Corky Gormly, affectionately known as “Princess Corky” within the ICG (but that’s another story) was recently reminiscing about times past, when face to face groups meant field trips, hotels and pillows in the back of a taxi …
“Just the other day, as I was lying in bed thinking about stuff, I started to try and remember some of the best hotels I stayed in for ‘doing groups’, in the UK. In these days of Zoom, it all seems so long ago.
If no-one was coming to the groups, I tried to stay at nice places which were relaxing (very important as qual research can feel very stressful at times!) and convenient for me.
Hence I stayed at an Inn near Jodrell Bank, where the granny cooked breakfast for guests in her nightie and dressing gown.
I also stayed a few times at The Cavendish at Baslow on the Chatsworth Estate, when I was doing groups in Sheffield. It was far more relaxing to wake up in the morning and look out of my window at sheep and countryside. One evening I had supper there in the dining room by myself and asked for tea to be brought up to my room afterwards.
But a message came up to say two gentlemen I had briefly spoken to at an adjoining table, had requested my company downstairs! Of course I went back down, and we had a delightful evening which was much more fun than sitting alone in my room. I found out that one worked at a very large packaging company, one at a trade union. They were supposed to be sworn enemies they told me, but they got on like a house on fire, and it would be terrible if the relevant parties ever found out that they were such good friends and dining out together!
When I worked in advertising, people would say – ‘let’s do the groups in York, Corky, then we can stay at The Judges Lodgings! We’ll start at 5.00 and get them over by 8.00 and then we can have dinner!’
In a similar vein, we stayed at Thornbury Castle in Bristol, where we certainly enjoyed fine wines with our delicious dinner, and Chewton Glen (a number of times) in the New Forest, which was unbelievably comfortable and relaxing.
I did a number of projects in Edinburgh (one was for The Sheraton Hotel about its interior design) so I used to stay there afterwards for ‘mates rates’, and was always given a complementary bottle of port and shortbread biscuits.
Another project I worked on for a big magazine – we did 10 x 3 hour groups around the country. The client chose the best hotels as she wanted to come to all the groups – we basically did a ‘girls on tour’ trip around the country – one with an open air swimming pool and spa on the south coast, a hotel with the best range of malt whiskies in Scotland – so it goes on!
Needless to say most of this happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
And has never happened since. The desire (and budget) for extra fun, luxury and indulgence seemed to fade away, and more often than not I would get a taxi all the way back to the Surrey countryside after groups ‘up north’, so I didn’t need to stay in a hotel.
Instead I would be entertained by Mel, (short for Melwyn) and his wife Joan, who started ‘Status Business Travel’.
Mel, who for some reason always referred to me as ‘Posh Spice’, told me all sorts of stories about having all his teeth taken out at the same time, (aaargh!) and how his son married an actress (Julie Hesmondhalgh), from Coronation Street.
They were both really lovely, and always seemed to take the stress away, and made me feel relaxed and welcome, from the moment they picked me up at Manchester airport.
Worth their weight in gold.
They were the couple who started the trend of picking up qualitative researchers (and sometimes the clients too), from groups at 10.00 pm, with a pre-ordered choice of salad, a small bottle of wine, chocolate biscuit, apple and water, a pillow and blanket in the back of the car.
So you could sit back, relax, have a light supper in the back of the car, go to sleep and be woken up at 2.00 am to say ‘you’re home, safe and sound’.”