Up-cycled plates, bight neon signs against bare brick walls and not a bow tie to be seen; this year’s IMS Dinner was a something of a departure from the usual formal affair, as Jane Walker reports…It was obvious to guests as soon as they entered Maison Bleue at Home in Edinburgh’s West End that this year’s IMS Dinner was rather relaxed; even ICAEW President Nick Parker slipped off his chain of office as soon as he crossed the threshold.
It wasn’t just the opportunity to embrace a more laid back style of event that inspired the dinner planning group – IMS members Bill Grierson, Heather Kheradmand and Caroline Swan – to choose a West End restaurant over a hotel function suite. Maison Bleue at Home was chosen not simply because it was a little bit different, but because it helps make a big difference to people’s lives.
At first glance it may look like a typical contemporary Edinburgh eatery, but a closer look reveals some clues about the ethos – and purpose – behind the restaurant. A back-lit sign dominating one wall encourages diners to “Pay It Forward” whilst cards on each table ask patrons to buy an extra meal or coffee to be enjoyed by a homeless person at a later date.
As part of the Social Bite family, Maison Bleue at Home – as manager Ross Wilson explained in his pre-dinner speech to guests – not only provides meals to homeless people, it also offers them training and employment opportunities.
This relaxed and cozy setting offered guests the chance to connect, chat and catch-up over a welcome drink before taking their seats.
IMS President Neil Strong welcomed guests and speakers, explaining a little about the venue and outlining the programme for the evening. He expressed his pleasure at seeing so many people present, especially the students whose achievements would be recognised later in the evening.
Guest speaker Steve Stewart of Stewart Brewing told the story of his business and the career moves that led him to set up his Edinburgh-based brewery in 2004. He shared the story of how his rebellious streak – and being too young to sneak into the local pub – led him to experimenting with home brewing in his teens before studying his craft at university.
Steve explained how he then spent time making brandy at a Channel Island winery, followed by stints brewing beer in locations as diverse as Boston (USA) and Birmingham (UK) until the death of his brother gave him “the kick up the backside” he needed to go it alone and start his own business.
The dinner – like many events in the IMS calendar – was supported by CABA who had helped fund places at the dinner for students, retired members and those between jobs. But CABA provide members with more than just financial support as CABA Trustee and IMS Committee member, Heather Lamont, explained in a short talk about the charity after dinner.
From counseling services to online resources on topics such as coping with stress and caring for older family members, CABA offer support for members at every stage of their life – and their careers.
ICAEW President Nick Parker was a familiar face to many present – not just because of his role within ICAEW, but because of his time with IMS when he worked in Edinburgh. Looking back fondly on his time in Scotland, Nick said that he had been present at early IMS events and added that he was delighted to see how far things had come since.
Nick went on to talk about the importance of the profession and the role members play within it, explaining that in the UK alone ICAEW chartered accountants advise and support over 2 million businesses. He touched on ICAEW’s vision for the future and how important a strong accountancy profession is in the current climate.
Referring to the venue and the fact that it is a social enterprise, Nick also reminded members that the part they play goes beyond business, “the contribution that our professional makes is much more than economic… we have a social responsibility as well”.
Nick rounded off his speech by presenting students Lauren Cole, Ewan Lamont and Fiona Wilkie with their exam certificates, and awarding a rather surprised Ewan with the trophy for ICAEW Scotland Chartered Accountant of the Year.
The evening concluded with the chance for guest to sample some of the beers made by Stewart Brewing as Steve led an informal tasting session of three of his beers, including Radical Road and First World Problems. Guests were able to chat to Steve about the beers and his business, with many conversations going on long after the evening had formally ended.