Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the U.S., underscored the deeply rooted ties binding the state of Georgia with the United Kingdom during a reception held at the residence of Consul General Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford the evening of Aug. 21, the ambassador’s first of a two day visit in Atlanta.
He recounted highlights of his day’s activities to members of the British American Business Council of Georgia and guests including a brief overview of the career of King George II after whom the state of Georgia is named and provided some guarded insights into the latest movie being filmed at the British-owned Pinewood Studios in Peachtree City.
While he said that the studio reps were unwilling to make public the name of the film, they did not hesitate to tell him that it would cost $1 billion, the largest sum ever spent on a film, which is to be about one of the Marvel comic book super heroes.
After alluding to the presence of a West End in London and in Atlanta where both cities have streets named Whitehall — though different in scale — he remarked much to the delight of the attendees that he had it on good authority Queen Elizabeth’s favorite drink is Coca-Cola, but that she remained challenged to acquire its secret formula.
He also noted the first performance of the English punk rock band the Sex Pistols took place in Atlanta, adding that if the debut performance had occurred in the U.K. the event would continue to be widely publicized and commemorated with a large plaque. “I wish I had been there,” he added.
In addition to Pinewood Studios, Sir Kim’s two-day stay included visits with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and tours of the home on Auburn Street where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and lived his first 12 years, and the MLK Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
He also visited the SimTigrate Design Lab at the Georgia Institute for Technology to participate in “the donning and doffing” of HPPE (highly protective personal equipment) hazmat suits, which provide protection from infectious diseases.
While his remarks at the reception were generally light hearted at the end of a busy day, there is no doubt that he has dealt with some of the most challenging geopolitical concerns that the world currently faces, and made it clear that a strong union between the U.S. and the U.K. is the best way to deal with them.
Prior to assuming his ambassadorial post in January 2016, he served as the Prime Minister’s national security adviser embroiled in issues such as the rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, Russian aggression in the Ukraine, the nuclear threat from Iran and the collapse of government authority in Libya.
Earlier in this career, Sir Kim served in Brussels as the U.K. Permanent Representative to the European Union from 2007 to 2011, representing the U.K.’s interests in areas such as enlargement, the aftermath of the financial crisis, and the issues around European integration. From 2004 to 2007, he served as EU adviser to the prime minister and head of the Cabinet Office European Secretariat.
Alluding to his many years of service to pro-EU prime ministers, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, he was able to make light at the reception of that experience, asking rhetorically, “That went well didn’t it?”
After drawing a laugh, he made it clear that he supported last year’s “remain” vote that is responsible for its leaving the EU and making him responsible for supporting the U.K.’s new agenda of becoming an even “more global Britain — one that intends to expand its trade links with communities like Atlanta and the rest of the world.”
Calling business “the bedrock” of the U.K.-Atlanta relationship and acknowledging the U.K.’s momentum towards founding new trading relations around the world, he nevertheless let his Scottish roots be slightly exposed when his thoughts came to single malt whiskey.
Invited by Mr. Pilmore-Bedford to taste a Newcastle brand, he commented that in view of his origins, since he was born on the Scottish island of Jura, a manufacturer of a well-known whiskey, fairly close to Newcastle, he felt compelled to acknowledge his preference for Scottish single malts.
But he further confessed that he felt slightly embarrassed by his rejection of the native Jura brand in favor of Balvenie, another Scottish brand, which he claimed was his favorite. As if to excuse his rejections of the Newcastle whiskey — after all his mission was to highlight the positive Atlanta-Newcastle sister city tie — and his birthplace, he said that Balvenie managed annual sales of $6 billion, which appeared to soothe his conscious.
Again with his penchant for praising business success, he praised Atlanta and the Southeast for its “wealth creation” in recent decades, calling it an economic Renaissance ushered in by deregulation, innovation, technology and government policies that prioritize and support business development — all of which he said he favored.
He noted the business ties linking Georgia with the U.K. including firms such as the InterContinental Hotels Group, which has its North American headquarters in Atlanta, SAGE plc, AMEC plc, Worldpay, Meggitt plc, JCB, which has its North American headquarters in Savannah, Gleeds, Mace Macro and Triumph Motorcycles, which he called “those extraordinary cool machines,” including the pair on view at the entryway to the consul general’s residence.
He also noted that United Parcel Service Inc. was celebrating its 110th anniversary and thanked representatives for forsaking celebrations that evening at company headquarters to attend the consul general’s reception.
Nor did he fail to mention that the U.K. is Georgia’s 4th largest trading partner with bilateral trade worth close to $4 billion with 284 British companies established in the state accounting for 60,000 jobs.
And he did honor the relationship between Atlanta and its sister city, Newcastle upon Tyne, where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. received an honorary doctorate degree from Newcastle University.
Sir Kim had a private meeting with Dr. King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, during a tour of the MLK center, where she is the director.
Bruce Cotterman, president of the BABC of Georgia, thanked Sir Kim for his comments and Mr. Pilmore-Bedford for hosting the reception. He also acknowledged the assistance that the consulate’s Department of International Trade in the BABC’s efforts to promote trans-Atlantic trade.
Additionally he said that he had met with Jeffries Briginshaw, CEO of the BABC, in London the previous week to begin the process of making arrangements for upcoming trade missions with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and others to London.
In October, Atlanta’s American Transaction Processors Coalition is to host the inaugural Payments “P20” conference in London as a means of promoting Atlanta’s role as the payments processing capital of the U.S. responsible for 70 percent of all U.S. payments processed annually.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron and Lord Digby Jones, chairman of Triumph Motorcycles Ltd., among many other board memberships and director-general of the Confederation of British Industry from 2000-06, are to give keynote addresses at the conference.
For more Global Atlanta coverage of Sir Kim’s visit to Atlanta, click here.
Global Atlanta thanks Chikere Uchegbu and Robert Barker of the British-Consulate General for their assistance during the ambassador’s visit.