John Flamson - Oration
Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting John Flamson for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
John Robert Flamson was born and raised in the Dingle, the son of Bill, a Yorkshire-born seaman and Gert Flamson. The Dingle’s strong sense of community values has stayed with him. John remembers the Dingle as having a creative feel and as a schoolboy he ran not only South Hill FC but also a poetry magazine – activities which tell you something about John Flamson the man.
After Park Hill Road CPS, John attended John Hamilton HS in Everton, a school which brought protestants and catholics together, espousing values such as honour, integrity, and respect for oneself and others. There he flourished, doing well academically but also developing leadership skills and becoming Head Boy.
After A Levels, John progressed to the University of Liverpool, gaining a BA (Hons) in Geography in 1973 and a Masters degree in Civic Design in 1975.
He started his professional life as a town planner with West Lancashire District Council in 1975, gaining a comprehensive grounding in statutory and forward planning, before returning to Liverpool in 1979 at a time, he recalls, when Liverpool’s economy “was in the grip of market failure. There were swathes of dereliction throughout the City and once grand buildings stood empty”. After a brief period as a senior planner with Merseyside County Council, John became a principal planning officer with Liverpool City Council in 1979, leading regeneration initiatives such as the highly regarded Wavertree Technology Park.
In 1984, the year John identifies as signalling the revival of the city with the opening of the International Garden Festival, he joined Merseyside Development Corporation, and by 1987, was the Chief Planner, playing a key role in the transformation of the Liverpool and Wirral waterfronts and helping improve Liverpool’s image at a politically turbulent time for the city. Then he was known as the ‘Cappuccino Kid’ because he kept talking about how the city would have a café society, which sounded ridiculously optimistic in those dark days.
In 1992, John became chief executive of Liverpool City Challenge which was part of a network of regeneration initiatives established by the government throughout England. Under John’s leadership, Liverpool City Challenge was a success, inspiring greater partnership working and a sharper understanding of the holistic nature of urban regeneration. John applied the lessons learned when he became chief executive of Wigan Borough Partnership in 1996, transforming it into a nationally recognised model of excellence in terms of business competitiveness, skills training, and investment profile.
In 2000, he was appointed European Director of Government Office North West, also known as “Merseyside’s Mr Objective One”. From his base in the Cunard Building, he repositioned the European Objective One programme and strategically invested much of the €1.3 Bn budget to the lasting benefit of Liverpool City-Region. Crucially, the strategy was not simply to spend the money to satisfy bureaucrats in Brussels, but to make investments that would change lives. Lives have indeed been changed, the economy invigorated, and John is entitled to huge credit for the fact that Merseyside would now no longer qualify for Objective One status. In 2005, he became Deputy Regional Director of GONW with lead responsibility for Merseyside. At this time, he made a significant contribution to government thinking on the strategic purpose of the regional offices, and helping GONW position itself as “Whitehall in the region”.
John Flamson recognises that despite the massive improvements in the local economy through investment in physical infrastructure, the economy is not yet as robust as it should be. There now needs to be more emphasis on business competitiveness and continuing skills development to meet the challenges of the underlying economy. These sentiments resonate well with his current appointment as Director of Partnerships and Innovation at the University of Liverpool with a remit covering international relations, regional development and championing of the knowledge exchange agenda.
He sees graduate retention as one of the main challenges facing Liverpool. As he says, "We don’t have a problem creating graduates. Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University together produce 15,000 of some of the finest new graduates and post graduates in this country every year. Does the local economy create enough opportunities to keep them? No!"
Not surprisingly then, John is heavily involved in developing the regional employment and skills strategies, with a focus on the creative and digital industries, life sciences, manufacturing and the professional and business services sector. And he is a strong advocate of Liverpool Science Park, a world-class centre for the development of knowledge enterprise and whose key partners are LJMU, the University of Liverpool and the City Council.
His reputation and wide-ranging networks have led to many appointments:
His current positions include:
- Board Director, Liverpool Science Park
- Board member of Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts
- Board director of Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
- Bishop’s Adviser to the C of E on the appointment of clergy
- Chair of the Alumni Board of the University of Liverpool, and
- Board member, the Reader Organisation
Previously, his appointments have included:
- Trustee of Weston Spirit
- Member of the North West Regional Assembly
- NW representative on TEC National Council’s Economic Regeneration Policy Committee
- Member of the Merseyside Entrepreneurship Commission,
In one newspaper interview, John described his fellow Liverpudlians as witty, passionate, warm-hearted and edgy. John himself could only be described as ‘edgy’ when turning out for Convocation Football Club, as he has done for the past 33 years. Later this summer, he will be on tour with the team in Slovakia, playing wide midfield and making up for his lack of pace with an expert reading of the game. Given the annual speculation about his retirement, he is now known by team mates as‘One More Season’ Flamson.
The other adjectives – witty, passionate and warm-hearted - perfectly apply to John Flamson, this talented Liverpudlian who still lives in South Liverpool just over a mile from the Dingle where he grew up. As he has done for most of his career, he continues to make an outstanding contribution to the economic regeneration of this city. This strategic thinker, this inspired manager of change, this team player and leader, this excellent communicator and ambassador is most worthy of an honour today.
Thus I have great pleasure in presenting John Flamson, this most distinguished son of our city, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.
Prof Frank Sanderson
Monday 11 July 2011