In 1969 the Rolling Stones released what I think was one of the best albums ever – Let it Bleed – others thought so too, as on its release it reached number 3 in the US and No1 in the UK temporarily knocking the Beatles Abbey Road off the top spot. I was reminded of this fact on Friday when travelling back on the excellent Emirates flight from Duabi to Manchester. Their essential albums collection contains my top 10 albums of all time – as well as Let it Bleed, there was the Joshua Tree; Brother in Arms; Automatic for the People; (What’s the Story) Morning Glory; Imagine; Harvest; Transformer; Dark Side of the Moon; and Tubular Bells. In the 7 hour flight home, they all got played.
I actually flew in to Duabi on my way to Abu Dhabi. I was there to attend a major review of our project with the Abu Dhabi Police. This is a project aimed at developing a 'best in class' approach to juvenile justice provision. The project is about half way through and this was an opportunity to take stock and see if anything needed reviewing or changing. It was a day-long meeting, held in the wonderful surroundings of the Fairmount Hotel, The meeting room provided a fantastic view of the Grand Mosque. The room was laid out in a classical and slightly intimidating ‘us and them’ format, with two long tables placed opposite each other with myself and our team on one side and the Abu Dhabi Police and their Strategic Advisor's on the other.
The early half of the meeting wasn't easy – we hadn't always managed to deliver what we had set out to achieve - but in a complex project such as the Al Mafraq one, the unpredictability of the different factors, fractions and aspirations will always conspire to inhibit the rate of progress. However, that said, at the halfway point of the project there was much to celebrate. We have a great team assembled and they are delivering high quality products and materials, We have a well-constructed training programme underpinned by evidence based teaching materials ready to implement in August and we have a shared and strong desire to succeed with what is an ambitious project.
Symbolically, this shared sense of our achievements to date was demonstrated when after lunch, the Abu Dhabi Police Brigadier in Charge, and Chair of the Steering Committee, chose to sit on our side of the conference table. Later on, back at the hotel, I was having a quiet drink with a couple of colleagues who work in our International Hub in the city when I was in an instant transported back to Manchester by the arrival of one of my friends from Bolton. He now lives out there, and he was the last person I expected to bump into. We had a quick drink and parted company, but his arrival reminded me of the earlier part of my week, where I had a different kind of meeting, and one that was also focused on bringing about complex changes.
It was a meeting I had with Ian Williamson, the new Chief Executive Officer designate for Devo Manc (DM) or Greater Manchester Health and Care Devolution as the formal title is known. It was a good meeting. Devo Manc is part of the Northern Powerhouse ambition of the current government and will see health and social care budgets, those for transport and housing and employment brought together under the control of what will become the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – it is a massively exciting opportunity to change who holds the power to determine the health and wellbeing for the population of the Greater Manchester. The timetable is tight and the complexity in moving from where things are now to where they could be is as challenging as our shared ambition for the project in Abu Dhabi, albeit the scale of both projects is very different.
And next week looks to be a challenging one back in the School. Our very own local changes are beginning to be rolled out, and the pace of work is steadily increasing as we move towards our Summer graduation ceremonies in July. Thankfully I had a wonderfully relaxing day yesterday, a day shared with friends and family, and today is going to be just as good – a brief respite before the working week starts again. Next week’s blog will come from Abu Dhabi, as on Friday I fly out again for another series of meetings. I hope my body clock is back to normal by then – As Noel Gallagher might have sung in one of the songs from my Top 10 Album list: 'today's the day, (its) going to be another sunny afternoon, and I’m working to the sound of my favourite tune, just need a little time rest my mind, need a little time to wake up!'