Following a turbulent spell for BASC, stability looks to have been restored. Gun Trade News met the new CEO, Ian Bell, who now leads the association forward…
Nestled in the shadows of a scaffolded Big Ben, the Cinnamon Club restaurant sits inconspicuously in the side streets of Westminster. Based in a former townhouse, the Indian eatery is a fitting backdrop for London’s political heart. Just yards from the doors of Westminster Abbey, it would not be a surprise to see some of the capitals most influential residents popping in for a post-PMQ poppadum.
Although the chimes of the neighbouring Big Ben have been silenced – during estimated £61m renovations – Ian Bell has plenty to share following his appointment as the chief executive of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation in February.
Sharing his first experiences of the organisation in the luxury lounge, Ian reclines into a leather sofa and comments: “I’ve had a lot of emails – a lot of people are jealous but they are all very encouraging which is brilliant. I’m very fortunate that I thought I could do it, and do it well, and I’ve got the job! so I’m one of the luckiest, if not the luckiest person in British shooting at this moment in time!”
Having taken the role in mid-February of 2018, following his deployment as commander of British forces in Germany, there is plenty for Ian to get to grips with, but his objectives are clear. “My number one priority is to do all i can to protect shooting and the interests of those who shoot out in the great British countryside,” he explains, “but inevitably, I’m in my fourth week. Therefore I’m out on the ground, meeting as many folks as I can – staff, members and those from sister organisations – so I can get a feel for what the context is and so I can understand what it is that I’ve got to do, rather than pre-judging things.
With Ian’s schedule reading more like a Michael Portillo documentary, he will be travelling the length and breadth of the country to help absorb the knowledge he needs. “Next week i’m at our central office, at the Mill, Durham, Scotland, London – and that’s in one week. that’ll give you an indication of how i’m getting about at the start of my job.
“It’s bloody tiring! However, one thing I want to say – and I do want to say this – is what this is convincing me is just how fantastic the BASC staff are. Passionate, educated, committed, bright; they are absolutely wonderful. our sister organisations are exactly the same, so i’m loving it.”
Amid gloriously etched artwork from the sub-continent and Hindu sculptures, the feeling of the day is a relaxed and calming. This is some way from the uncertain conditions that had preceded Ian’s appointment, as he is quick to acknowledge.
“The team has sailed some turbulent seas at times but they have come through it, not me but the team – they’re brilliant. To bring stability, I want to do the best I can for British shooting. I’m getting out among the people and want to apply the way I lead to the organisation to focus on that that we exist for.
“We aim to look after our members interests and pursue the ability to preserve shooting and a love of the great British countryside into the future.” Ian adds.
Now looking to steer the ship into calmer waters, Ian believes that both he and the association are in a strong place, and wants to build on BASC’s position as the biggest shooting organisation in the UK. “I’m looking forwards not backwards.” he explains. “Do I think BASC is doing a good job? Absolutely. Otherwise I wouldn’t have applied for the job. I think BASC is doing a great job. I think we are at the very forefront of doing what is right for our members and for shooting.
“I’m over the moon to be appointed to such an important and multifaceted job in the area of my lifelong passion. It’s a dream job.”
Ian’s love for the game grew from his involvement as a youngster. After helping his dad with rough shoots and practise with clays, he got involved in pheasant shoots. However, his true passion lies in stalking. Despite his busy travel schedules and new responsibilities, Ian still finds time to head into the field.
“One of the great days out that I love at the moment is with a friend of mine who owns a farm near Stonehenge, at Salisbury Plain. He holds a friends and family day and we all go; the kids, the families, all the mad dogs and great dogs and its just a wonderful social day in the great British countryside.”
Ian, formerly a Brigadier in the British army, has 25 years of military experience and first joined BASC as a Young Shot. He now feels perfectly suited to the role. “I’m passionate about shooting and i’ve been involved with shooting since I was a youngster,” he suggests.
“I have had experience of leadership and running organisations of various sizes throughout my professional career. I’ve got the drive, the passion and the skills to take BASC forward and I’m really looking forward to the fun I’m going to have in this dream job, doing the best for British shooting.”
In addition to commanding the 3rd Regiment Royal horse artillery, Ian has also held roles as the President of the British forces in Germany Game Shooting association and long-standing member of of the defence deer management organisation. He is aware of the impact fellow organisations can have – right now, BASC are working with the RSPCA to examine how safety in airgun use can be enforced.
Ian explains: “There’s a view by BASC and the RSPCA that we need the tackle the use of airguns that’s damaging our members’ interests and is absolutely against what the RSPCA stand for. We’ve got an awful lot of common ground and we thought it would be a good idea to have a conference with the RSPCA to take that forward. Its a great opportunity and shows that BASC is not going to shy away from difficult issues and work with partners to do that.
“There are a whole raft of organisations with many shared objectives. It’s like a family; you bicker among yourselves until there is something on the outside that brings you together to face that which threatens you. it will be a delight to sit alongside the RSPCA and discuss those matters that are important to both of us, and there are several.”
Political uncertainty continues to rattle on in the halls and parliament buildings that surround the cinnamon club. conservative MPs want to interrupt four years of clockwork renovation to allow Big Ben to chime at the moment of Brexit on 29 March 2019, marking the nation’s new beginning. At BASC it happened in 2018, with the future of the organisation set to be as sound as a bell.