Last month I reflected on Peace One Day’s achievements in 2009 and the decade leading up to it. For this month’s feature article, I decided to look ahead at 2010, which will see Peace One Day make a major shift: buying its first office.
Throughout the existence of the organisation, POD has depended upon the kindness of strangers, friends, and family. If you’ve seen The Day After Peace, you’ll already know that Jeremy Gilley launched POD out of the spare room in his mother’s house. In that cramped, 80 sq. ft. space, Gilley fitted three desks and a mattress. Downstairs, his mother made lunches for the volunteers who showed up. It certainly didn’t look like much: Gilley was living with his mother and sleeping in his office, but all the while, he was receiving letters of support from Heads of State, the UN High Secretariat, and Nobel Peace laureates.
After two years of home cooking, however, Jeremy’s mother gently urged him to look elsewhere for office space, both for the good of POD and for her own sanity. Serendipity struck when John Battsek, the longtime co-producer of Gilley’s films, connected Jeremy with Nick Finegold and Damien Devine, successful London traders. Finegold, as Executive Chairman of Execution Ltd., was in a position to offer POD free office space, and Gilley wisely accepted.
Along with a more professional environment, Execution provided the infrastructure (phones, computers, and IT support) that proved vital for POD’s continued growth over the past ten years. While the traders rang a bell every time they made a significant trade, Gilley and his staff used their newfound resources to achieve UN recognition, forge alliances with corporations, celebrities, and NGOs, and develop and support the educational, artistic, and life-saving programmes that have made 21 September a true Peace Day around the world.
Now, with further help from Gilley’s “angels,” Peace One Day has bought an office of its own. The new space, in Richmond, South West London, will allow POD to pivot from its adolescence into true adulthood. Gilley briefly considered renting an office elsewhere in the city, but he soon realised that it made neither financial nor symbolic sense to deal with the perils of a lease – “No one,” he says, “can kick us out. We’re here to stay.”
For now, the POD staff will set up camp next door until the renovations are finished. One benefit of the move will soon be realised, when POD expands to fill its new surroundings. The first hires are slated to boost POD’s digital strategy, education programmes, music event and the One Day One Goal football initiative.
Gilley believes the spacious new office, when completed, will “create an environment that allows vision to become reality.” So 2010 will see POD use this move as a springboard to developments in every aspect of the POD portfolio – notably in the digital domain, in music, and in supporting life-saving activities specific to Peace Day. He couldn’t give any details at this time, but Gilley allowed that every piece of progress would reinforce the fact that “this day [21 September] saves lives.”
The best part for Gilley, of course, is that he lives in a flat just above the Richmond office. For a man whose admittedly “naïve and simplistic vision” led him to work and sleep in his mother’s spare room, he and Peace One Day have come a long way to find themselves separated by only a matter of meters. “Of course it may all become too much,” adds Gilley, “I may have to find another flat!”
Watch Jeremy’s tour of the new office here: