Heaven & Hell: John Dugmore

John Dugmore speaking at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce / EDF Breakfast at Trinity Park

John Dugmore speaking at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce / EDF Breakfast at Trinity Park - Credit: David Garrad

John Dugmore is chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping, where he has led a team that has transformed the organisation by encouraging and implementing a sustained growth programme. This has seen the Chamber expand in terms of membership numbers, staff headcount and relevance through a range of important business campaigns and initiatives. John is a fellow of the Institute of Marketing, a fellow of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs, a fellow of Suffolk New College, Hon Commander at US Air Force Lakenheath and a visiting fellow at the Suffolk Business School, University of Suffolk. Here he talks to Gina Long

What’s the impact of Covid-19 been on you, and how are you adapting?

Suffolk Chamber has always striven to be a flexible and caring employer in helping our great staff deliver their contributions to help our members and the wider county business community grow and prosper.

So when Covid-19 struck, we were in a comparatively good situation in terms of supporting the Chamber team to both work from home and, where necessary, work from the office as well. Key for us was to be on hand for our members at all times during the pandemic.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

I’ve been in Suffolk now for over 15 years, living in Mid Suffolk with my wife Jo, daughter Amelia and our dog Coco. I first came down to Suffolk from the north west to take on the role of chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

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There’s lots to love about East Anglia and in particular Suffolk, from rolling countryside to its big skies, entrepreneurial businesses to global brands. Personally we like, when we get some down time, which is not too often, to find some peace and quiet. So we do seem to gravitate to Felixstowe and Landguard Point in the autumn and winter to walk the dog, take in the sea air and clear the cobwebs out. In spring and summer we like to go off to Thetford Forest, again for long walks and picnics. Simple stuff that ‘chills you out’.

What is your East Anglian Hell?

Hate is a strong word isn’t it, and not one in my vocabulary. I guess we are not great about shouting about what an innovative, entrepreneurial county Suffolk is. I always wonder do we celebrate our success enough?

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

When I hit the A14 on a return trip from seeing family in Liverpool or South Manchester and I see the first sign that says ‘welcome to Suffolk’ – I know I’m home.

What is your favourite restaurant?

So many. Recently I went to 1921 in Bury St Edmunds for a celebration meal. That was lovely. The Ice Bar at Rougham is a great experience. We love all types of cuisines. We do particularly like Mizu in Ipswich or the Redfort Indian in Stowmarket

John Dugmore with senior Suffolk Chamber board members

John Dugmore with senior Suffolk Chamber board members - Credit: Suffolk Chamber

What your specialist Mastermind subject?

I know a lot about very little!

What is always in your fridge?

I like berries on porridge, so have always got some blueberries in the fridge. Love Suffolk bacon and eggs (poached) and can be a bit of a houmous and anchovy snacker (not together!). And there’s always a bottle of chilled Spanish cava, milk and water in the fridge. Bit eclectic that isn’t it?

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Look out for your team (and I don’t mean just football!).

What’s your favourite film?

Gladiator with Russell Crowe. It’s a good action film, solid story line and well-acted. Films like Notting Hill are always watchable. Jumanji II is very funny and one I watch with Amelia a lot. I like films that are ‘easy to follow’ ie don’t need engage the brain too much. I watched Bridget Jones’s diary the other night with Jo – again pretty funny.

What was your first job?

Aside the paper round when I was at school, my first job was when I was at college at 16 and I took a job to get me some ‘night out’ pocket money. I worked at a hotel near Manchester Airport as  a silver service waiter and occasional kitchen pot washer and night porter. I know it’s almost four decades ago, but I still have fond memories. Then when I went to Salford to study, when I was 18, I took a job selling household wares such as brushes and detergents and the like, door to door, that helped with petrol for my battered mini Clubman and ‘night club’ money for my weekends in Manchester.

What is your most treasured possession?

Our wedding album, but also my Grandad’s medals from WWII and Great Grandad’s from WWI.

Who do you admire most?

Jo, my wife.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Is this an indulgence? I always need to know how Manchester United are doing, and if I can get to watch the game, I’ll make sure I can find a bar or TV to do so.

What’s your worst character trait?

I overly worry about everything and can be impatient, which are sort of polar opposites to each other.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

I do have good memories of various trips to mainland Spain and in particular Barcelona or chilling out in Portugal (away from tourist hot spots). Portugal is a fabulous country and the food is amazing. Met some great people when on holiday in Turkey and loved our honeymoon when we did New York, Vegas and Florida.

Best day of your life?

The birth of our daughter Amelia 14 years ago in West Suffolk Hospital.

John Dugmore with wife Jo, daughter Amelia and Coco the dog

John Dugmore with wife Jo, daughter Amelia and Coco the dog - Credit: Contributed

What’s your favourite breakfast?

Poached eggs.

What’s your favourite tipple?

I like a Guinness or an ice cold glass of cava.

What’s your hidden talent?

Hiding my talent.

What’s your earliest memory?

Moving from our home in Bramhall to Poynton and my first day in year one at Poynton Worth primary school. I started in the second term so was the ‘new boy’. Took a while to settle in.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I’m a fairly open book. I did once work in China for a period in the early 90s. That was a cultural awakening and an amazing experience. I still ramble on about it today. Loads of stories. I'd love to go back and see the change the last 30 years has had. Plus I love roller coasters - the taller and faster and loopier the better!

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

Gosh no idea, I've probably blocked it from my memory banks.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

Well in truth we live here as we both work here. But I can’t see us leaving this region for many years. The past 15 years have flown by.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

That Suffolk has quite simply the most dynamic and inspiring business community imaginable. We’ve also got a really good working relationship between our businesses and our public and voluntary sectors – something rarely replicated elsewhere in the country.

In spite of all the challenges of the last 18 months, I’m incredibly optimistic about the future for Suffolk and in Suffolk’s growing contribution to national prosperity.

I’m honoured that Suffolk Chamber is playing a key role in supporting and representing the business community and the county across so many important initiatives. For more information, please go to.suffolkchamber.co.uk

Suffolk Chamber is now a leading Chamber in the British Chambers network, and is an effective advocate for Suffolk’s business community both within the county and at an international level, leading  a number of high-profiled and successful campaigns, including the nationally successful No Toll Tax on the A14 lobby.