Complaints were rife about canny Cannesians exploiting the expense accounts of MIPIM attendees this year. Apart from the usual tales of extravagant charging and the circuitous routes taken by local taxi drivers, one regular MIPIM attendee was also handed a four-figure bill for hiring a villa for the week, which included a £25 cleaning charge. "I had to clean it myself when I arrived," the insurance company representative whinged. To cap it all, a female lawyer whose feet were feeling the pace of trudging around the conference centre decided to invest in some comfy socks. The bill for a pair of plain black polyester toe-warmers? £50.
Behold! The anti-MIPIM!
Is MIPIM facing a mutiny? Despite the endless flow of champagne and the presence of film stars beginning the week-long process of applying make-up in preparation for their own imminent festival, some delegates were talking about setting up a rival show in nearby Antibes, or possibly Barcelona. The problem, it seems, is that people are fed up with paying thousands of pounds in passes for an exhibition they do not attend, preferring to make their deals half-cut in the local bars and exotic dancing joints.
Of course, they will have a job usurping MIPIM, which has been a phenomenal success since
its launch at the start of the 1990s – but competition has never hurt anyone in the development business, did it?
The flying quango
For MIPIM regulars, one of the common sources of amazement is the amount lavished on hospitality by government agencies. The old urban development corporations were particularly generous hosts.
Now that baton appears to have been taken up by Labour's regional development agencies. For Yorkshire Forward, the usual modes of transport – such as taxis or buses – were clearly inadequate, as it would have taken an hour to ferry guests to the event it was staging outside Cannes. The answer, in true MIPIM style, was to helicopter them. "Shouldn't that money have gone into regeneration?" muttered a jealous RDA rival.
C'mon, this is Cannes …
Plenty of woad in the cabinet
The coastal chopper-ride looked like northern parsimony, though, compared with the brass spent by Yorkshire First's counterparts at Advantage West Midlands. Searching for a venue for their MIPIM event, they stumbled on – where else? – Mel Gibson's two-storey penthouse apartment overlooking the beach.
One guest beamed: "I've sat on the same toilet as Braveheart!" Some people are so easily impressed.
Bay city rollers
MIPIM's best party this year was, allegedly, held on the Watts and Partners boat. The building surveyor's do was an impromptu affair – two of the Watts partners had spotted a pub band called G&J playing in a Monaco bar before the conference and were so impressed that they invited them to play down the coast. The French-Canadian ensemble apparently whipped the guests into a stiff lather with elderly classics by the Eagles and John Lennon. The finale was a storming (and probably marathon) version of Hotel California.
Pitcher adds to the menagerie
I stumbled upon Derek Pitcher, a partner at QS Cyril Sweett, who graced these pages last year with news that he and his wife were sponsoring a baby elephant in Africa. Pitcher's animal-related revelation this year is that the couple have begun a project with a different species – sponsoring a pod of killer whales in British Columbia. Apparently, the two are intending to visit the region to view their new dependents.
Gimmicks on the cards
I hear that Christian Bale's performance as a psychopath obsessed with the design of his business cards in the film American Psycho has not stopped the craze for novelty cards among the delegates. The Welsh Development Agency provided no end of "fun" for drunk agents by putting its details on squeezy rugby balls, while architect Househam Henderson was kind enough to ameliorate my post-party hangover with the aspirin attached to its cards.
Ken's Docklands realpolitik
London mayor and Building reader Ken Livingstone was in characteristically bullish mood while speaking about the Royal Docks scheme last Thursday at the London stand in the conference centre. He urged the industry to take advantage of regenerating the area "while the prices are still low". "I am not on a commission," he was quick to add. "My commission is, if you build it, you create jobs there, and I get re-elected. I am not some woolly-minded liberal." Cue delirious applause from the capitalist scum.
Chillin' on the Rue d'Antibes
I bumped into property spinmeister Tony Danaher sauntering up the Rue d'Antibes, Cannes' main shopping street, the day after the conference closed. The unshaven Danaher was forced to go on an impromptu buying spree discovering that some of his clothes had disappeared from his hotel room. The PR man had made up for the forced retail trip by investing in a CD of his favourite chill-out trance music, which no doubt relaxed him after a hectic week spinning.