14 Paula Kahn on Longman's move from Grosvenor Street to Harlow


I think when went I went into publishing it seemed to be an environment where there was more opportunity to flourish. And where people were interested in the sort of things that I was interested in. But it was a completely different world. The personal assistants were all from the class that went to coming out balls, and through that season they’d arrive late and exhausted because they’d been out at one of those events the night before. It was absolutely fascinating. And everybody was terribly nice. [Laughs] I think that everybody was terribly nice.

But it was very hierarchical. The men in the post room, and there was a tea trolley – it was really, I see it as a sort of vignette into another age really, an earlier age.

And the critical shift there was when we moved from Grosvenor Street, which is where this all happened, to Harlow, and the sale of Longman to Pearson and the retirement of Mark [Longman] and then in due course the other people of that age group. And once we got to Harlow, the company started to professionalise. It was a completely different world. The hierarchy was all there in Grosvenor Street, with The Boardroom. We were in the back of the building and it was all sort of hugger-mugger and then if you ever got up to the upper floors, where the people had rooms, decorations and pictures on the walls and that sort of thing like that.

And then when we moved to Harlow, all that went. All the floors were broadly comparable. There was a bar. Everybody went down to the bar at lunch time and the whole hierarchy was broken down and Mark Longman had left.

So I think it was just the move, the change of ownership. The environment makes a huge difference to hierarchies. It’s very difficult to be hierarchical if you’re all standing at the same bar. So I think that was the beginning of the change of the company.

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