We woke on Thursday morning to the sound of torrential rain and the wind whistling menacingly through the windows. As we Mipim veterans know, this is bad for those hosting beach and boat parties but a boon for the conference organisers as everyone huddles into the Palais with no great incentive to leave.

Susan freeman

Thankfully my breakfast meeting with JLL’s Guy Grainger was at the Carlton and he had very resourcefully nabbed a table in the bar before the long queue for the restaurant had formed. Nobody wanted to give up their tables as they were not at all keen to venture outside.

The continental European men were instantly recognisable by their double-knotted scarves. The Brits clearly hadn’t received that memo! Umbrellas were in short supply but I had the foresight to commandeer mine from the hotel the night before. It was just as well as even the relatively short walk to my lunch venue left me soaked and windswept. Not a good look.

Our build-to-rent lunch at the award-winning Martinez Palme D’Or restaurant hosted by the London Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Cast, Turley, Get Living London and Interserve was a great success. Although we couldn’t use the sun terrace for fear of drowning, we were treated to a fantastic lunch. We heard from Darren Rodwell, the ebullient leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, and “the bureaucrats”, as he put it, from Manchester and Birmingham.

Rodwell told us about the work Be First, Barking’s new development company is doing and vowed to build 60,000 homes in 25 years and to stop gentrification. The problem, he said, is “making money on the back of vulnerable people” and he doesn’t want to see our principles “destroyed by greed”. A developer in the audience took great umbrage at the suggestion that developers were greedy, which led to a lively exchange, but they seemed to subsequently resolve their differences. Talking to Rodwell after the debate, he referred to the London commuter belt as being shaped like an octopus rather than a doughnut! That’s something I hadn’t considered before!

Focal point

I began to feel I was stalking Rodwell as he was speaking on the next London and Manchester panel on on the London stand. I came in just in time to hear him say that Brexit is a waste of time and money. Manchester leader Sir Richard Leese said that cities need to be part of the Brexit discussion, which seems fair enough. It was good to have time to catch up with some familiar faces on the London stand. Paul Finch, editor of the Architectural Review and Architects’ Journal, ran his wrap-up at the earlier time of 4pm to accommodate the panel. We even had a few interesting minutes to talk real estate history, on the subject of the legendary Harry Hyams, his architect John Seiffert and the building of London’s Centre Point.

The London stand excelled itself this Mipim and was a real focal point, although it has to be said that the wifi was not its strongest point. Maybe capacity was affected by the sheer number of delegates but, with the increasing focus on tech, this is something we have to sort out before next Mipim.

The highlight of Thursday evening at Mipim is always the James Andrew International party, this year without co-host Coutts. Invitations to this event are always highly sought after but I have never seen the room so busy with the top real estate dealmakers. And I hadn’t appreciated before that the smoked salmon served throughout the evening had apparently travelled with me from London. It’s probably best not to know! It was great to meet some of property’s new generation such as Freddie McAlpine, scion of the McAlpine family who is working with James Andrew. In his spare time he is a talented metal sculptor. I was very impressed.

Then it was dinner at Petite Maison where, over the excellent but loud live music, I chatted to TV architect George Clarke who has recently invested in Tom Bloxham’s Urban Splash. He told me about his Ministry of Building Innovation, which is working generationally to promote the teaching of construction industry skills in the regions. It sounds an amazing initiative and he is clearly passionate about this initiative. Apologies to Tom Bloxham, a Mipim co-conspirator of too many years to remember, for having to bail out on the after-dinner bar trail he organised for our party! I really enjoyed the truth game for our table. A remarkable way to get to know your fellow diners.

Invest in Great Britain

It was, despite the antisocial weather, a great day and a particularly good Mipim. Landsec chief executive Rob Noel remarked at the London Chamber lunch that it was his first visit to Mipim since 2002. He was there this year in his BPF capacity and he was impressed by the way it had grown, the number of countries now represented and the conference programme. A number of senior British property representatives have mentioned the benefit of being to meet with European counterparts all in one place.

And certainly the government presence lends weight to the ‘invest in Great Britain’ message. The excellent Department for International Trade pavilion has really come into its own this year with a full on programme of events co-hosted with the BPF. At times it has been difficult to divide myself between the panels on the London stand and the government stand and there has definitely been no time for the Palais conference programme.

No doubt there will be articles in the press talking down Mipim but that shouldn’t detract from what has been for most of us a fantastic business event. Many deals have been done and there has been much useful exchange particularly between the many representatives of central and local government and the private sector. As one of my favourite Twitter combatants Ellandi’s Mark Robinson and I agreed on over dinner last night, it is the random encounters at Mipim that make it so very worthwhile.

Susan Freeman is a partner at Mishcon de Reya - follow her on Twitter @propertyshe