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What are the Constituents of Success?
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What are the Constituents of Success?

2nd Dec 2015


Jonathon Poyner, Strategic Director at Wales Millennium Centre

Is it as simple as making a good cawl?

The Queen has awarded Wales Millennium Centre the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.

The Centre is only ten years old this year. So what has contributed to the level of public recognition this Welsh institution has gained in a relatively short period of time? What are the secret ingredients? Is there a recipe for success that others might follow?

From its very inception, the Centre was a big idea. Great people, visionaries, saw the need for a world class building that would serve as the focus – the cauldron if you like – for Welsh culture. Initially a home for our internationally renowned opera company, WNO, the addition of our residents has seen the Centre grow into a truly creative hub and centre for cultural excellence. I have seen documents going back to the sixties and seventies describing a visionary and inspiring place. But that was in the days before plans and funds existed for the redevelopment of the Bay. These were the base ingredients, however, the initial building blocks in the development of the Centre; enabling circumstances (land and money in this case), big ideas, and bold determined visionaries.

It was with the arrival of the Assembly, our own identity, and a renewed confidence in what it means to be Welsh and live in Wales, that gave the heat necessary for our creating. We are British, and proud, but, as the old saying goes, ‘to be born Welsh is to be born privileged; not with a silver spoon in your mouth, but with music in your heart and poetry in your soul’. Those brave people, grappling with the levers of the new processes of power, believed in what the Centre could mean to a ‘new’ nation. They added further ingredients; bravery, placing culture at the heart of a nation.

So, the time and the place, the vision, the people, the funding, and the political will were right. What then? Well, as with all recipes, you need something to put the ingredients in – a cauldron – as the now famous (dare I say ‘iconic’?) inscription on the front of the Centre tells us. The people of Wales got a world class building, their own cauldron. Jonathan Adams, Arup, SRM, the men and women who toiled on site for many years, overseen and supported by politicians, civil servants, Arts Council Wales, and our own on site and office team, all ensured that it was so. More ingredients, world class ingredients: world class design and the engineers and builders, contractors and staff, all with belief in the vision.

Next you need a sustainable business model. You need to aspire to do great things, to make a difference. However, if your books don’t balance, you won’t be doing so for long. You also need to be mindful of the environment, and not waste finite and hard gained resources. You need to endeavour to reinvest savings back into the community, the social fabric of the society. These are the next ingredients – the social, financial and environmental aspects of the business – added in careful balance, because as every good chef knows, too much of any one ingredient will spoil the flavour of the cawl!

But there’s still one ingredient missing, the vital ingredient, and that is world class people; people who work as a team, people who believe, people who care, people who have pride in what they do.

Is that it? Not quite – just as salt and pepper bring out the flavours of the cawl, and with it all the care, time, attention, and effort that has gone in to its making, The Queens Award adds a similar distinction, bringing to the fore all these qualities, all these ingredients, that have made the Centre what it is today.

And so, on behalf of all those who work at the Centre, and who have contributed to its success over the ten to fifteen years of its development, thank you, Your Majesty. Ma’am, you make a great cawl!

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Jonathon Poyner, Strategic Director at Wales Millennium Centre

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