We hear from Morven Davis on making Johnnie Walker Princes Street accessible for everyone

Morven Davis, Head of Brand Home Experience - Projects, tells us about partnering with Euan’s Guide – a disabled access charity – to improve accessibility across Diageo’s Scottish Brand Homes.

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Tell us about your Diageo journey so far.

I joined Diageo in Singapore and have been very fortunate to have had an amazing journey with Diageo since then.

It’s a bit of an interesting story. I was running one day and found a Diageo business card, so I sent my CV on the off-chance it might lead to something, I had previously worked for another whisky company in Scotland. I went for an interview and was recruited to work in the supply team. I was initially hired on a two-week temporary appointment and here I am over 15 years later!

Across the years I have worked in a variety of functions and roles within supply, technical and procurement. Each of these roles enabled me to not only grow my capability but also work cross-functionally across many Asia-Pacific countries and for a time I led the supplier development team working from Shui Jing Fang in Chengdu, China, building supplier packaging capabilities to Diageo standards all over Asia. In 2014, I then moved back to Scotland with Diageo, and held several supply and procurement roles before moving into my current role 3 years ago.

In April 2018, Diageo announced a £185 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism in Scotland which was the biggest concerted programme ever seen in the Scotch Whisky tourism sector. The centre piece of the investment was the global brand flagship Johnnie Walker Princes Street Experience and four distilleries - Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila and Clynelish - representing the ‘four corners of Scotland’. In my current role, Head of Brand Home Experiences – Projects, I had the opportunity to be involved in leading and working to deliver the renovation projects at Glenkinchie, Clynelish, Cardhu and work with the wider team to deliver Johnnie Walker Princes Street.

I love watching these projects move from design into reality, working with the most amazing team at our brand homes across fantastic and beautiful locations in Scotland. I am proud to be part of the team that will continue to create this legacy for the brand homes within Scotland.

How has your current role presented the opportunity to partner with Euan’s Guide for the Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience?

Early in the project, when we were starting to develop the vision for Johnnie Walker Princes Street, I felt it was important to gain valuable inputs around accessibility, particularly after attending an inspiring talk at our Edinburgh office from Euan MacDonald MBE, the founder of Euan’s Guide.

The charity makes it easier for people who are living with a disability to find great places around the UK to visit by having good quality information which reduces unnecessary hassle, inspires confidence and removes fear of the unknown. We heard about how difficult it can be for someone who is living with a disability to visit places such as pubs, shops and visitor experiences.

In all the work we do, we’re committed to findings ways to champion inclusion and diversity and make a difference in the communities around us. So when working on the Destination Scotland projects (Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Glenkinchie, Clynelish and Cardhu Brand Homes), I contacted the team at Euan’s Guide to see what we could do at Johnnie Walker Princes Street to improve accessibility. I was connected with Paul Ralph, Access and Inclusion Director at Euan’s Guide.

Firstly, we discussed Changing Places Toilets. Over ¼ million people in the UK who are living with a disability need extra equipment and space to allow them to use toilets safely and comfortably and these needs are met by Changing Places toilets (www.changing-places.org). We saw opportunities to make Johnnie Walker Princes Street more accessible by bringing a Changing Places facility within the building, which would also improve the accessibility of Edinburgh’s city centre.

Secondly, I realised that it was key to work closely with the Euan’s Guide team to review design plans with accessibility in mind. Euan's Guide were involved from the early stages, crafting the vision, looking at plans, considering design schemes, talking about visitor experiences and meeting the team at Johnnie Walker Princes Street.

The team from Euan’s Guide have become an integral part of the Destination Scotland project team and now work on all brand home projects and with our brand homes directly. I am pleased and proud to work with Euan’s Guide both at Johnnie Walker Princes Street and across other Destination Scotland projects.

Why is this work important in driving change at our visitor experiences?

This work is hugely important to help drive change, and we are helping to set the benchmark for more accessible visitor experiences across Scotland. Some of the things we have put in place in addition to the Changing Places facility are accessibility lifts, braille and improved signage, as well as lower counters in retail and bar areas for wheelchair users. Many of these items have had a massive impact on our customers and help create an accessible and amazing experience for everyone.

How has this opened doors for championing accessibility across our Brand Homes?

It has opened doors because by partnering with Euan’s Guide, disability tools, features and services were incorporated into the Johnnie Walker Princes Street’s building design by architects from day one and the multi-sensory visitor experience was created with visible and invisible disabilities in mind. Additionally, the team at Euan’s Guide have reviewed all our tours and experiences and we have continued to learn from their feedback.  

We placed an importance on staff training because these people help create the five-star experiences for people who are living with a disability, not solely the beautiful buildings.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street now has information on the website dedicated to accessibility, which provides detail on parking, lifts, and more accessible tours.

This is only the start, and we are continuing to improve accessibility at our brand homes where possible, such as improving paths for wheelchair access at Cardhu and improving signage.

What makes you most proud with this work and where do you see it going longer term for Diageo?

I am hugely proud of the team and our work to ensure our attractions are accessible for everyone. We will continue to learn from those around us and I’m excited about the plans we have for the future to help drive change, there is always more we can do! In turn, this will create opportunities for more people to come and visit our brand homes and hopefully return.

My big ambition would be that longer term I would love to see the learnings on accessibility from Destination Scotland become more common practice within Scotland on any new development, renovation, office or brand home.

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