Reminiscing on the early days at Virgin with Al Clark

Richard Branson sitting with Al Clark on his old houseboat
Al Clark
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 11 March 2022

It was such a joy to catch up with Al Clark during a Literati Ask the Author interview. Al is a brilliant film producer and was an instrumental part of Virgin in the early days – taking on every role from publicity director at Virgin Records through to head of production at Virgin Films. The first part of Al’s memoir, Time Flies, is my Literati Book Club choice this month – as it’s a book that is impossible not to like, and Al has had a life everyone ought to know about!

Richard Branson Literati interview with Al Clark

During our discussion, we reflected on everything from the Sex Pistols wild rise to fame, to putting on an iconic concert with Mike Oldfield, to producing 1984 with Virgin Films. It was heart-warming to hear Al reflect on how the latter was a pivotal moment in time as it represented a willingness to explore new dimensions. It was something Virgin contributed to popular culture and it is something we were both very proud of. 

 When looking back at a risky escapade where the Sex Pistols (who had signed with Virgin Records) performed Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen on a boat passing the Houses of Parliament in London, Al described it as:

“An incredible experience, because it would never happen again and it wouldn’t have happened at any other moment… Things that are of the moment are moments to be cherished.”

We also spoke about how businesses can create a culture of creativity, inclusion and innovation. It was touching to hear Al discuss how Virgin is a place where people are employed to be exactly who they are. It’s about “cherishing idiosyncrasies,” as Al eloquently put it. It’s about embracing unique quirks, as I would simply put it!

Richard Branson smiling with Al Clark
Al Clark

Al also shared some very simple but powerful advice for anything pursuing a creative career. “Pay attention,” he said.

“Paying attention allows you to open doors, to enquire, to process, to conclude… When I pay attention, the world works better than when I don’t.” Such perfect advice. 

Al has always approached challenges with endless optimism, curiosity, and wit. His success is testament to the power of believing that anything is possible, and diving in head-first when impossible opportunities arise. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and for taking this trip down memory with me Al.

You can join my Literati Book Club here.