Julia Hobsbawm: Brexit will demand a nation of networkers, the launch of my "Fully Connected" networking book and the virtues of the Magritte Museum

 
Julia Hobsbawm
Employees of EnBW, an EDF subsidiary in
Britain needs to become a nation of networkers (Source: Getty)

On 24 June last year I activated one of the web addresses I stockpile for a rainy day: networkingnations.eu.

Everyone in the City knows there is something of a Brexit Bounce, and we’re enjoying it too with our new network. Our members range from the British Bankers’ Association to Eurostar.

Yesterday morning we held a breakfast in the chic and very British surroundings of The Beaumont in Mayfair, which kindly hosts our London gatherings. The speakers were former City minister Mark Hoban of TheCityUK and London Stock Exchange boards, and Ben Page of IpsosMori.

Around the table: key figures from government offices, including the new Department for International Trade, senior executives from multinationals and global consultancies.

Read more: Four ways to actually have a good time at networking events

What was on everyone’s mind? Well, as they were held under the Chatham House Rule I can only be general but suffice to say that now that Article 50 has been triggered, and the EU is debating the exact terms of their opening negotiating stance, there was a sense of relief that the starting gun had actually been fired and that the language of both Theresa May’s Article 50 letter and Donald Tusk’s response was better than feared.

Wearing my hat as hon visiting professor in networking at Cass Business School, I see clear evidence from social network science that it is diverse networks – rather than the traditional silo, which favours ‘groupthink’ and ‘the old boy network’ – which will cut any ice when you need friends not just in high places but different places.

Read more: Post-Brexit Britain will be a lobbyists' paradise– and it’s not a bad thing

As the UK gets round the negotiating table it needs to become a nation of networkers, not just a nation of shopkeepers. Do the mandarins and trade negotiators possess the skills to develop deep, diverse, diplomatic networks in this new era? Only time will tell. But time is short. Especially in the City. Next up to speak at Networking Nations are big beasts from the two global banks who openly backed Remain and are dealing with the effects of Leave: Tina Fordham, Citi’s chief political analyst and Sir Win Bischoff, chairman of the Financial Reporting Council.

Movie magic

This week marked another milestone. I became a movie producer of a smart short film, about the disconnection of the workplace, so fitting for my interests in connectedness and its discontents. “Contractor 014352” directed by the talented young film-maker Simon Ryninks, son of Robert Peston, with a cast including the actor and singer Johnny Flynn is doing the festival rounds. I love it and look forward to its general release. Do check it out at contractor.com.

Egg-cellent exhibition

The National Trust has a point that eggs are not just about Easter and Christians. I have just joined the board of the Jewish Museum in Camden.

Read more: Easter engineering works to disrupt both Southern rail and Thameslink

This dazzling jewel plays host to thousands of school children of all faiths a year, and growing bands of devoted culture vultures who come to lap up the likes of the current Amy Winehouse exhibition. On Sunday I shall visit for their “Taste of Passover” event including how to best decorate the egg on the Seder plate.

Night and day

While the centre of political gravity shifts for two years to Brussels those of you hopping on the Eurostar must, I insist, make time for the beautiful Magritte Museum. Located centrally among all the fine government buildings and chocolate emporiums, it boasts the finest single collection of work by the surrealist Belgian master. My favourite? The Empire of Light series, now 50 years old, showing the uneasy alliance between day and night. Light and dark. A modern metaphor for Brexit.

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