One of the major issues with launching anything is cost. This is particularly true in London and especially when you have no budget or funding on which to draw.
Concept Building Services have arranged our accommodation in Central London, which is a God send. This was the cause of some of those sleepless nights I mentioned in an earlier post. An old friend [Steve Whitlock] has been an absolute legend, as has his boss and company owner Joe Carty. Joe has never served in the forces, however he has seen the true value of Veterans and provides an enormous amount to our community through his charitable work and providing employment opportunities. I am looking forward to thanking them properly in May.
Last year when I was introduced to some of our sponsors, I found myself in new territory. I have never had to sell anything to anyone. The UK Photography show took place in March at the NEC in Birmingham and our main sponsors, Manfrotto UK, Elinchrom and The Flash Centre were there. This was the ideal opportunity to put faces to names and sell myself and the project to them.
What a fantastic experience. I admit to being a more than a little nervous before hand but was soon put at ease by the team from Elinchrom and The Flash Centre. Their enthusiasm for the project and their grasp of the potential it has was incredible. In particular Chris Whittle, President of Elinchrom, seemed genuinely excited which was wonderful. When Chris told me that I was no longer asking them to be part of the Veterans Portrait Project UK, they were telling me they wanted to be part of it, I was over the moon. Mark Astmann took time out to run me through the complete Elinchrom range which was very kind. Having never used these lights before a personal guide was a massive help. Mark hails from New York and I think my Scottish accent may have confused him at times, sorry Mark.
Manfrotto UK next and Mark Langley. A busy man who was looking after their ambassadors. I was scheduled to discuss the details between the talks given by some fascinating photographers but ended up watching some speaking about their work. It was quite Inspiring. Again, I was blown away by the enthusiasm shown for our project. Something you should never say to a Sapper (Google it) – “have a look round and let me know if there is anything else you need”……….so much shiny stuff, sorry Mark!!!
On conclusion of the meetings I made my way to one of the many eatery’s within the NEC, I was hungry and tired but the place was mobbed. Eventually I found a table and sat down next to some other visitors. I got talking with another Scot who sat opposite and it turned out he had spent some time with the Army Reserve. He went on to explain that he wanted to join the regular Army, however his father would not sign the paperwork, which at that time was mandatory. This led me to explain about the Veterans Portrait Project and that I to was a veteran. The guy was immediately excited, extremely complimentary and wanted to take part. It then transpired that he attended the same karate school as I did in the early 1980’s and was also good friends with a friend of my late father. I have to thank Ricky for the 30 minutes or so we spent chatting. I hope to meet up with him in Scotland and take his portrait. What a small world.
We are also fortunate to be sponsored by many other companies, Truprint, Photobox, Photoshelter and Snapper Stuff to name but a few. Please visit them on the web, maybe they’ll be able to strike you a bargain.
I could not finish this piece without expressing how grateful we are to the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Royal Naval Association, Royal Air Forces Association, Royal Naval and Royal Marines Charity and the Scottish Veterans Association for their outstanding support. The support and generosity of companies and organisations such as these is crucial to us, we would never have gotten this project off the ground without it. I will be forever grateful to all of you. Thank you.
My final vote of thanks must go to you. Thank you for joining us as we ready ourselves for what lies ahead. Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for caring.
The planning is now almost complete, in a month Stacy and I will meet for the first time and the Veterans Portrait Project UK will be officially launched. Excited? You bet. Nervous? Definitely. My overwhelming feeling though is one of pride.
The VPPUK Team