Tag Archives: Claire Sledd

Apprentice Tactics


One of the difficult things to balance for participants in the Apprentice is the conflict between the fact that the tasks are performed as teams, but the competition is for a single winner. On the one hand you are expected to work as a team, whilst on the other you want to ensure that strong rival candidates are removed if you get the opportunity. However being seen to act against the best interests of the team can sometimes land you in hot water when it gets to the boardroom.

We’ve seen just those sorts of tactics already this season, with Lucinda being put in roles that she says she does not have the skills to do, and then later being blamed. It happened again this week when Kevin realised late on that he was rather out of his depth on the presentations that he had decided he would give, and looked to Claire and Jenny who basically left him to fail, when perhaps them taking over the presentation would have saved the team.

It was one of those episodes though when the groups seemed to be competing on how badly they could do. The task was to produce a greetings card for an event that didn’t currently have a card. One team opted for producing an “It’s Great to be Singleâ€? day, however the choice of February 13th as the day – a day when most card retailers are focused on Valentines Day proved to be a poor choice. The other team were very much steamrollered by Jenny who was keen to put forward an environmental theme. The flaw of course was that she was proposing to save the planet by wasting trees in the production of unnecessary cards. Ironically she even torpedoed one of her own groups presentations by saying in front of the buyer that she herself had reduced the number of greetings cards she was buying for environmental reasons.

When her team ended up in the boardroom she admitted it was her idea, and it was pretty clear that Sir Alan laid the blame at her door – Margaret even said at one point that the idea had been rail-roaded through (Margaret also produced one of the funniest moments of the series so far by her reaction to the victory cheers from the other team – not a very seemly display for the boardroom). However, despite the strong pointers from the other side of the table, Kevin decided not to bring Jenny into the boardroom.

The reason was interesting. More so than in previous series, the candidates this time around are quite blatantly ganging up on the quieter, perhaps weaker team members. There are one or two who take the lead in this, and usually the crowd mentality kicks in and most of the others follow, or remain silent. The tactic has worked before, notably being the week of the laundry task where Shazia was told to go back to the house by Jenny, the team leader, and then sacked because she left the laundry when Jenny blamed her in the boardroom for the failure in the task because she left and the washing got muddled. It’s that name again though – once again it was Jenny leading the attack. This week she proved she is bright enough to realise that she was a prime candidate to go having pushed the environmental idea, so she needed to find someone else. She focused in on Sara for not having contributed. As with previous efforts this was totally wrong – Sara had contributed through several ideas including cards for minority religious festivals which are currently ignored, and also an idea for cards for pet events too – both of which were buried under the march towards an environmental theme. She’d then worked with Kevin on the card designs whilst Jenny and the others took pictures. Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick were wise to this bullying and said so – they’d seen otherwise during the task. However, whilst he could have stuck up for Sara, Kevin instead stuck with the crowd and selected Sara and Claire to come into the boardroom. By failing to stand up to Jenny he effectively guarantees that he would be the one who would go – they weren’t going to fire Sara, and the decision to bring her in compounded with the rest of the task meant that it would have taken a miracle for him to survive.

Quite how long Jenny will last remains to be seen. Certainly if the “You’ve Been Firedâ€? audience is any indication the treatment of Sara – which continued when she returned to the house as Jenny and the other bullies in the group ganged up on her – the audience at home clearly feel she has been treated badly by the others. Only Raef stood up for her, certainly scoring a number of points, especially as some of the other guys showed a different, and decidedly unattractive side to their characters during the exchange. The main downside though of The Apprentice is that unlike other reality shows, the audience has no voice in the firing of candidates, instead we are largely reliant on Sir Alan, Margaret and Nick to spot the bad apples and deal with them. Of course you only need to look to last year to see that they can still be taken in…

Anyway, with Kevin gone, there was one last burst of Matt Lucas jokes, and on to next week, which is the perennial favourite, the shopping list task. The difference this year is that the teams are being sent to Marrakesh to haggle with some of the masters in cutting a deal. The task always provides for a good deal of entertainment, hopefully this year will be no different.

“It’s the Sibelius Violin Concerto, and one of the students is playing the solo.”

Maybe I’m just overly critical, and perhaps I’d be different if it were my child playing, but I tend to not overly look forward to the prospect of school students being, how shall we put it, adventurous in their choice of concert repertoire.

This particular opportunity to experience a school musician came up as part of the combined Wellington College/Crowthorne Choral Society concert held last night at the school. This was their biggest concert of the year where they team up with the choir from the school, and bring in a full orchestra – in this case the Chameleon Arts Orchestra. As a side note it also means that they use the large sports hall at the school, were unfortunately the heaters are so noisy they drown out the music – hence we were rather cold by the end of the performance!

Anyway, the reason we were there was because the Choral Society were performing Mozart’s Requiem, the same work that I and various other members of the choir at St James are going to be singing when we join the Really Big Chorus at the Albert Hall on May 10th. However, as it’s a shared concert with the school, other parts of the programme were put in by Wellington College, and it has to be said that when various people mentioned that one of the students was going to be playing the solo in the Sibelius Violin Concerto there were definite hints of apprehension as to what it might be like.

If at this point you’re thinking I’m being overly critical, it is worth highlighting that whilst Wellington College has an excellent and well deserved reputation for it’s music, even with that, the Sibelius Violin Concerto is regarded as being a particularly difficult and challenging piece to play, and not something you’d expect a student to attempt, let alone perform well.

However, I’m glad to say that all the doubts proved to be entirely unfounded.

The solo violin was played by Claire Sledd, a sixth former at the school who comes originally from Seattle in the US – indeed her grandmother flew in from across the pond especially to hear Claire play. She is at the school on a music scholarship, and has been accepted by the Royal Academy starting in September. Certainly if I didn’t know she was a student at the school, I would have said that she was a professional musician, certainly the performance was as good as both the professional orchestra, and the professional soloists who sang on the Mozart Requiem, if not better!

Needless to say when we talked to various of our friends in the Crowthorne Choral Society during the interval (the Mozart Requiem made up the second half of the concert) they were all wondering how they were going to follow the virtuoso performance we’d just seen.

It has to be said that the Crowthorne Choral Society stepped up to the challenge and delivered a great performance too, but certainly Claire was fantastic, and deserves to go far. I wouldn’t be surprised to find her playing solo in somewhat more illustrious halls than a rather draughty sports hall in Crowthorne in a few years!