Mark Borkowski - Adventures in capitalism
PUBLISHED: 14:18 14 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:37 20 February 2013
Katie Jarvis spends time with Mark Borkowski, the man who believes we should all find our own 'inner maverick', to learn more about his Cotswold life
Adventures in capitalism
Katie Jarvis spends time with Mark Borkowski, the man who believes we should all find our own inner maverick, to learn more about his Cotswold life
Whenever theres a PR crisis from a rollicking royal to a lambasted British broadcaster the media gets on the phone to Mark Borkowski, described by Jeremy Paxman (no less) as the proud inheritor of the Barnum tradition of publicity. A PR supremo, Mark is known for his outrageous stunts gift-wrapping a helicopter, organising the worlds largest custard-pie fight, staging a ballet of remote-controlled vacuum cleaners. But hes also a respected 21st century commentator, and the author of books and articles on the art of public relations.
In his latest venture, Mark is taking to the stage for an autobiographical performance lecture, Adventure Capitalism. Audiences will be treated to tales of a theatre on the back of a bike, runaway taxmen-turned-circus performers, Hitlers nephew, a human exhibit in London Zoo, and a man intent on eating an entire bus: in other words, a rollercoaster ride through the weird and wonderful world of the maverick.
We should not only celebrate mavericks; we should find our own inner maverick, Mark says. If you can just touch on that, life opens up and becomes interesting.
Where do you live and why?
France Lynch, even though I work in London: I could never detach myself from the Stroud area, where I was born and bred. I had a pretty idyllic childhood, and what my show touches on is the importance of knowing who you are. I deal in media and marketing where its easy to get inside a ghetto of reality; to build a hubristic, myopic view of your own self-importance. That meditative journey home, even on a cold and damp night, brings another perspective to life. Perspective is crucial.
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
All my life. I didnt even go away; I always rebounded back! Im a regionalist: I still retain a slight burr in my accent, which makes people curious about where Im from.
Whats your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
Id spend it with the friends Ive known all my life. I met one of them when we were at infant school together. Id start the weekend with an early-morning walk with the dogs down to Chalford Post Office to pick up my papers. I do get stuff on my iPad, but I like the tactile nature of traditional papers. Then Id be off to Stroud Farmers Market to buy Madgetts Farm chicken the best in the world and to chat to the guy on the Hobbs stall, who always seems to know more about what Im doing than I do! Stroud has such an energy and a vibe going on.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
Personally, Id be happy in the middle of nowhere. I used to live in a wood, where youd have to walk 400 yards from the car to the cottage. But its important for my wife, Kate, and the kids to be part of a village and I love where I live at the moment, surrounded by good neighbours and friends.
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
I dont like cities. I dont like crowds. I enjoy culture but Im spoilt by having access to that. I need greenery; I need muddy fields; I need dark skies. I also think theres an arrogance about metropolitan centres and Im not just talking about London: Mancunians, Parisians, folk from Edinburgh. There can be a tendency to think theyre in the most interesting place and, therefore, they must know better. And that isnt true.
Wheres the best pub in the area?
Thats always driven by the best landlord nor will I go anywhere that dogs arent welcome. My favourite pub, without a shadow of a doubt, is Roddas: the Crown & Sceptre at the top of Stroud. Ive known Rodda since I was a kid: he was the exotic character who ran away to run a bar in Amsterdam. He just knows how to create an atmosphere great beer, not particularly good food but not bad, and a great welcome. We used to refer to it as the Frown & Sceptic but hes turned it into a vibrant place with events that range from dog shows to beer festivals.
And the best place to eat?
I have problems with that at the moment. I like the Chefs Table [in Tetbury]; I like Made by Bob in the middle of Cirencester. And I havent been there for a while but I did like Sophies in Minch. I think weve struggled in the last three or four years; a lot of the interesting places have stopped doing good food and you tend to end up at stupidly high-priced restaurants.
What would you do for a special occasion?
The things that make an occasion special are atmosphere, people, sympathetic entertainment and spontaneity. No posturing; never show off. Ive been to too many parties where people try too hard. Workwise, Ive been blessed to be able to go to parties all over the world and Ive had the budget to stage great parties for people. One of the funniest I went to was Fidel Castros Havana Film Festival party, celebrating the life of Leni Riefenstahl. That was most bizarre. Another was a mad party thrown by one of Damien Hirsts collectors, which was wall-to-wall people and conversations. Im a collector of interesting people and conversations.
Whats the best thing about the Cotswolds?
God must have spent a lot of time on the Cotswolds: the beauty of the hills; the changing colours; the trees on a sunny day, on a damp day, on a grey day. Even some of the more industrial parts, towards Gloucester and Sharpness: its all engaging, from chocolate-box to a rougher-round-the-edges feel.
... and the worst?
People who take it for granted.
Which shop could you not live without?
Chalford Post Office a remarkable exercise by remarkable people; Woefuldane with its cheese and cider, and Taylors, the butcher, in Minch both are a case of Do it simply and do it well, which is a lesson in life. And Williams Fish Market and Food Hall in Nailsworth: if I could bottle the personalities of Merle and Sarah, who work there, Id be a billionaire.
Whats the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
The people who surprise me are the ones like Laurence [Llewelyn-Bowen]. When I knew he was coming, I thought, God! But hes become part of the community; he doesnt parade his celebrity; and Jackies lovely as well. Thats in contrast to the interlopers, who see the area as a trophy and excel in driving home the clichs.
What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
Fish from Williams; Madgetts Farm chicken with veg from the farmers market; and cheese from Woefuldane. Im a lazy cook who takes advantage of Kates enthusiasm but I do a mean pheasant stew.
Whats your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
Thats like asking someone to choose their Desert Island Discs. It could be on top of Selsley Common, looking across to the Severn, where I spent a lot of time in my youth; whenever Im there, all those memories come rushing back. And I adore the view from Coaley Peak. Theres a view for every mood, whether a great sweep on a clear day, or watching the rain clouds coming over. The Cotswolds are a living artwork.
Whats your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
You would either say something for the tourist, like Bibury, which is submerged in a sea of coaches and Japanese tourists. Or you name a real village with a real community, such as Chalford or Amberley.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds
Their reputation, which brings in a huge amount of income via tourists.
The fantastic network of footpaths.
And a commitment to being odd and different; to challenge and create things, like rejuvenating Stroud through the farmers market. Like people such as John Marjoram [deputy mayor of Stroud]. Or initiatives like the [Stroud Valleys] Artspace and the Site Festival [a contemporary arts festival in Stroud]. Some of those events in the summer are as good as in any gallery, from Barcelona to Florence.
Whats your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
Gloucester Cathedral. I went to school at St Peters in Gloucester; and, at difficult moments in my life, I found solace in the cathedral. I always marvel at the generations who dedicated their lives to the craftsmanship inside that building. The Church of England, which seems so out of touch, should all spend some time there and listen to the voices of the past; get a sense of what theyre doing. Whether you believe or not doesnt matter. The peace, tranquility, ritual and buildings still have something to say.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
Id never go hunting, shooting or fishing. I respect what people do Im a libertarian but its not for me.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
Many years ago, when I was taking a photograph, I was told by an old guy at the pub, You dont need a camera: youve got one in your brain. Youve got to stare, and then close your eyes like a shutter. If you do that, your memories will stay with you. You also need sound-mnemonics, so Id have a track of birdsong.
Whats the first piece of advice youd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Engage, respect and discover.
And which book should they read?
Theres a very interesting book that summed up, for me, the trapped person trying to get away from the Cotswolds. Called Smallcreeps Day, [by Peter Currell Brown], its centered around Listers [the Dursley factory] in its prime. Theres also Cider with Rosie, of course. I used to go to the Woolpack and talk to Laurie Lee. I do find it amazing that we dont do enough about him. People should treasure the connection.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
Again, this is Desert Island Discs time. I love walking from my house to Slad, down through Bismore; I love walking across the escarpment. But, as a whole, the Cotswold Way is extraordinary. You dont have to do the whole thing but, if you havent through your life walked every section of it, youre missing out.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
Bisley Flower and Produce Show; Bisley well dressing; Tetbury Woolsack Races: traditions that are still alive and powerful. And then you have those events that sum up the creativity: Strouds Site Festival, Cheltenham Literature Festival. Together, they provide tradition and modernity.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
To Laurie Lee and Dale Vince I love a maverick. We should get Damien Hirst as hes done with Ilfracombe to create a union of these two personalities: one of the past and one of the future.
The Cotswolds - aspic or asphalt?
I hate tarmac; I hate the smell of it and what its done. But, there again, Im not into aspic, either. History and the past can be relevant, not just a romantic idea.
What attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
Ken Campbell, the theatre producer. I miss him every day. He was an extraordinary adventurer, who did mad, disruptive things. Ive never met anyone who saw life like Ken.
Mark will be performing his one-man show, Adventure Capitalism: The 20% Maverick Factor, at the Bristol Old Vic on January 15 at 8pm. Visit
www.bristololdvic.org.uk/capitalism.html and borkowski.do for more information.