BIF Buxton International Festival

Counting down to Countdown host’s arrival

Buxton International Festival is counting down to November 24 when Nick Hewer, star of TV’s Countdown and The Apprentice, comes to the Pavilion Arts Centre to talk about the ups and spectacular downs of British celebrity life.

Business expert Nick will provide the finale to the Festival’s Book Weekend with behind-the-scenes tales about working with his friend Lord Alan Sugar, whose invitation to join him on The Apprentice took his life in a new direction with a career in television.

Called in true Countdown style My Alphabet: A Life From A to Z, Nick’s book covers running his own highly successful PR company, working for Amstrad and travelling the world from Mongolia to Sierra Leone.

A, obviously, is for Apprentice, but he has a cautionary tale to tell of F for fame. Not only does he expect his own career to end at Z for Z-list celebrity, but he writes of how often the mighty soon become the fallen.

“Through Alan and The Apprentice I got to meet interesting, sometimes extraordinary people,” he said.

“Many were iconic figures, but strangely almost all fell from grace in short order soon after I met them.”

Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair ceased to be a “blazing light”; media baron Rupert Murdoch fell heavily to earth after the phone hacking scandal involving his News of the World paper, and Sir Philip Green of BHS infamy became Sir Shifty in the eyes of the public after his former staff lost their pensions.

“Alistair Campbell, whom I always rather liked, was unable to shake off the taint of Tony Blair’s idiotic and illegal war in Iraq,” said Nick.

And he described former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan as the “big bad boy of the British tabloid media, always poised for another piece of disastrous judgement, while at the same time taking on brave and decent fights like his unpopular US gun control campaign.”

Now Nick is now on the campaign trail himself, trying to make real-life business in the developing world pay for everyone involved, from the boss right down to the apprentices.

Appointed the new patron of the Fairtrade Foundation at the beginning of October, he wants to ensure that suppliers get a decent return for their goods.

“Like many people, my first experience of Fairtrade was as a consumer, picking up my bananas and coffee with that iconic mark on,” he said.

“But buying a Fairtrade product gives you only half the story. It’s only when you meet the farmers, and talk to them about their experiences that you fully appreciate the importance of what Fairtrade does.

“I hope that I can help encourage people to continue to carry the ethos of Fairtrade forward in the future and play their part in making fairness in trade the norm rather than the exception.”

l My Alphabet: A Life From A to Z: Nick Hewer, 7.30pm in the Pavilion Arts Centre, November 24.

Buxton Book Weekend events are on November 23 and 24. Authors taking part include former Home Secretary Alan Johnson on the pop music which became the soundtrack to his life; Richard Van Emden on the final year of the First World War; Peter Moore discusses how Captain Cook’s ship The Endeavour changed the world; Kate Hubbard shows how Bess of Hardwick used four marriages to become one of the most powerful women in English history; Adrian Tinniswood on the domestic history of the royal household; and the host of Countdown, Nick Hewer,  on a life which took him from the boardroom to TV stardom.

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