Mental health top of the agenda at Young Merchants gathering
11 February 2020
Builders Merchants News Deputy Editor Nicolas Chinardet joined the BMF Young Merchant group for its winter meeting, highlighting the importance of mental health awareness.
lower level of a gleaming showroom in London is probably not the place
where you would expect to hear heartfelt admissions of suicidal
thoughts. It was however in just such a place, on 5 December, that
members of the BMF Young Merchants group came together and heard the story of mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin.
The event was taking place at the Ideal Standard Design and Specification Centre, now the BMF’s 30th Regional Centre of Excellence. The centre is located in Clerkenwell, a
creative area of London, on the doorstep of about 8,000 architects.
in the morning, about 50 members of the group had gathered in the
basement of the showroom, which houses a small auditorium. They were
welcomed first by Glenn Paddison, Chair of the group, and then by Dave Laretta, Channel Sales Manager at Ideal Standard.
introduced the company to the delegates, explaining its 200-year-old
history, its position as the leading ceramic manufacturer in the UK,
with its £180 million turnover (in the UK), and its 9,500 employees
company’s factory in Armitage, Staffordshire, produces 75,000 pieces of
ceramic a week and serves the three brands of the company: Ideal
Standard, Armitage Shanks, and Sottini.
was followed at the pulpit by designer and ceramist Robin Levien of
Levien Studio, who has been working with Ideal Standard for 35 years.
Presenting some of the highlights of his work with the company, he
shared his insight into the ways he thinks the industry has changed over
For example, the highly popular 1980’s Studio collection
included 15 items, while the equivalent 2012 Concept range was made up
Technology is having an impact. Levien’s studio has just
invested in a 3D printer for the creation of its prototypes, abandoning
the Styrofoam models it has used until now.
has changed too, as well as people’s preoccupations and needs; from the
rise of multi-generational homes, to the increase in the number of
obese people, a stronger focus on gender equality, or concerns about
space efficiency in homes. Designers have to find new solutions to those
problems and adapt the products they work on in consequence.
to take up the microphone were representatives of Pimlico Plumbers,
Ashley Mullins, grandson of the founder of the company, and John Pierce,
its General Manager.
gave an overview of the company’s history, highlighting the rapid
growth it has experienced in the past few years. After some humble
beginnings in 1979, Pimlico Plumbers, which limits itself to the
confines of the M25, has a turnover of £45 million, with an ambition of
reaching £100 million within the next three years. There are now over
400 members of staff and about 75 apprentices.
there are currently only four female engineers, 15 of the apprentices
are woman; a reflection of the company’s commitment to improve gender
balance, which is partly driven by a demand from customers.
After a break for lunch, which members put to good networking use, the day took a more sombre tone.
who made the headlines a few years ago when he launched a media
campaign to find the man who had prevented him from jumping off Waterloo
Bridge, shared his life story, telling of his constant struggle with
mental health issues since a very young age.
also highlighted the campaigning work he is engaged in around the world
to help raise awareness of mental health and to get the issue included
into the curriculum.
presentation prompted Paddison to tell the group about his younger
sister, who has made several attempts at taking her own life. He thanked
Benjamin for his help on the matter, after the pair met at the BMF
Conference in Dubrovnik in July, and announced a fundraising initiative
for the group, inviting members to join him in an ascension of
Kilimanjaro in September 2020.
this, John Newcomb, CEO of the BMF, remarked on how younger generations
are becoming more comfortable with discussing mental health, regretting
that his generation still needs to be convinced of the importance of
the issue. The BMF offers a number of training opportunities on the
subject, but Newcomb urged attendants to be evangelists for the cause,
to “go back and talk to management”.
the participants divided into small groups to discuss issues relevant
to the workings of the organisation (age restrictions on membership,
outreach to young people, European connections).
The day concluded with a dinner and more networking and socialising.
This article first appeared in the January 2020 edition of Builders Merchants News
For more information about the BMF Young Merchants click here
For support and useful contacts regarding mental health click here