Outward Looking – Contact magazine

With an active External Relations initiative, Chamber has a busy few years ahead and Industry Group Lead David Ummels is at the heart of that activity

As an organisation that fervently believes in living its mantra of working hard to raise the island’s profile on the world stage, Chamber is strongly committed to a programme of external relations. 

In a world in which broad connections play an ever-stronger role, the organisation recognises that it needs to have a strong outward-looking perspective to be able to represent its members in our global world of business and encourage the acquisition of new clients and firms through a raft of different initiatives.

David Ummels as Head of External Relations, sees cultural diplomacy as central to the overall strategy for Chamber and its members. ‘Community values, integrity, historical links and the beauty of our landscape here all lend themselves well to promoting the island, particularly on an artistic and cultural level,’ he said. Chamber works in parallel with his other passion, Art for Guernsey, and he is says the remit of the two groups are a natural fit. ‘

Chamber promotes lateral thinking and creativity at the heart of its activities and is interested in building bridges with different jurisdictions so there is some fantastic common ground.’ (Art for Guernsey is featured in pages 70&71 of Contact).

High level engagement is planned for coming years, partly linked to the island hosting Art for Guernsey’s unique, global level exhibition of the work of Renoir. The collaboration includes Giverny Museum and will be collated by Cyril Sciama who is head of the Musee des Impressionnisms and acclaimed as one of the most exciting curators around today.

David points out that cultural diplomacy enables conversations around a whole range of linked topics: ‘It includes everything from transport connections to tourism and shipments. We are approaching this as a type of “mini summit” and it will involve very positive engagement.’

Belgian-born, he has a natural empathy with Europe and found it intriguing that Guernsey tended to look towards the UK ‘rather than in the other direction where there are 300 million people’. The potential around developing economic and cultural relations excites him as community key enablers. ‘Conversations around all of this can also cover such things as air links and even the second electricity cable which we want to link to France. It is limitless.’

The International Guernsey Renoir Exhibition in 2023 is an Art for Guernsey initiative and the registered not for profit will allow Chamber members and guests to enjoy a champagne reception specifically for the business organisation. 

David and Chamber also deal with the CI team at the Bureau Isles Anglo Normandes and are in contact with the Transmanche Development Group. 

A recent online meeting involving Chamber and David brought together various Chambers of Commerce, business development groups, management companies running ports and airports in France and the Solent, plus the British Embassy, The Cross Channel Institute, the British Council, the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the British Ambassador to UNESCO (and deputy head of the British Embassy, Paris) and Paul Taylor Chief Operations Officer at the Department of Trade.

David sees France as a natural partner for the island with social, historical and family links. ‘We are very aligned’. 

Chamber’s external relations are not limited to France, however, because there are also active connections beyond that country. Representatives have an ongoing relationship with the Czech Republic and were guests of the London Ambassador at the Republic’s Velvet Freedom Ball having previously hosted him here. 

Future plans include arranging for a Guernsey delegation to visit Prague and for a film made by Art for Guernsey to be screened there.  David explained that Art for Guernsey was told by the Czech Ambassador to London that a renowned Czech pilot was shot down near the island while flying with the RAF in the Second World War. AfG commissioned research around that fatal incident and commissioned a portrait of him created by local artist Sally Ede Golightly.

Occupation Museum owner Richard Heaume assisted and a piece of the pilot’s Spitfire was found in the archives, together with notes in his own hand. A film based on the events and his life has been created by AfG and will be shown in Prague and at the British Embassy.

Discussion is also ongoing about Guernsey lending the Czech Republic the privately-acquired Renoir with its view of Moulin Huet and the Republic will be sending two of its well know national artists to paint in the island and, particularly, the “valley of light” which has inspired so many artists over the centuries.

Also on the global stage, Chamber has supported Art for Guernsey’s events and initiatives as part of which local artist Frances Lemmon went to Costa Rica to highlight the strong links created by William Le Lacheur when he sailed from Guernsey in a locally built vessel to many parts of the world through his involvement with the coffee trade in the mid 1800s. He is also credited with having introduced football to the region. Le Lacheur is revered in Costa Rica, featuring on stamps and bank notes for helping to transform the country from the poorest in Central America to the wealthiest in less than a quarter of a century. 

Costa Rica sent representatives here to view Frances’ exhibition and Art for Guernsey organised extensive engagement with schools as part of this link, culminating in the design and printing of football shirts by Guernsey schoolchildren.

Chamber has already benefited from the linking together of businesses and cultural organisations from the US to the planned Freeport organisers in Poole and many parts of the globe in-between. The organisation, under David’s leadership for External Affairs, will continue to identify business opportunities for the island, to the benefit of our community as a whole.For further information on this topic, please email office@guernseychamber.com or hello@artforguernsey.com

To view the full article, please click here and view page 96-97

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