25th June 2020

Culture / Featured / Maggie Westhead

Maggie Westhead interviews Charlie Gladstone: Some Things I’ve Learned Lately

24 8 mins 1

Infectiously optimistic, buzzing with ideas and passionate about people and the community, Charlie Gladstone chats to Maggie Westhead about some of the good things to have come from the last few months and why he’s looking forward to the future.

Maggie Westhead: How are you feeling right now?

Charlie Gladstone: My attitude is to be reasonably stoic because we are where we are. We can’t control how events happen but we can control how we react to them. I think we’ve enjoyed doing that as a team.

MW: How were you feeling as lockdown approached?

CG: On that Monday evening back in March, when the Prime Minister said ‘stop going to pubs’, I realised what was coming and I made the decision to shut The Glynne Arms before we officially had to. Looking back, I was aware that a lot of our businesses needed a change; that we were stuck in a rut and I can only say that with the benefit of hindsight. 

MW: Tell me how you transformed the Glynne Arms into a temporary community shop?

CG: It’s hard to remember now but when lockdown began, people were completely consumed with fear. Our communities were ghost towns. The elderly were sat at home, terrified. About half an hour after deciding to close the pub, I realised what we could do. We wanted to help people who couldn’t get out; to provide an element of comfort. Within 36 hours of the pub shutting, we had carried all the fridges and stock from the farm shop to the pub. It’s lost us a bit of money but in terms of its connectivity to the community, it’s been really useful. It’s given us some energy and allowed us to keep some people on full time. 

MW: How’s lockdown been for you personally?

CG: We’ve been in Wales for the whole time. We had four of the six children with us. We see a lot of our children anyway but being with them every day for three months every day has been quite magnificent. The only downside is that our granddaughter was born that very Monday we closed the pub. That was a profound difficulty for us. And very difficult for our son and daughter-in-law. 

MW: How have you stayed positive?

CG: Whatever the challenges are, and some of them have been brutal, I can’t see any point in being negative about anything. As a leader, you have to have a stance. Inside you may be going ‘Oh my God, this is an absolute disaster!’ but there’s not a lot of point in overly sharing that. I think there are times when it’s good to not show the fear. The best way I could find to not show the fear was to be really open and creative. One of the great truths in life is that things that seem massive today can seem quite small tomorrow. 

 

There are times when it's good not to show the fear.

Charlie Gladstone

MW: Tell me about some of the new things you’ve been working on?

CG: I’ve worked harder than ever. I’ve done a number of projects I’m really proud of including ‘50/50’ where we got 50 freelancers to do 50 jobs and the work has been superb. We’ve done a series of posters that have raised cash for the National Emergencies Trust and we’ve done free tickets for The Good Life Experience festival (rescheduled for May 2021) for front line workers and we’re doing the same in our Glen Dye holiday cottages, which we’re hoping to reopen in July. It’s given us time to reflect and develop things. I’ve also been on a podcast rampage which I’ve really enjoyed. Caroline has been busier than ever working on the festival and the cottages and redeveloping the menu for the pub.

MW: You have over 120 staff across all the businesses. How have you kept morale up?

CG: I feel responsible for their happiness to an extent and I think the only way has been to try to give them rewarding and enriching work. It’s all about keeping a team engaged and invigorated. If I’ve felt any burden, it’s the burden of making sure people aren’t personally struggling. 

MW: What will we learn from all this?

CG: The one strong feeling I’ve got from this is the only change that we can affect is local and not global. Just try to act on a local scale. Try to remember some of those habits that crept into people’s lives during this which were about supporting local business and being kind to people on a daily basis. If anything has come out of this, it’s just remembering that the local shop that was so useful during the time and maybe that neighbour you didn’t talk to before – not because you didn’t like her but you didn’t know her. It’s about change on a micro scale.

Try to remember some of those habits that crept into people's lives during this time.

Charlie Gladstone

MW: What’s the future?

CG: Niche is the key thing going forward. Not trying to be all things to all people. It’s all about being hyper local, hyper seasonal and hyper niche. I think this has really really accelerated that. With the businesses, we’ve had time to think about why. Why are we doing this? As we move forward we are going to be absolutely focused. 

MW: What have you learned from all this?

CG: That I like people much more than I like money. I realised some time ago that I wasn’t going to be really rich but it never really occurred to me that I liked people so much because I thought everyone did. People are so fundamentally good. My teams have proved themselves over a thousand times. They’ve enjoyed the challenge and I’ve loved working with them through it and that’s been so invigorating for all of us. When we are wheeled down the aisle by people in black suits, it’s not going to be about how rich we are but about legacy and connections. 

People are so fundamentally good.

Charlie Gladstone

MW: Finally, what are you most looking forward to when some normality resumes?

CG: The thing that I miss most of all apart from seeing my grandchild is live music and football. Felix, my youngest son and I went to the last significant game when our team Liverpool played Madrid. I also really miss the idea of travelling. But for me, I really miss going to gigs. I love that communal experience with a few drinks in hand. There’s a profound need for the collective embrace and it’s particularly expressed through football and music. It’s a really tribal thing.

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Maggie Westhead

Maggie Westhead is a freelance journalist and mum-of-three who grew up in south London and Wiltshire. She is equally passionate about city and country life. She has worked for a number of publications including Vogue, ES magazine and Time Out, where she spent ten years as shopping and style editor. Now residing in north London with her husband and kids, but dreaming of a wild life in the west country, she spends time campaigning for cycling infrastructure, taking long walks in the woods and working on various writing projects.

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