Q&A: Stuart Kenny of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

PUBLISHED: 11:28 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:35 20 February 2013

Nick Carver

Nick Carver

Director general of Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, Stuart Kenny, tells Louise McEvoy about major plans in the pipeline, his work with the United Nations, and what really makes him proud

Tell our readers about your career path.
After I'd been working very happily on trawlers and then as a labourer on building sites, my mother nagged me into using my economics degree. I worked first for the Department of Trade and became a so-called expert in East-West trade, representing the UK on EEC committees and on the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. That necessitated very high security clearance which, following promotion, led me to specialise in aviation defence planning. My job entailed a great deal of international travel, embraced the Falklands War and led to me being chairman of a major NATO committee at the age of 34. Promoted again, I joined Merseyside Task Force and had responsibility for Toxteth, trying to avoid further riots which looked likely for a time. I then moved to Leeds and was involved with economic initiatives, before leaving government service and becoming deputy chief executive of Leeds Development Corporation. I then came to Letchworth GC, where I became director general of the Foundation in December 1994.
The teacher at school who told me I would never make anything of myself got it a wee bit wrong, but I suppose he motivated me.

With regard to Letchworth GC, what are you most proud of?
I'm not really someone who takes great pride in what has been achieved in the past - I prefer to look to the future.

Describe a typical day at work.
There is no such thing!

The Foundation is planning major redevelopment works. What is your vision for the town?
We are looking to create a high quality environment and to supplement the existing shopping offer with retailers who will meet the aspirations of our customers.

Who is your role model and why?
In many ways my role model was my father, who had an appalling start in life but ended up retiring as a probation officer. I had an easier start than him, although living in a tenement block and sharing an outside toilet and wash house with other families was hardly luxury. That made me determined to build on what my father had started.

Where do you live and what do you most like about Hertfordshire?
I live in Ickleford. I see Hertfordshire's main strength as being its location. I find getting into London and Cambridge very easy and convenient by train, and Luton and Stansted airports are virtually on our doorstep.

How would you describe Letchworth GC to a stranger?
A wonderful environment with a range of facilities well beyond what one would expect in a town of its size. Letchworth GC truly is unique - the World's First Garden City which many have tried, and will try, to copy, but none will succeed.

Describe your perfect day.
It would start with a couple of bacon and egg rolls while watching a New Zealand v Australia Tri-Nations rugby match on television. That would be followed by a haircut, a work-out in the gym, then off with my wife, Land, to watch Letchworth Garden City Rugby Club beat Stevenage, comprehensively, in a local derby at Legends Lane! The day would end, perfectly, with a few pints of Guinness with the players and our other friends at the club.

Describe yourself in three words.
Very grumpy, allegedly!

If someone visited Hertfordshire for one day, how would you suggest they spend their time?
In Letchworth GC! A trip to Standalone Farm and the First Garden City Heritage Museum, a walk through the Exhibition Cottages areas and a film at the art deco Broadway Cinema. If they chose a Saturday in winter they could have the additional joy of seeing Letchworth Rugby Club in action!

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