I am delighted to welcome our newest team member and CEO – Duncan Howard. After ten years as Managing Director of The Castle, I am leaving to start a new business in the south of France with my family. The Castle has been such a big part of my life for the last 15 years that even though I’m very excited about my new projects, I’m also sad to be saying goodbye. I am very proud to be leaving The Castle in great shape with a very capable management team, fantastic staff and a very positive outlook. Over the past ten years, The Castle has pushed the boundaries of climbing in the UK by following its core values of quality, sustainability and integrity.
Finding the right person to continue this legacy and to lead our team was an exciting journey. We began our search for my successor over the summer with advertisements in the national press, climbing press and in the centre. We had a number of strong applicants from all different backgrounds. It took two months and three rounds of application stages to whittle the field down and choose Duncan.
Duncan comes to us from a housing background. His last post was as the Regional Director (London) for Southern Housing Group where he was directly responsible for 7,000 homes. He brings with him both operational and strategic management skills and I believe that his experience in another industry will bring a fresh perspective to climbing. The Castle is looked to as an industry leader in quality of facilities and setting, sustainability and health & safety management. As such, the person in charge will have responsibility to not only guide The Castle and its 70+ employees, but also the industry.
“I am very excited about this new role. The Castle is an outstanding facility with a really professional and passionate staff team. This once in a lifetime opportunity was too good to miss,” says Duncan about why he went for the role. As a local climber who has been a Castle customer for nearly twenty years, Duncan has seen The Castle change and is looking forward to presiding over another period of growth and prosperity. “The Castle has grown significantly over the past five years and we see this continuing for many years to come. I hope that my experience of successfully leading large teams through periods of significant growth and change… will help me make sure that the Castle continues to develop, pushing its very high standards even higher while maintain the variety and broad appeal that it’s loved for.”
Duncan will be breathing new life into The Castle’s sustainability policy- a journey that we embarked on six years. As we evaluate the effects of our actions in the first five year action plan, Duncan will be instrumental in leading the development and implementation of the second five year plan. “The team are committed to being as green as possible, but the building presents some challenges that will require significant investment. I really want to prove that businesses can be green and profitable.”
Do you want to meet our new CEO? Duncan and I will be fielding questions & comments next to Reception on Thursday the 21st of January from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Of course, you don’t have to wait until then if you have something to say- we have comments boxes in the centre and you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 seconds with Duncan…
What’s your favourite food/drink from the Café? This is too hard to say, it’s all so delicious and the variety is great. If I was really pushed I’d have say the dahl soups.
What’s one thing you’ve learned about The Castle this week? The therapeutic applications for climbing. I was really impressed with the recent article in the Guardian featuring Castle instructor Sophie Charles. I always knew that climbing was good for you but the neurological rehabilitation that it appears to be able to support is just amazing.
As a customer you’d never know…that there is so much of the original pumping machinery still in the Castle, stashed away behind the walls.
Do you have a special memory about The Castle? The sense of excitement when I finished work and cycled over to the Castle from Ladbroke Grove, where I was working when I first started climbing. I could see the Westway slabs from my office. Back then it was just a couple of concrete slabs in the middle of the roundabout but it was very distracting as it would remind me of my evening in the Castle to come.
Is there a route/boulder problem that really stands out in your mind? There was a vertical crack next to a big tufa opposite the café. Always a killer no matter how focused I was feeling.
Where are we most likely to find you climbing? Top roping or lead climbing. I like the long routes by the stairs to the Loft or the steep walls in the Quarry. I climb in the evenings with a bunch of dads from my son’s school. It’s really nice, over the years we’d spotted each other in the playground at drop off in the morning and there was that kind of “do I know you” exchange of looks and then the penny would drop. There’s half a dozen of us now that regularly climb here.
What do your mates think about you becoming the Castle’s CEO? They think it’s amazing. As one guy put it, they know who to complain to now!
What’s your greatest climbing achievement? Wild Planet at Vilanova de Meiá. Just awesome, truly, truly awesome. Or, just still improving at 47!