One year ago today, event industry Legend, Arthur Somerset suddenly and tragically died. At the time, I, like everyone else who knew him, was totally shocked. There was a palpable sense throughout the industry of ‘What are we going to do without Arthur’?
In an attempt to make sense of it all, I wrote the following unofficial Eulogy, which is a stream of consciousness and entirely from my perspective. I was amazed by how many people read it (and seemed to like it) at the time, including Tanya Somerset, Arthur’s amazing wife who also happens to be somewhat of an industry legend – although a much prettier one!
Anyway, for anyone who didn’t see it first time round, or perhaps didn’t even know Arthur, here it is – hopefully you’ll feel it’s worth a read one year on...
Sir Arthur of Somerset!
Flamboyant, eccentric, effervescent, loud, creative, articulate, talented, hilarious, gloriously obnoxious and (much of the time) purple! If I'd heard those words at any stage since 2001 it would have meant only one thing to me. Arthur.
There's an urban myth (that only I seem to know, so I probably dreamt it!) whereby Arthur visited China to speak at an early ISES event. Unfortunately he'd not only ended up on the wrong conference, but he'd found himself on the wrong Continent. For this was indeed ISES - the “International Solar Energy Society”! Realising the error, Arthur, not to miss an opportunity, addressed a baffled audience anyway! Needless to say, it was the best party they’d ever had (although I'm not sure solar energy had a vintage year!) Surely this story can't be true? But the fact that I'm not entirely sure speaks volumes about Arthur.
And yet, despite these all encompassing, unequalled, larger than life and unmissable characteristics, Arthur was quite enigmatic because, above all, he was mostly two other, quite different, things.
Kind and modest.
From the very early days of my career in this industry, Arthur treated me as if I had been around forever. He took me under his wing for no apparent gain or reason and became, ironically, my voice of reason. This continued and not long ago he invited me to lunch (in a remote spot that not even a sat nav had heard of, of course) and proceeded to tell me that although much of what I was planning was 'a bit shit', with a few tweaks it could be something huge. He also had highly specific brilliant ideas too. He would never let me forget that it was he who came up with the name of our 'Who's in the Room' initiative! Which I quickly Trademarked. Although, as you might expect, his was altogether more ‘hip’ and called “Who’s in da House!”
He was also a real life aristocrat, yet he let the world believe that he was just a lot like one! And he never traded on it. Perhaps if he'd unleashed this on the Americans instead of bread rolls at all those gala dinners he would have, by now, been crowned King Arthur of ISES (though not the solar energy one!). In reality, I think he was set to be a Baron. Lord Raglan to be more precise and it was his ancestor who led the British Army at the time of the Charge of the Light Brigade. God, if that was my lineage you would have all heard about it (a lot!).
And so, it's all the more difficult to comprehend when this happens to someone so seemingly invincible. It's so hard to imagine life without him. So perhaps we don't need to think of it like that?
Personally, I don't like the concept of the whole RIP thing. I don't imagine Arthur will want to rest for long anyway. There's plenty for him to be getting on with and, like all great people, Arthur will always be around. He lives on through his influence on so many of us as well as his pioneering and boundary-pushing business ideas. He also lives on through his children who, I'm sure, will go on to achieve great things just like all the Somersets have always done....
I guess all I'm trying to say is, like the British Empire he so brilliantly represented, the sun will never set on Arthur Somerset!