the good did what they always do and remained sanguine….

Maggie Mullan, partner, Austin-Smith:Lord: "It's mostly a London crowd with the regional boys and girls staying at home, which is disappointing."

Tom Bloxham, chairman, Urban Splash: "I prefer it [being quiet]. You can get more business done. The great thing is everyone who I wanted to see is here. I've met people from Leeds, Bradford, Salford, Manchester, the West Midlands and Liverpool today and also seen our insurance brokers. It would take three days to cover that much ground in England. Plus, the sun is shining – which is always nice."

Peter Saville, acerbic design guru of Factory Records fame, now creative director of Marketing Manchester: "There is a remarkable blandness and a formulaic approach when you walk around stands. I understand that's because the organisers are quite restrictive about what you can do. They want the show to run on rails. Maybe that's a good thing. If you had all these cities going crazy and thinking out of the box it might just be too much."

Chris Oglesby, chief executive of Bruntwood: "Last year I felt jaundiced and questioned the value of MIPIM. Now I recognise the quality of the debate. We need to keep it strong. There's always a balance to be struck between your sense of ambition and the short-term issues but we do need a long-term vision. I think the public and private share an obligation to provide leadership."


MIPIM early birds spotted at Liverpool airport taking the shuttle to Dublin to connect with Aer Lingus.

Arriving in Cannes, the Manchester boat is already rammed for an early-evening soiree and Liverpool's very own Professor Michael Parkinson spotted holding forth on the after-deck.

Liverpool party a slightly more genteel affair, but good networking to be had. Rob Melling from Curtins manages, cleverly, to inveigle his way on to a Liverpool Vision breakfast seminar and looks pleased as punch. Greg Woodley from Mersey Partnership can barely stand up, but it's a skiing injury, not the booze, that's to blame.

We head to Caffe Roma and pay an eye-watering €7.50 a pint. Good job the lads from ipitomi get a round in, too, or we could have blown our budget on day one.


Sir Howard Bernstein in ebullient form as he introduces the first of Manchester's twice-daily presentations. Public sector partners in the outlying boroughs, Keith Davies from Bolton and Barbara Spicer from Salford, bolstering the team. Confidence abounds and it's fighting talk all the way. Recession is definitely a state of mind.

Tom Bloxham is natty but modest whilst there are far more shirts and ties than in previous years. This is MIPIM back to its deal-doing best, with the muppets in linen shirts confined to home quarters.

A full house at The Quays Irish bar to watch Liverpool thrash Real Madrid. Notable Evertonians such as John Prowse from Globe Construction mutter darkly into their pints. Men with Irish and Norwegian accents cheer loudly at every Liverpool goal. Maggie Mullen from Austin Smith:Lord cuts an elegant figure amongst the male throng in a suitably nautical get-up.

Still, a quiet day by MIPIM standards, with relatively few people pacing the floor of the bunker and Morrison's Hotel bar easily accessible. What will Wednesday bring?


The calm has abated and the storm rages: MIPIM is back to its bustling best by 3pm as more planes disgorge their eager throng.

Notable absence of leggy Russian blondes, replaced by sedate Stockholmers dishing out free mineral water. Loads of French exhibitors and delegates compared to normal: have they only just noticed what was on their doorstep? Still lots of Brits but the Gulf States presence – particularly Dubai – seems to have melted away in the heat of the credit drought.

No evidence that a new sobriety has kicked in: champagne corks pop and the bars are getting mobbed. Rumour has it that the big white yacht registered in George Town, C.I., is on hire to a British bank. No logos because the tabloids would have a field day and the girl on the reception lectern steadfastly refuses to say who's paying her bills.

Prof John Brookes, vice chancellor of Manchester Met, enthuses a hot and sticky Manchester crowd with his vision for the city's southern corridor. Good humour and passion clearly still sells, even in these distressed times.

Liverpool stand deathly quiet: no programme of speeches and presentations has left the Scouse contingent a tad rudderless, so they gather around Manchester, claiming they've always loved the town. Honest.

Spied in the neighbour's camp are Alan Murch from Keppie Massie and Jane Jackson from PKF, whose badge claims she works out of London. Cunning.

The Quays is rammed with Cockneys supporting Man Utd so the action shifts to Morrison's which is big enough to cope. At least there the Cockneys are shouting for Arsenal, on screen one. Screen two has Man Utd dispensing with Mourinho and blokes called Rupert protesting that "Wilmslow is in Manchester" in faux Salford accents.

The street's not roped off and various luminaries risk life and limb as they spill out on to the road. Who'd come off worse: the Volvo or Frank Mallon of HfM? Our money's on the Volvo, but a late hip-swerve saves us from finding out. Matt Newton from Walker Sime almost chokes on his beer when Utd's second goes in, then professes undying love for Mark Hughes. Brabners' Jeff Gillibanks makes a good fist of guessing how many Everton players and coaches also worked at Man City whilst Anne King of Paul Moy Associates is seen squeezing men's bottoms with gusto. Most look quite happy with the fact.


The Palais is packed by 10am. The late arrivals look to make up for two lost days by hitting the [exhibition] bunker and yachts with feverish intent.

On the Liverpool yacht Jim Gill of Liverpool Vision hosts a lively breakfast seminar on the future of tourism in the city. Bernard Byrne of Castlewood Securities doles out Irish charm and good news and others share in the positive air. Prof Parkinson makes a show and speaks eloquently about Liverpool's authenticity. There are even people on the Liverpool stand.

John Downes of Langtree Group holds court over lunch on the Liverpool yacht and manages to secure a consensus on what the public sector can do to keep things moving along. Adrian Clery from Colliers' London office is gloriously off-beat and opinionated, but shows his mettle, too.

The Quays is again rammed beyond belief for the joint Paver Smith/Curtins/Austin Smith:Lord party. The staff struggle to cope and any passing fire officer would have had a coronary. Neighbouring bars fill their boots as thirsty revellers clamour for a bevvy. Des Walker is trying to watch the Man City game but everyone's taller than him and he can't see. Some wag quips that that's probably the ideal view of Man City and he demurs with Anglo-Saxon precision.

Final Night Drinks

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And one wonders why Manchester does better than Liverpool.

By Paul Dickens