Ladies and gentlemen, apologies for interrupting your conversations. For those familiar with Formula One just think of this as the moment when the safety care has deployed.
Not, I hasten to add, because there has been an accident or an incidence of dangerous networking, but more in order to bunch you all up a bit, and set up an exciting second half of the evening, or perhaps even a race for the finish.
Anyway that’s enough of the tortuous F1 analogies.
If you’ll permit me let me just say a very few words about why we are so pleased to bring you here this evening. And there are three things I would like to touch on.
The first is my Government’s GREAT campaign, which you will see features prominently in various locations around the house and indeed you will have seen on previous occasions.
The GREAT Britain campaign is the Government’s most ambitious international marketing campaign ever. On the one hand it’s about soft power, creating a positive, warm, persuasive approach to our international engagement by showcasing the very best of what Britain has to offer.
It grew out of the wonderful year that we had in 2012 when we hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games and celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen.
The aim was to capture that sense of buzz, and of achievement, a moment when the UK put itself on the global stage and told the world they were invited to visit….and they did!
But it’s not just about creating a warm glow because there is also a practical, commercial aspect to it as well. In short it is about encouraging the world to visit, study and do business with the UK.
I noted to colleagues in London at the end of 2012 that as well as being great fun what the Olympics had shown is that we could deliver world class infrastructure and the greatest show on earth, on time and to budget, building on our heritage but also showing off a modern, cutting-edge, knowledge-based economy.
Which is why we now use the GREAT campaign as a key part of the Government’s industrial strategy, and our determination to win in what the Prime Minister has called the ‘global race for growth’.
The second thing I want to touch on is Formula 1 racing. It’s a global sport. It is a brilliant story of world-leading innovation and creativity, technology and entrepreneurial spirit.
It is a story that is told all over the world to an audience of billions, indeed motorsport as a whole is the world’s most watched television sport.
But while some of the team names and drivers hail from beyond the shores of Britain – think Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes, or of Senna, Schumacher, Lauda or Prost, there’s an undeniable umbilical connection between Formula 1 and the UK.
16 of the 22 cars on this year’s grid are made in “Motorsport Valley”, a 100-mile crescent stretching from Surrey to East Anglia via Oxfordshire
75% of global motorsport R&D takes place in the UK. 3,500 SMEs in Motorsport Valley employ 40,000 people, all working in cutting edge, high tech sectors, again at the heart of the modern knowledge based economy that we are seeking to build.
And so, of course, is Singapore which is why Formula 1 is such a good fit for this wonderful country.
And one can almost imagine the meeting when they made their pitch
We want to bring the Grand Prix back to Singapore…ok…there’s a bit of a queue….
We’ll do it as a street circuit…ok, not new, you’ve heard of Monaco I take it?
We’ll do it anti-clockwise…interesting, so are a few others
We’ll do it at night…! Excuse me??
And they did just that. And it’s back this weekend, may the best man win, especially if he’s called Lewis…
Third, and finally, this evening we celebrate Formula 1 and some of the most famous names in the sport, through some remarkably creative, and innovative, pieces of art.
James Walton and his wife Esther at Icon Gallery have always represented a variety of British artists here, and tonight we launch SPEED, a unique exhibition of Formula One art, race-used product and memorabilia.
I’m absolutely delighted that two of the artists, Nikki Douthwaite and Paul Oz, were able to fly in from the UK to join us.
Both artists are huge F1 fans and have produced the stunning portraits you see on the walls this evening.
Nikki spends hours painstakingly gluing thousands of hole-punched paper dots to create her breathtaking collages and Paul creates fantastic ‘explosive’ oil paintings bringing legends of the sport to life.
Please take the chance to talk to them this evening, and then tell all your friends and contacts to go and see the exhibition at Icon Gallery on River Valley Road from tomorrow morning, where it will run until mid October.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Singapore is a global partner for the UK in trade, investment, science and innovation. It sits at the heart of the SE Asian regional economy and as such is the perfect venue for us to engage our friends in business, media and the broader community to showcase Britain through the prism of Formula One.
That, with Paul and Nikki’s works to give us a truly unique context, is why we are here tonight. I hope you will enjoy the rest of the evening.