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Lisa Knight

When Tony Blair stood down as Prime Minister in 2007, shortly afterwards he also gave up his Sedgefield constituency seat in Parliament. Hugely symbolic to the Labour government, Tony’s former seat had to be regained, and that was our mission.

I volunteered to be the creative machine on the road. I didn’t try hard to pursuade my team to go because I wanted to. Luckily, none of them were keen to be away from London for 6 weeks or so. To me, it was an opportunity – an opportunity to connect and remind myself why I sat at Labour HQ day in, day out – fighting battles in the office, toying with theory, wondering why ‘New Labour’ was new for so long, obsessing over political parties inability to meaningfully connect with the youth of today – In my mind, Sedgefield would bring me closer to what it was all about.

In my new position as Head of Design, this was my first by-election, I was about to experience unimaginable drama and excitement, and be part of a campaign driven by collective passion.
Politics, boring? Not a chance.

The Brand Foundation is a Dubai-based branding agency with partners, associates and support services in the UK, KSA and India. http://www.thebrandfoundation.net

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I have worked in the middle east for 3 years. I arrived just as the global recession started in 2008. I left my job in London as the Head of Design for the UK’s former governing political party (under Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown) to move to Dubai. I was in love with my job, but it was getting frustrating. I needed a change. I was thinking about moving on when I got whacked in the head by a drug-crazed loon in London, so during a week off work, for the first time in a while I had time to think. I updated my CV with one eye closed (literally) and to my surprise got the first job I applied for… and that was the end of that chapter, my romance with London and the love I had for my job was fading – you know that feeling you get when you break up with someone you care about, you know it’s going to hurt but you just have to break away? That’s how it felt.

Gripped with fear, I gave 95% of my belongings away, and headed to Dubai with a single suitcase.
The minute I landed, the panic was gone – this was going to be an incredible adventure. I did underestimate how challenging it would be, but there’s nothing like a sharp learning curve to make you realise that 17 years experience isn’t bad, but another 20 or so would be quite useful.

Whilst in London, I started to develop a passionate interest in architecture and emerging economies, the considerations of which form part of what we do at The Brand Foundation. I am also an expert blogger on all things branding and media for Iraq Business News – I have an empathy towards the people of Iraq and the turbulence they’ve endured at their own and foreign hands.

Dubai was a good choice because of its climate, central location, safety and also because I was interested in its ugly excesses, just how did they come about? It’s ironic, but day in day out we see the fallout of the excesses; the greed, the bad management, lack of long-term planning – all evident in the real estate industry – our business is a part of the clean-up.

People thought I was crazy to open a Dubai-based branding agency that specialised in the real estate industry during the global downturn. For now, I’m happy to be based here and so is the business.

I took my BA at the University of Kent, and although life was fantastic the design modules were what I would call surface-level, more like a HND, but the film and media theory components were interesting, in-depth and challenging. I considered switching from design to full-time cultural studies/film theory, but I realised that what I wanted was a degree that allowed me to apply the theory to my practice – in Kent it was one or the other. I was bored with it and the university was rife with students who were fond of plagiarism – one guy in particular was caught out copying from books on numerous occasions, and still did well – a group of us brought this to the attention of the lecturers, but nothing changed.

Completely uninspired and in need of a change, I interviewed with the University of Portsmouth with a view to returning for my third year, (I’d studied there previously). That was it, I was off! I wrote a goodbye letter to one of Kent’s film theory lecturers who I knew would appreciate my point, and posted it in a foil takeaway carton – I couldn’t exit without getting my dissatisfaction out. It was funny at the time, these days I chuckle about what a typical art student I was.

I knew that by switching degrees I’d lowered my commercial potential – but I didn’t care, I wanted to be challenged and to be experimental not boxed in by grids (literally) or limited by faux client desires – surely that was what one would face in the world of work?

Always passionate about my work, I left with a sense of relief in that sense, but I felt sad too – I’d made some great friends, partied too much, dressed up too much, went strawberry picking at the weekend and ended up lassood around the ankle and tossed in a ditch (by a bolting dog), I played tennis with a county player every morning, I met my first goths, we had a bright orange 60’s sofa which I loved, we pretty much lived next to a pub, I commuted daily from Kent to London on the train for work experience with an agency called Still Waters Run Deep, it was there I took part in the most interesting discussion of my life… it was with the marketing team of a very well-known make-up brand. The agenda: Which pink to go with for the up-coming season’s packaging? I was excited, and all ‘theoried-up’, but it was a huge disappointment… a funny one at that – 3 women from said make-up brand, myself and a senior creative from Still Waters just chatted, or should I say they did, about which pink they did and didn’t like without any rhyme or reason, no rationale or anything. We did some funky bits for MTV and a food supplement for M&S which was OK, but I made a conscious decision there and then that although I had no idea where a more theoretical degree would take me, I just had to do it – I wanted message, linguistics, philosophy, semiotics – I had no interest in pink packaging or flogging toilet paper!

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