Jeremy Browne on 80 years of Canning House

  • Freddy Nevison-Andrews

Jeremy Browne, CEO of Canning House, delivered a speech at our 80th Anniversary celebration reflecting on the organisation's history over its eight decades, and looking ahead to its coming years.

Jeremy Browne on 80 years of Canning House

Jeremy Browne, CEO of Canning House, delivered a speech at our 80th Anniversary celebration reflecting on the organisation's history over its eight decades, and looking ahead to its coming years.

Jeremy hailed the vision of Canning House's founder, the 1st Viscount Davidson; the ongoing affinities the UK and Latin America share on a wide range of topics; and Canning House's work today to continue promoting Latin America and Iberia in the UK, 80 years on. 

Jeremy Browne delivering his speech at Canning House's 80th Anniversary.

Read the full text of Jeremy's speech:

Thank you to Freddy - our Communications Manager - for that wonderful, nostalgic journey through the Canning House archive.

And thank you to all our staff team at Canning House. Ian. Susana. Juan. Clorrie. Freddy - who I just mentioned. Sarah and Evie. The magnificent seven. The success of this event tonight, and of Canning House throughout the year, is in large part due to them.

Good evening. Welcome.

Thank you to our Chairman, Nick McCall. Our Honorary Vice President, former Honorary President, distinguished recipient of the Canning medal, and the guardian of the soul of Canning House, Gloria Hooper. And our Honorary President, Jeffrey - Lord - Mountevans. And thank you to all of you, for being here for our special celebration.

Let me start at the beginning. The reason we are here tonight.

When John Davidson - the first Viscount Davidson - created Canning House, in November 1943, it was an act of amazing foresight, forged in circumstances of great hazard and uncertainty.

He was 54 - about the age I am now - but his life spanned the creation of the modern era - from horses-and-carriages at his birth, to man walking on the moon the year before his death.

His youthful prime coincided with the industrialised slaughter of the biggest war the world had ever known, and Canning House - remarkably - was formed, a generation later - in 1943 - when Britain and its Allies remained deeply embroiled in an existential struggle for the survival of our independence and entire civilisation.

Even in victory, Britain was on its knees economically - virtually bankrupt - with its Empire unsustainable. The nuclear age was ushered in, and a Cold War, European, North Atlantic version of the World Order established its grip.

Viscount Davidson’s extraordinary vision - 80 years ago - was - at that point - to remember Britain’s deep historical links with Latin America, and see that those connections could - and should - still have renewed relevance in the future.

That we - Britain - must - beyond the lens of a divided Europe and decolonisation - look again at a continent of the World with which we shared huge common interests. In culture, heritage, trade, civic life, and more. And that, by our common association, we could strengthen and enrich each other, to our great mutual benefit.

The Canning House that emerged through the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s was at the heart of Latin America’s presence in Britain. The glory years of Belgrave Square - with its handsome rooms and remarkable library - allowed for a whirligig of social, educational and cultural gatherings.

They were wonderful decades, but it is also true to say - with regret - that Latin America has still, consistently, struggled, here in Britain, to command the attention that it deserves.

Canning House has kept the flame alive - often burning brightly - and, of course, we all recognise that there are many other areas of the world with compelling competing claims for Britain's attention.

Few people would argue that Latin America should be at the top of the league table in the hierarchy of Britain's foreign policy interests, but I think everyone in this room shares my belief that Latin America never-the-less warrants and deserves a prominent place at the table.

In so many areas - human rights, civil liberties, democracy, trade, environmentalism, sport, cultural affinity - in those areas, and more, Britain and Latin America march together in harmony. Our outlook is in synchronicity. Against the backdrop of a changing and uncertain global order, Britain and Latin America's shared instincts and natural affinity not only matter now, but will also come to matter even more.

And this will be reflected in the future ambitions of Canning House. We have - let us be honest, among friends - had some struggles over the past decade and more. The changing nature of membership organisations, and shocks such as Covid, created some tough times.

But Canning House has hung in there, organising great events, and bringing together the Latin American family. And now we look forward, because my message to you - as we gather for this special occasion - is that Canning House is rising strongly again. With new offices, new staff structures, new corporate members, and new purpose, we will remain the indispensable market leaders in promoting closer connections between Britain and Latin America. And all of you here must be part of that, helping Canning House to grow and thrive.

And tonight we are celebrating a landmark anniversary for Canning House. Britain, Latin America, and the World have all changed - massively - since Viscount Davidson formed our great institution 80 years ago. But the underlying rational for our existence has not changed at all. Nor will it, as Canning House looks towards its centenary, and beyond.

I am delighted that we are joined tonight, to make the final speech, by the man who - and I can say this genuine authority - the man who has the best job in government. The Foreign Office Minister for Latin America, David Rutley. The Minister is a fantastic champion of Britain's links with Latin America, and a tireless traveller to the region, including - I believe - flying to Cuba tonight!

David - we are very grateful for your work in office, and delighted that you have joined us for our celebration.

Ladies and gentleman - everyone - thank you for your support for Canning House, and please welcome the Minister - our Minister - David Rutley.

Read David Rutley MP's keynote speech

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