Introducing C81 – Meet Simon
In a series of blogs we introduce the Chapter 81 team, starting with the man at the helm. Meet Simon.
Q: Who are you?
I am Simon Fogal, The brainchild behind the beast we are creating, that’s Chapter 81. I am a busy man, a drummer, a thinker, a doer. I like nice things, and like to have a great team behind me (so they can tell me my ideas aren’t that good on this occasion). I am also the man behind Leeds Indie Food (plus LIF offshoot events like #EatNorth), and part of a management team delivering Chow Down. I am passionate about helping small business as much as possible, creating unique events and shouting about how great Leeds is becoming.
Q: Describe yourself in a couple of sentences.
This is a tough one. I am ambitious. You have got to surround yourself with passionate people and people who bring something to the table, from ideas to advice…
I like to work hard, and I like everything to have a purpose. I know I am not describing myself here, but we’re getting to it!
Q: You’ve been working in food & drink PR for quite a while! Chart your professional journey so far.
I have had a strange career journey. I started working in fast food after university, but I quickly moved on to being a musician. I quickly delved into booking bands and tours, and did a little bit of music management. From here I signed up to a temping agency and did all sorts of jobs, from call centre to office moving. It wasn’t too exciting but that didn’t bother me too much, as I was in a band and enjoying life.
It wasn’t until I picked up a temp job working for the Environment Agency that I discovered a bunch of awesome people doing lovely things, and somehow stayed in a job for about five years. I did everything, from Flood Risk Management to IT Transformation, then I finally moved into comms. This was a similar time my band lost their record deal, and needed someone to do some media work, so I set up an email address and started nagging journalists (I created a spreadsheet after collecting names from interview requests). I started loving this, and the buzz you got from getting a feature was a pretty great feeling.
I Like Press was born when we met the lads from Brew Records and joined forces. That was a nine-year journey, from sending emails on your lunch break elsewhere to running a pretty successful PR company. 2018 saw me take over Leeds Indie Food as an event, and therefore priorities had to change and new skills were needed. ILP sadly came to an end in September 2018, and I created Chapter 81 to help deliver things differently – but also to focus on the food side.
Q: What was I Like Press, and how did Chapter 81 come about?
ILP was a music PR company which was overtaken by some bigger work across different sectors, like food and lifestyle. Running a business and also running the food side of things was becoming a heavy workload, but also I missed sending out press releases… I missed doing a lot of things. Chapter 81 is about bringing it back to basics, but also setting a healthy base with some key freelance staff. We can pitch out for bigger work without losing our identity. At ILP we didn’t have the same ambitions, but at C81 we all love working with and helping smaller businesses, but also working on some amazing, grand-scale projects.
Q: What do you spend your time doing at Chapter 81?
Working in PR is rather fun; from watching the news, listening to the news to flicking through key publications and trying to have a finger on the pulse. Apart from that, I spend my time on Basecamp, Slack and Buffer. I spend my mornings allocating job lists to the staff, looking over projects daily, booking street food, coming up with many ideas and then pitching out for features for clients. If that wasn’t enough, I am managing clients’ photography, social and sending a lot of emails. I spend a good hour a day running the business (paying invoices and pitching out for more work).
Q: What are your aims for Chapter 81? What do you see in the agency’s future?
When starting a business, they like to ask you to write a five year plan but, for me, it was about setting up shop as quickly and seamlessly as possible. I do see C81 growing and working with more businesses; we are just at the very beginning and are only six months old. I have to remember this. The future’s looking bright. We have plans for bigger events and more of them, but we want to be at the heart of Leeds’ growth too.
Q: Why do you live in Leeds? Why does Chapter 81 love and support the city?
I was born in Leeds. It wasn’t a great city back then, and all I remember is the smog. Since returning in 1999, it has undergone some huge transformations and I feel a part of something that is about to be something truly incredible. As a resident, there is so much going on. If you like music, there is something every night, and people working hard to bring it to the city. You have some amazing, experimental theatre companies and producers based here, and we have some really talented TV production facilities.
The education sector is flying… but also the food, oh the food. Our indie scene is alive and kicking, it really is – but so is the non-indie scene. We have so much choice. We have become one of the best cities in the UK for beer too. And gin. I live in Leeds because all this is on the doorstep, but also you can get out of the city on your bike very quickly; you can get to places of natural beauty so easily.
Q: What does the future hold for Leeds’ food, drink & lifestyle sectors, do you reckon?
I would like to know this answer, as we have a project in the pipeline (and one we are proud to begin to help bring to reality). I know that’s pretty vague, but it is rather exciting. I would like to see more collaboration though; I am writing a piece on proper collaboration. I have seen too many times, firsthand, where people insist they are working together but they clearly are not. Collaboration is a much-used word, but all parties need to have a joint goal.
Q: Tell us a weird fact about Fogal
Whilst in the studio recently, I told the lads that I was once on Noel’s Addicts dressed as Dracula. We then found it on YouTube and laughed all night. Maybe not weird, but definitely not expected either!