Marford Mill, the headquarters of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), has never been so polished as it was on 12 November. Not a blade of grass was out of place, filthy 4x4s had been tucked away firmly out of view and staff had been given clear instructions that it was a dress-up (not dress-down) Friday. And why? Well it’s not every day that you host a royal visit.
All eyes lifted to the sky as HRH Prince Philip’s sleek burgundy Sikorsky hovered into view. As the helicopter landed in a nearby field and the gathered crowds excitedly anticipated his arrival, the sun shone brightly on the association’s recently completed media centre, now formally known as The Duke of Edinburgh Building. Behind the mill itself, on the side of the modern construction, curtains hid a plaque commemorating the official opening of the £750,000 facility, which BASC hopes will propel its message firmly into the 21st century.
The new building, built as a result of BASC’s centenary appeal, houses the association’s state-of-the-art video-editing suite and television facilities, a radio booth and design studio, as well as accommodating its press and communication departments, policy and politics department and modern conference facilities.
Fast and effective communication of the shooter’s message is the reason why BASC has invested greatly in the expansion of its headquarters, and the speed with which the association can now react to events was evident on the day of the grand opening. Within just a couple of hours of The Duke of Edinburgh’s departure, the new video suite had been used to produce a broadcast-quality film of the day’s events.
Prince Philip is well known for his love of shooting, but more widely he is known for his passion for the environment and conservation. The two marry well – he is both patron of BASC and president emeritus of the World Wide Fund for Nature. He has a wealth of experience in the conservation world and his views are respected globally. On the day of his visit to Marford Mill he explained his firm belief that management for shooting is of enormous benefit to the environment. “When I leave Sandringham and sometimes drive across the fens, on the way to London,” he remarked “the moment you leave Sandringham and thereabouts, you don’t see a living thing whatsoever, not a bird, or a hare or a rabbit, nothing across the fens. I think it just shows that on a keepered estate, you find everything there”
Prince Philip praised the work of BASC from its earliest origins, and was complimentary about the new facility the association has invested in. “I’ve always had a great admiration for what this organisation is doing ever since it started out as the Wildfowler’s Association,” he said, adding, “Let me congratulate everyone who has had a hand in producing this new building, those who paid for it, those who designed it and those who fitted it out. And I hope that those of you who are now occupying it, your work level and your level of achievement will rise in proportion.”
The need for a modern communications centre was something the duke remarked upon, recognising that the ability to act swiftly in response to events is central to the manner in which the modern media operates.
On the day, BASC’s director of communications, Christopher Graffius, highlighted the contrast between a 21st-century media centre and the perception of shooting that is widely held in the UK. “There are those who think shooting a very old-fashioned sport, he said. “I like to think that in the new Duke of Edinburgh Building we’ll be able to defend the best of a tradition with the very latest technology.”