Terence Blacker: A religious festival in serious need of rebranding

Today's Celebrity Thought for the Day comes from Sir Richard Branson...

Share
Related Topics

Hi, guys. Richard here. Hey, I was totally gobsmacked to be asked to contribute this key celebrity thought for the beginning of Lent. And really honoured. I mean that.

It's a heavy time, Lent. I'm well known for respecting everyone's religion – the way I see it, we're all consumers, no matter which god we happen to worship – but the Lent thing speaks to us all.

The original Lent was when a bearded man, dressed in casual clothes, went into the wilderness to consider his options. He was set to become one of the most respected and loved personalities of all time. He literally saved the world.

I can relate to that. Whenever I can, I say to my wife, "Let's get away to a real wilderness, maybe get the kids along." Within hours, we're in my jet heading for an exclusive, unspoilt holiday destination. That's the Branson way. Ideas are nothing without action. It's why I called my book of personal philosophy Screw It – Let's Do It!

Life isn't a rehearsal. It's the real thing.

So, Lent. Let's brainstorm this one. The first thing I did when I got this Celebrity Thought for the Day gig was to get my people together for a meeting. I always do that – involve my trusted gang in my decisions. Why? Because in the world of Richard Branson, me is we. The way I see it, we're all in this together.

At the meeting, we do our usual group hug, then get down to work. It's a good meeting. We talk green, we talk profit, we talk sustainability, we talk presentation. There's only one down moment. An older guy, George, forgets himself and says, "Since Lent is all about giving up things, how about us trying to keep Virgin out of the newspapers for 40 days?"

My people go very, very quiet.

"I mean," says George, little beads of sweat appearing on his forehead, "humility is good, right?"

"George." I speak with genuine regret in my voice. "This meeting is all about positivity. You are seriously crashing my vibe."

He stands up. "Maybe I'll do some work in my office," he says.

"Office?" I give him my trademark smile. "Which office is that? The only office you're going to is at the Job Centre where they'll say, 'Aren't you the guy who was negative in front of Sir Richard Branson? How does sweeping the streets sound to you?'"

I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was upsetting. Here's the thing, though. I can guarantee that pretty soon George will be thanking Richard Branson. I put him on a learning curve. It took him to the scrapheap. Now he can start again.

The 1,000 Northern Rock employees we've decided to let go will thank us, too. At the end of the day, we're giving them an opportunity – the opportunity to look for a new career.

Meantime, back at the meeting, we're in full kick-ass mode on the Lent thing.

"Let's be counter-intuitive, guys," I suggest modestly. They listen intently as I flesh out my concept. "Old Lent is about giving up things. How about New Lent being about taking things up, consuming in a creative way?"

There is a smattering of applause from around the table.

"There was an old God, right, who was omnipresent – like, all around us. What is all around us today? Virgin. Our brand is associated with all that's good and green and profitable and let's not forget fun."

Now we were cooking. "Screw it, let's do it," someone says, punching the air.

"But wait." As if by magic, my words brought silence to the room. "If Virgin is the new God, who is the new Jesus Christ?"

And suddenly the whole gang were looking at me!

"Guys, please." I laugh disarmingly. "Alpha and Omega? The way, the truth and the light? The Messiah? Me? Come on, let's get real."

But I've taught my gang well. When they get an idea, they stick to it big-time.

New Lent. New Jesus. New Virgin. A whole rebranding thing. Let's do it, yeah?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The landslide vote for gay marriage takes Irish society further away from the Vatican  

Ireland gay marriage: Church's decision not to lead No campaign recognised remarkable new reality

Paul Vallely
New SNP MP Mhairi Black distinguished herself in Westminster straight away when she made herself a chip butty in the canteen  

The SNP adventure arrives in Westminister - but how long before these new MPs go native?

Katy Guest
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?