Later today I shall be driving down to Brighton for the Labour party conference. This is the first time I have been back to Brighton since David Hockney's famous appearance (as a guest of Forest) at the 2005 Labour conference which attracted front page headlines and a string of interviews with the great man. ("A rare publicity coup by the friends of lung cancer," sniffed Jasper Gerrard in the Sunday Times. Charming.)
Older readers may be sick of me mentioning it but for the benefit of newer readers it was one of the best days of my working life. Thinking about it still makes me laugh. The memory of Hockney standing shoulder to shoulder with anti-tobacco campaigner Stuart Holmes in the Hilton West Pier Hotel (now a Holiday Inn) is priceless.
Even funnier was the sight of Holmes being "escorted" from the hotel (via a fire escape) by hotel management while 20 or more photographers fought to get the best picture.
Nor will I forget the ten frantic minutes during which we went from one rain-lashed building to another in search of the BBC's makeshift studio where Hockney was to be interviewed by Andrew Neil live on The Daily Politics. (We eventually found it with seconds to spare.)
Afterwards we returned to the main bar at the Metropole Hotel where journalists were queuing up to interview our special guest. I've been involved in a few PR stinkers in my time but this was a day when almost everything we touched turned to gold. You can read the results in The Times, Independent and Daily Telegraph (among others) and on BBC News.
The Independent has my favourite quote but you have to read it in context. See if you can guess what it is.
Interviews completed, Hockney then addressed a Forest meeting chaired by Claire Fox of the Institute of Ideas. Other speakers were Joe Jackson, Sue Carroll of the Daily Mirror, Sue Brealey, co-author of The Joy of Smoking, and me.
The venue may have been small but all seats were taken and people were queuing to squeeze in at the back. I've never known an atmosphere like it. Gales of laughter erupted at regular intervals. Afterwards the man from DeHavilland, the political monitoring agency, described it as "one of the best fringe meetings for years". (The Yorkshire Post covered it HERE.)
Afterwards we took all our speakers to dinner before our most famous guest returned to London. Hockney enjoyed the day as much as anyone and it's one of the reasons, I think, why he continues to support our efforts.
Finally, I will NEVER forget the long walk along the promenade in the early hours of the morning. With the rain bouncing off the pavement and gale-force winds blowing us sideways, I eventually found my hotel, peeled off my sodden clothes and collapsed on the bed, still laughing.
Believe me, life doesn't get much better than that.
PS. The interview by Jasper Gerrard can be found HERE.