Think Differently, Challenge Tradition
The Midtown Big Ideas Exchange is London’s most dynamic series of debates, celebrating the eclectic innovation of Midtown and its people. Bringing together the brightest minds of the moment, this is our space to rebelliously rethink.

Our inspiring speakers are from the worlds of business, architecture, law, technology, journalism, culture and creativity. Each individual brings their own unique perspective to bear on our debates, flooding the floor with ideas, expertise and insight. Together they’re the ultimate hive mind.

The Midtown Big Ideas Exchange is more than a series of events. It’s a platform for us all to voice our thoughts, ideas, aspirations and concerns about the future of our city.

A look back at our 2017/18 Events


25 October 2017
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm


Hosted by Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London, WC1R 4RL


Andrew Fraser

Previously CEO for invest UK, Directore of MCIE plc

Anthony Hilton

Finance Editor and Commentator, Evening Standard

David Noon

Deloitte’s UK & Global Brexit Lead

Kate Maltby

Political and Economic Critic, Columnist and Scholar


Jim Armitage

City Editor, London Evening Standard


We launch with the biggest issue of the moment – Brexit. Looking at the legal, political and financial implications for London-based businesses, how can we navigate this changing landscape? Insightful and positive, our panel of economists and business gurus will advise on how your business can thrive in the post-Brexit economy. With an introduction by Elliot Moss - Partner and Director of Business Development Mishcon de Reya and Chair of Bee London
"This Brexit debate was extremely lively, with well-argued and heartfelt views from what was a largely Remain supporting crowd – typical for London. The highlight for me was Evening Standard business columnist Anthony Hilton’s recommendation to everyone to vote Jeremy Corbyn: not that this ardent capitalist believes in the hard-Left Labour leader, but because he was convinced Corbyn would eventually stop the Brexit proceedings. A radical theory indeed! The packed hall included several erudite Brexiteers who made their points brilliantly, albeit without enough force to sway the majority. All in all, a highly entertaining and informative evening."
Jim Armitage, City Editor, London Evening Standard


The hot topic on the lips of the vast majority of the Great British public was debated at Conway Hall during the first of a series of exciting events from the team behind MidtownLondon last night.

Chaired by Jim Armitage, City Editor of The Evening Standard, and welcomed by Bee London director Elliot Moss, the panel was made up of a strong lineup of business leaders and economic experts. Armitage was joined by journalists Anthony Hilton of the Evening Standard and Kate Maltby whose credits include Spectator, Times and The Financial Times, along with Mitsubishi’s Andrew Fraser (appearing in a personal capacity) and Deloitte’s David Noon.

Armitage headed up the debate by outlining the state of play as it stands in the wake of the referendum: “We are still as far from knowing what Brexit means now as we were on the 23rd June 2016. The UK now has the slowest growing economy in the G7. Inflation is running at 3%. Wages are stagnant. Companies investment intentions is at it’s lowest in years.”

After the panelists all revealed themselves as pro-remain, Anthony Hilton agreed that the Brexit picture isn’t looking too pretty, stating within the first moments of the conversation that he can see “no situation in which Brexit is a good idea”. This seemed to be the wide consensus of both those on the stage and those on the floor.

Andrew Fraser added “if parliament does decide to leave I think it will be dire in its consequences – not just for politics but the country we live in” but stressed that the personal/political divide for MP’s was proving problematic to driving negotiations forward, explaining “senior civil servants are having to negotiate for something they fundamentally disagree with.”

“London has weathered many changes before. We survive extraordinary things” Kate Maltby argued, explaining that whatever the outcome of Brexit, the capital would not be shaken. Adamant that there was very little to be done to stop the process, adding that the only way to “put this on ice” would be a Labour government.

But what for the businesses of London? David Noon explained that his company had been advising businesses to treat Brexit as any other business risk, and added that risk is not an unfamiliar prospect to those most likely to be affected by Brexit. “Business has become a lot more organised around this since the general earlier this year” explained Noon, and stressed that doing nothing was “not an option”.

Noon advised businesses should “Plan for a period of change. If you plan for that then you’re prepared for the position. We’re not advocating for Brexit, we’re just advising people to leave their options open.”

But despite the panel’s advocacy for forward planning and the belief London can weather any storm, if the evening’s poll on whether Brexit would be good or bad for business is believed to be representative of the city’s feelings on the issue, London strongly feels, more so now than at the time of the referendum, that our divorce from the EU will be bad for business.

The event created an engaging and entertaining conversation around what is clearly a thorny issue for many Midtown businesses. Neither the pertinent points from the panel and probing questions from the audience could create a unanimous verdict on London’s future – only the negotiation details can do that – but the panelists all seemed in agreement that London’s future post Brexit is uncertain, but businesses should prepare for the worst, hope for the best and attempt to help shape the results of the Brexit referendum into an outcome which is beneficial for all.

If you missed the debate, you can catch up by watching it on The Evening Standard’s Facebook page.

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29 November 2017
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm


WeWork Waterhouse Square
3 Waterhouse Square
138 Holborn


Patrick Nelson

Executive Vice President of Real Estate for WeWork Europe

Monica Parker

Founder, Hatch Analytics

Alex Hirst

Founder and joint CEO, The Hoxby Collective

Emy Rumble-Mettle

Director of Talent for GroupM UK


Jonathan Prynn

Consumer Business Editor, London Evening Standard


Is the office dead? Are cafes, makerspaces and co-working spaces the new forums for innovation? How will automation, artificial intelligence and the rise of the gig economy affect the places we work and the jobs we do? We look at how the workplace is being revolutionised and the opportunities and challenges for London, and specifically Midtown.
"The debate I chaired on the future of workspace was immensely stimulating and illuminating with strong contributions from a highly knowledgeable panel of speakers as well as many insights from the floor. Perhaps best of all it was great fun."
Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor, London Evening Standard


We’re undoubtedly in the age of flexible working with more people requesting the ability to work from home, with compressed hours or with flexibility for the time they sit at their desk. But what does that mean for the office? And businesses? How can employers respond to the changing needs of the talent they want to attract? We gathered a panel of experts to answer these big questions.

Chaired by Jonathan Prynn, consumer business editor from event partner London Evening Standard, the event was hosted in WeWork Waterhouse Square – a hive of working spaces designed with flexibility in mind. Prynn was joined by a panel of experts with big ideas on the ever changing ways we work – Emy Rumble-Mettle, Director of Talent for GroupM; Alex Hirst, Founder and Joint CEO of The Hoxby Collective; Monica Parker, Founder of Hatch Analysis and Patrick Nelson, Executive Vice President of Real Estate for WeWork Europe.



The evening kicked off with the first big question on the minds of many Midtowners – is the office dead? Jonathan Prynn pointed out that the traditional office often gets a bad rep of being made up of bored people doing boring things in a bad environment, but questioned if there was value in the sense it brings people together.

Monica Parker had a clear answer, commenting “The traditional office is dying. It’s dead, thank god. RIP,” while Patrick Nelson agreed that the traditional ways of working are definitely in decline, but he doesn’t believe the office is entirely extinct. He added “I agree that a lot of office space is a disappointing experience. I think there are a lot of instinctive qualities that the current office environment lacks. If you can create an environment with community, interaction and high energy (which is what we want to do at Wework), that will result in a strong community and a productive environment”, which in turn will benefit businesses, he argued.



And is the next generation of talent looking for flexibility when deciding whether where they want to work? Emy Rumble-Mettle argued it’s not predominantly the “millennials” who are seeking flexible employment. She said “Out of 3000 people questioned in our annual staff survey, 71% wanted to have agile working. But the demographic of the people who wanted it was 40 years+. Those under that age – the millennials – tended to want to be in the office. They want to be with people who drive and inspire them. Younger people want coffee machines, the best sofas, break out areas. The next generation need something that inspires creativity.”

Alex Hirst added that while offices provide that support and opportunity, the main driver for the next generation is technological developments, commenting “I think that as people grow up with tech and get used to living with it, so will they expect that to permeate their work and Employers have a responsibility to make sure their technology reflects workers’ needs.”



Prynn also highlighted another challenge for businesses around the location of offices, commenting that balancing location and proximity to where people live with office functions and tasks, which quickly led to a discussion of presenteeism.

Parker was quick to argue that a long commute is damaging to productivity. She argued “Evidence of presenteeism is killing organisations. The idea that we’re supposed to arrive somewhere and then leave at an slotted time is damaging our productivity. It takes 2 hours to hit productivity baseline after commuting, and you switch off 30 mins before your commute home.”

Unsurprisingly, Hirst, who is the co-founder of a freelance collective agreed, commenting that “The only way to overcome presenteeism is to judge people by what they do, not how or where they do it. That needs a cultural reform in the majority of organisations. If you can judge people on their output, you’re suddenly putting people on a level playing field for work”. He added: “The gig economy allows people to be judged and remunerated for their work, their output”.



True to it’s name, last night’s event was certainly another evening of Big Ideas. The days of the traditional office are definitely behind us – but our panel seemed to agree that there’s still space for “office spaces” in the future of work. It was an insightful and engaging discussion from our panel and audience. The upshot? The world of work is changing. The gig economy might not be taking over, but employers need to be agile and adaptable as we continue to evolve. That’s the only way to attract and retain the talent needed to drive businesses forward in these turbulent times.

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24 January 2018
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm


Pearson College
190 High Holborn
London WC1V 7BH


Sir Vince Cable

Leader of the Liberal Democrat party and MP for Twickenham

Roxanne Stockwell

Principal, Pearson College London

Gillian Nissim

Founder of

Jack Parsons

Digital Entrepreneur

Tim Campbell

Head of Emerging Talent, Alexander Mann Solutions


James Ashton

Business writer, Media consultant


Exploring subjects such as the impact of Brexit on the UK labour force, how employers are managing the widening skills gap, the increase in London’s workforce, the Mayor’s apprenticeship targets, the growth of automation and AI, and whether universities are creating workplace ready graduates.
"London scaled new heights as a world city based on its vast melting pot of talent. Our panel were incredibly positive about the way ahead, exploring how the capital can harness new technology and train the next generation."
James Ashton, Executive Editor, London Evening Standard


Pearson College was the place to be last night as Midtowners gathered for another sold out Big Ideas Exchange exploring the Future of Talent in an uncertain economy. The panel, chaired by former Evening Standard journalist and media consultant James Ashton, saw some of the brightest minds from the worlds of business and politics unpick the key issues facing the UK and Midtowners with regards to incoming talent; including the skills gap, automation, apprenticeships and education.

Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats; Roxanne Stockwell, Principal of Pearson College London; Gillian Nissim, founder of; Jack Parsons, Digital Entrepreneur and Tim Campbell, Head of Emerging Talent at Alexander Mann Solutions, engaged in a lively conversation expressing both excitement and concern for the Future of Talent, as well as providing actions and considerations that are essential for Midtowners to consider as we move through the Digital Age.


Ashton kicked the evening off by firing some stats at the panel. “Unemployment is at a 40 year low” he said “but every industry reports a skills shortage; engineers and surveyors, possibly even journalists!” The panel agreed that perhaps there was indeed a skills shortage, but spiritedly defended their views on why.

Leader of the Lib-Dems, Sir Vince Cable agreed that there is certainly a skills shortage, and argued that there had been for as long as he could remember. He added: “Technology is speeding up, capitals are more mobile but a lot of the problems are still the same. There’s an acute problem in London because the labour market is tight but the biggest skills gap is to be found in the most deprived areas of the country.”

Gillian Nissim, founder of, argued that the skills gap could be filled if more mothers were helped back into work after taking maternity leave, stressing what a huge talent pool these women offer: “These are people who have had years, decades sometimes, of work experience and they aren’t returning to the workplace because they’re not able to balance work and family life. Employers could do a lot more to access that talent pool”, while Tim Campbell, the head of Emerging Talent at Alexander Mann Solutions argued that the issue stems from a misunderstanding of what the world of work is from a young age. He said: “World of work is changing dramatically – it is changing under our feet. I think we have to do much more about articulating that”.



Roxanne Stockwell, principal of Pearson College and our host for the night was the only panel member to really question the existence of the skills gap. She said: “The unemployment rate is very low – I question if there is a skills gap or if there’s not enough people in the workforce,” but argued that there was a disparity between educators and employers on where learning about the world of work should happen. Her solution, and one which was agreed by the panel was that work experience is key for combatting any skills gap that might exist: “The best thing you can do to prepare a student for work is to let them learn on the job.”

The panel agreed that young people weren’t perhaps getting the support they needed to become highly employable candidates, with digital entrepreneur and advocate for young people’s employability Jack Parsons arguing that young people are often pigeon-holed. “Young people don’t know what they don’t know. I believe every young person is employable – we need to educate them further”. He added “If a young persons route into work is university, let them do it. If a young persons route into work is an apprenticeship, let them do it. Too many young people are getting boxed down a road they don’t want to. Why are you sending young people down the fruit hole when they want to go down the sweet hole?”

Campbell agreed that apprenticeships were a good option for young people, describing himself as a “a passionate advocate” of apprenticeships and their opportunities, but Sir Vince Cable argued that there apprenticeships were not accessible enough. He said “If you want to go to university, there’s UCAS. Teachers know how to fill out UCAS forms. If you want to do an apprenticeship what do you do?”



Over the 45 minutes of conversation and the further questions from the floor, the panel unpicked a massive range of issues that are impossible to cover in an 800 word review. Needless to say, if you didn’t make it, you missed out on a tonne of valuable insight. Luckily though, if you weren’t able to join us for this unmissable evening, you can catch the debate on Facebook and let us know your thoughts!

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21 March 2018
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm


Mitsubishi Corporation
71 High Holborn


Steve Woerner

Corporate Comms & Sustainability at Mitsubishi Corporation International (Europe).

Jacques Peretti

Investigative reporter, writer, BBC presenter & documentary producer.

Mike Bonner

Director of Sales & Marketing for Rosewood London.

Nancy Lengthorn

Head of Inclusion, MediaCom.


Will Moore

Arts Editor, The Evening Standard


Is corporate responsibility enough? We take it to the next level and explore how businesses can become truly integrated corporate citizens. As the needs of the UK population change and develop, we look at how the London business community can respond. How can we innovate, adapt and restore confidence in the social and commercial economy?
"The debate, held at the Mitsubishi London headquarters, addressed questions about current corporate responsibility, touching on issues such as the gender pay gap, charity work and environmental concerns. We had a passionate response from the audience who were not afraid to raise challenging questions for the panel."
William Moore, Arts Editor, London Evening Standard


While the Beast from the East may have forced us to postpone last month’s Midtown Big Ideas Exchange, it couldn’t stop us for long. Last night our esteemed panel from the business world gathered to discuss the importance of business values, described by Tass Mavrogordato, CEO of BEE Midtown, as “all the great stuff done alongside business as usual”. Our panel explored what business values really mean to society and whether CSR activity can restore confidence in the commercial economy.


Chair Will Moore, Arts Editor of the Evening Standard was joined by Steve Woerner from Mitsubishi Corp, Nancy Lengthorn from MediaCom, Mike Bonner of Rosewood London and investigative journalist Jacques Peretti. Moore opened the floor to the panel, offering them the opportunity to showcase how their own companies are striving to have a positive impact both at local and international levels.

Woerner shared the ongoing and longstanding commitment Mitsubishi have to the communities they work in, while Nancy explained that a significant amount of her work at MediaCom focuses on “the people inside the building” and how they can be encouraged and supported to make a difference within their communities. Mike added that one of the key priorities for Rosewood was to “be good neighbours to the community” and outlined some of the extensive environmental programmes that Rosewood London run in order to benefit the Midtown neighbourhood and beyond.



The panel all agreed on the importance of upholding positive business values – both as a sustainability exercise and an effort to drive profits. Jacques explained that businesses want to do their part to keep the planet moving forward but stressed this is as much for organisational benefit as it is for more philanthropic reasons, but added “a business that doesn’t have values is a bad business”.

The event aimed to reposition the rhetoric around “evil corporations” and celebrate some of the amazing things that businesses in the Midtown area are integrating into their day-to-day operations. Steve outlined Mitsubishi’s brilliant initiatives with trusted, on the ground NGOs in Africa to contribute to finding solutions for local societal and environmental issues.

Mike explained how integral Rosewood aims to be to the area, once again stressing their desire to become a positive part of the Midtown neighbourhood. He added: “We have a number of environmental programmes running around the hotel. Last year we sent linen to Africa and we recycle all of our paper. All of our food waste is taken off the property and we’ve reduced our food waste dramatically. We have 30k bees in a hive on top of the roof that provide us with honey. We do try to put back into the community. We invest in literacy and help children around the world and in the UK to learn to read and we have a campaign for the local community in our support of Great Ormond Street Hospital”.



Nancy described the work that MediaCom do, particularly relating to diversity, inclusion and authenticity within the workplace, but acknowledged the business benefits: “we know workforces are more effective when they can come to work and be themselves, and we know that it’s important that we as an organisation give back and do things that are morally responsible.” When asked if she believed that companies have a duty to make their employees good citizens she added “You can’t force people to be “good citizens”, it would be a waste of time, but people largely want to give back – most people will walk towards the opportunity to be a good citizen”.

As the discussion was opened to the floor, one audience member suggested that “intention is good but execution is flawed” with Nancy agreeing that there is always more to be done by big corporations. Jacques stressed that “CSR has now become integral to business, rather than an add on they have to pay lip service to”, and explained “the hopeful part of me thinks there’s a business reason to get us out of this mess. That makes me hopeful as opposed to despairing.”

It was a night of interesting analysis from both the panel and the audience, as well as proof that the Midtown Big Ideas Exchange is an unmissable opportunity for both businesses and individuals to join in the conversations that matter to Midtown.

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14 March 2018
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm


18 Clerkenwell Green


Georgia LA

Journalist and influencer, Google

James McClure

GM Northern Europe, Airbnb

Lee Mallett

Director, Urbik

Maribel Mantecon

Associate, CZWG Architects LLP

Martyn Saunders

Regeneration and Spatial Planning Director, GVA


Oli Barrett

Social Influencer and Director of The Connector Unit


How is London adapting for the future? With demand for extra office space, new homes and the advent of new infrastructure such as Crossrail, we take a look at how London is changing to meet these needs and specifically how EC1 and WC1 has become the best connected postcodes, in terms of quality of life.


What are the good parts and the inevitable downsides of living in a sprawling metropolis like London? With London soon set to become a megacity, what challenges lie ahead for residents and businesses? Our panel of experts last night came from diverse professional backgrounds and lent their unique perspectives to different angles of the question, from transport, infrastructure and housing, to culture and professional life.

Oli Barrett, who chaired the panel, is director of the Connector Unit – a professional connection-making service of which he’s the founder. As someone whose speciality is building bridges between people, he was the perfect moderator for a debate that held contrasting and contentious views.



The discussion started with panellists thinking about changes they have observed in London and what this might mean for the future. James McClure, director of Airbnb Europe, used his business stats to provide some initial insight. London, he posited, is no longer internationally famous simply for its Royal Family and historic value, although these are still powerful drivers.

More interestingly, it’s London’s lifestyle that is creating interest for visitors – less Buckingham Palace, more perfect flat whites, great independent retailers, and quirky neighbourhoods. James felt that return visitors from outside the UK were increasingly interested in staying in, and discovering, outer boroughs such as Walthamstow, where the William Morris museum is both a source of local pride and an alternative destination within London.



Maribel Mantecon, Associate at CZWG Architects in Midtown, said that over her years in London she’s noticed it slowly but surely become less car-dependent. Whether it’s the pedestrianisation of smaller high streets or the construction of cycle superhighways or even increased public transportation infrastructure and Santander bikes – shifting the balance away from cars has improved the habitat for everyone. The panellists agreed that the increased availability of autonomous (driverless) vehicles would have an interesting but as-of-yet unpredictable impact on London’s landscape.

Martyn Saunders, Director at GVA and specialist in urban regeneration, pointed out an interesting tension between the regeneration of outer boroughs, which are less well served by public transport, and independence from vehicles within London. The risk, he said, was the further out in London you lived, the more car-dependent you became.

However, as he later pointed out, ambitious infrastructure can completely transform a derelict neighbourhood. In response to the housing crisis, Martyn said: “When you look around London there is plenty of land. All of this comes back to unlocking the potential of land. But places like Thamesmead are still completely inaccessible to mass public transport.”



One big trend Martyn considers to be a challenge for the future is how developers have been flipping employment land into housing. An understandable response to the housing shortage, he said it is clearly unsustainable for London in terms of having jobs and workspaces. He believes the future needs to be about having a diverse range of things happening in one particular development, be that studio, retail or industrial space existing alongside flats.

London isn’t just an ideas economy, Martyn reminded us: there’s a lot of manufacturing in the city and we continue to need places for businesses that aren’t just an office environment – for people, as Martyn put it, “to make stuff”.

Lee Mallett, the editor of several planning publications and the founder of Urbik, largely disagreed. He felt that the challenge to affordable housing within London was a lack of land available for development, full stop. “The housing market has been described as broken,” he said, “but I don’t agree with that…. The housing market is what it is”. To politicians, he said: “Expect to be unelected if you don’t do anything about this anytime soon.”



Georgia LA, a journalist, AI writer, native Londoner, and the panel’s millennial voice, said that she thought the most inspiring thing in London for young people is simply the wealth of opportunity. For example, she pointed out that London has plenty of cheap or free employment and vocational training – she herself found a broadcast course that kickstarted her career. She also thinks that London is unique in how it caters to every niche: from music to food to exercise to art.

The challenge, as she sees it, for the future, is that millennials are struggling to afford the property market. As she put it, “I keep coming back to the idea of financial freedom… financial freedom breeds creativity. When you’re not worrying about making the rent every month, you can start your own business, you can make art”. For that reason, she said, many of the young people she knows are finding places outside London an enticing proposition. “If you want to start a family, she said, it’s just not sustainable.”

Many questions and comments by the audience were unsurprisingly about the housing shortage. One of the most memorable contributions came from a man who commented: “I moved to the South Bank 15 years ago and was mocked mercilessly, London cabs wouldn’t even go there…look at it now. London was borne out of multiculturalism. We need to value is everything the city gives us above and beyond money”.

The discussion concluded with many questions about the future unanswered, but also thoughts on the past – whatever is in store for us Londoners, this global capital has always been and certainly will continue to be, a landscape of opportunity, innovation, and continual reinvention for individuals and businesses alike.

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