News News Getting to Know Our Trustees. . . Adrian Lajtha Chair of our board of trustees, Adrian worked for Accenture, the global technology and professional services company, for almost 40 years before retiring in February 2016. Adrian held many senior roles at Accenture, including serving as the company’s CEO for its global Financial Services business and working with the board on long-term strategy, leadership development and talent management. Adrian joined Bamber at (almost!) the very start of the West Horsley Place Trust adventure and has served as the Trust’s Chair since early 2016. He also serves as Chairman of the board of governors of Cranleigh School and Cranleigh Preparatory School, where he has been a trustee for the past 20 years. Adrian is also a ‘B’ member of the board of the charity Youth Business International, a charity focused on helping to tackle youth unemployment and to equip young people around the world with the skills and support to set up and build their own businesses. We caught up with Adrian for a Q&A about his involvement with the Trust. Q- How did you first hear about West Horsley Place? A- Towards the end of 2015, I had read a tiny snippet in one of the newspapers about Bamber Gascoigne inheriting a wonderful old house completely out of the blue. I remember thinking at the time – what a story, what a lovely looking house and how very cool and slightly overwhelming for poor Bamber, whom I didn’t then know but who had been a bit of a hero for me not just because of University Challenge but also for his history books and programmes. Imagine my own surprise when a friend of my wife, Rachel, called us and asked if we would like to come and see West Horsley Place! Q-Can you remember that first visit- what was that experience like? A- My first visit to West Horsley Place will remain in my memory for ever. Although it was mid-winter, it was definitely still colder inside the house! But the warmth of Bamber’s and Christina’s welcome more than made up for this, and they were both so obviously enchanted, excited and only a little bit daunted at what might lie ahead. Bamber took us all over the house, up into the attics and all over the beautiful outbuildings. I fell completely in love with the place. Pretty quickly after that, I also fell in love with Bamber’s vision for what West Horsley Place could become. I think from that first visit my heart was snared….and my brain was snared shortly thereafter! Q- How did you come to be formally involved? A- I think that Bamber had definitely done some research! He knew that I was planning to retire from an international business career that had lasted almost 40 years, he knew that I lived locally (up in the Surrey Hills some 15 minutes away from West Horsley Place) and he knew that I was already involved locally in the non-profit world as a trustee of Cranleigh School. Ahead of my official retirement in early 2016, I had been thinking a bit about taking on a new local challenge, ideally involving the arts or culture in some form. So…..when Bamber called me after our visit and asked me if I would consider joining him as a trustee of the newly formed Mary Roxburghe Trust, it took me practically no time at all to give him an enthusiastic ‘Yes’. I think I might have been a bit too enthusiastic, as Bamber quickly followed up with the question of whether I would be prepared to serve as the Trust’s first chairman! With a little more pause for thought this time, I accepted Bamber’s invitation. Five years on, I have been very proud to work with Bamber and now the West Horsley Place Trust – and thankfully we have today some amazing people, staff and trustees, who are now leading the Trust forward on a really exciting path. Q-What are your priorities as Chair? A- From the very beginning, we have had four ‘areas’ of priority in the Trust. The first priority has been all about conservation and repair – a huge and expensive task which we have embarked on with real purpose over the past few years. The second priority has been to start to put shape to, and to start to engage in, a programme of heritage, cultural, environmental and artistic activities and to define more fully what West Horsley Place can and should be about over the coming years. The third priority has been a bit more prosaic – but still important – and is more about how we can put the Trust onto a more secure longer-term financial footing, which includes thinking about some level of commercial activity to underpin and enable our primary charitable objectives. And finally, our fourth priority has been all about opening up – opening up the house, garden and estate, opening up engagement and building strong and enduring lines of communication with our local community and growing number of friends, volunteers and supporters in that community. Q- In the challenging climate of Covid-19 what role can WHP play? A- The Trust has of course been significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, both operationally and financially. However, we do believe that our emerging thinking about the role that West Horsley Place can play in our local community has been given even greater focus and clarity of need by the deep and wide-ranging challenges of the pandemic. I passionately believe that we have the opportunity at West Horsley Place to improve the well-being of people through art, culture, history and nature – and I believe that in a post-Covid-19 world the opportunity to do this takes on even greater importance. Imagine a world where people will want and be able to come to West Horsley Place to explore, to learn, to discover – and through doing so to feel refreshed, renewed and eager to return…..that starts to paint a picture of what we will be about! Q- In another life you would have been. . . A- In another life, I would have immersed myself much more in the world of the arts – and probably in particular the world of music. My grandfather was a Hungarian composer and musician, my mother was a fine pianist, my wife is a former professional ballet dancer and I have nearly always been involved in some kind of music for much of my life. I love all kinds of music – having started off with a reasonably classical musical education, I discovered and fell in love with jazz and blues; as I have got older, I have re-kindled my love in particular of opera – I wish I could (but I can’t) take credit for bringing the wonderful Grange Park Opera to West Horsley Place! Q- What is your favourite room or space at WHP? A- The Geraldine Room. It is a truly stunning and unusual space. Its ceiling is a surviving fragment of decorative plaster installed in 1547 (thought to be the earliest of its type in the country). Its beauty, fragility and heritage reflects the nature of WHP. Q-What inspires you? A- I am inspired by so much around me. I think my sources of inspiration have got simpler as I have got a little older – I love the beauty of our surroundings in this gorgeous part of the country, I love the constant stream of excited ideas that come to me regularly from my five daughters and three (almost four) grandchildren, I am inspired by the creativity and endeavour of the amazing team working every day at West Horsley Place and I am inspired by the thinking of Bamber and our fellow trustees on the world of possibilities for West Horsley Place – how we can make this magical, utterly beautiful house and estate – with all of its extraordinary history – ready, open and relevant to the needs of the 21st century.