29th May 2020

Culture / Featured / Charlie Gladstone

Everything is Going to be OK. Says Charlie Gladstone, Owner of Glen Dye

19 6 mins 0

It took us 18 months of intense work and equally intense expense to get the Glen Dye cabins and cottages up and running. For Caroline and I, it wasn’t our sole focus because we have other stuff to get on with, but it took lots of time, passion and energy. Like any interesting project, there was no cut-off with this; we thought about it all the time; day, night and anything in between. It was fun; every spoon, new roof, picture, sofa, wall colour and curtain had to be selected. We love doing that.

Eventually, we opened early in 2019. Things started well and the demand and response from guests was great. In one month, we even had full occupancy. Our first two residential Camps sold out. We were gaining momentum and each month looked better than the one before. Audrey and Nicolle were starting to get the hang of their jobs (in guest relations and events, respectively). Rachel, our estate manager, was getting the hang of the way the business side of things worked and Neil -who is building everything- was racing through new projects. Rab, Colin and Xanthe had fenced the new veg garden, built a greenhouse and knocked up a chicken hut.

And then lockdown.

In fact, we took the decision to close before it was imposed on us. It was painful but it felt right, really just to protect those that live in the glen. There aren’t many of us but there are some old residents (well, reasonably old, sorry Archie, Marion, Mary and Bill) and they merited some special protection.

So, after 18 months of building and 12 or so of being open we ground to a halt. And that feels disappointing, but no more than that. It just is what it is. We all believe that we’re in control of our destiny -and in many ways we are- but in others, we just aren’t. Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans and all that. I would characterise myself as a control freak. But because of this lockdown I understand that I’m not, not really; I can’t control things like the vile virus that’s stalking the world, can I?

What I can do, though, is control how we react to this. And for me that isn’t achieved through worrying. I don’t mean that I personally haven’t been hit by the stress of all this; I absolutely have. In fact, I’ve been intensely affected by the lockdown; I have over 120 staff in various businesses and everything we do has been hit really hard. So, I’ve been working brutally hard, really fast and for longer hours than ever. But I have been doing so with deep optimism about our future.

So, no, I am not worried about the future of Glen Dye because first, I know it will be fine. This will pass and the new normal will be good. It might be unsettling and take a bit of time to get to grips with. And finances will be tough. But in the long run, it will okay. Or maybe it will be more than okay, maybe it will be better than the old normal. Why not? We have done a good job, we sweat the small stuff, we have great people, great accommodation, great energy. We have a will to succeed and we have the tools to do so, too.

And second, I don’t worry because this is something that we are all in together. The whole world feels much the same today. I suspect that I have had more than my fair share of business stress in the last 30 odd years. And through all of that I have felt quite intensely alone. But here, in this, we are all truly in it together. That’s amazing.

Third, of course, it would be churlish, selfish and pathetic to worry because many people, tens of millions, will suffer far worse than Glen Dye through this and I worry for them, but not for us.

In our own small way, we are helping people. We aren’t building ventilators or scrubs, but we have employed 50 freelance creatives for 50 days -on full pay- to do some amazing work for us. This community is a big one for us; our guests are often in creative industries and our Camps are full of single-person creative operators; both those teaching and those learning. We had 700 applicants for this scheme before we were forced to close it, which shows that there was a need. The work is already appearing, finished and ready to help us to be even better as well as helping those that make it. We are donating free holidays to those who have put themselves in danger to protect us all (and not just the brilliant NHS workers, but shop staff and garage attendants and delivery drivers, too). We have given away 50 free tickets for our festival The Good Life Experience to these workers, too.

This will pass. Maybe -one day soon- we will all be better people in a better world. Whatever else happens, love will spread and Glen Dye will live on.

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Charlie Gladstone and his wife Caroline, are the founders of The Good Life Society (The Good Life Experience, Camp Glen Dye, Camp Hawarden and Some Good Ideas), Pedlars, Hawarden Estate Farm Shops, Glen Dye Cabins & Cottages, The Glynne Arms and more. Throughout all their businesses, Charlie champions integrity and sustainability.

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