Women will have their own space at Lynne's B.Hive

Simon Yaffe meets a public relations guru who is inspiring women worldwide

SHE breezes into the room with an energy and enthusiasm that belies her years.

Lynne Franks is the epitome of someone who has been there, done it and bought many t-shirts.

Now 61, the affable Londoner - and public relations guru - is adding yet another string to her bow.

She has set up B.Hive, a place where women can join together in a feminine space to network and share their stories.

Over the years Lynne has become increasingly determined about the role women have to play in society.

The idea for B.Hive - on Manchester's fashionable King Street - followed a lunch with media mogul Richard Desmond and Mark Dixon, chief executive for Regus, the corporation that provides serviced office accommodation.

Lynne recalled: "I spoke to Mark about my idea, well, nagged, and explained to him what B.Hive was all about."

She had already opened in London's Covent Garden.

Looking around the exquisite B.Hive lounge and hub in Manchester, it is evident that Lynne is passionate about her project.

All the rooms are painted white, giving it a relaxed feel.

The couches and chairs are sumptuous and the high ceilings and architecture can't hide the building's former incarnation as a bank.

Inspirational quotes from Lynne adorn the walls.

Tomes by female authors, including Germaine Greer, Zadie Smith and Lynne herself, fill the bookshelves.

It is set to open on Thursday, March 31.

More B.Hives are due to open in Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow.

"It is a place for women who work to catch up with each other and do business in a relaxing and quiet environment," Lynne explained.

"We will also have a hot desk, where members can store their laptops and files.

"Every last detail, all of B.Hive is absolutely intentional."

Juggling a career with a family certainly doesn't come easy.

But Lynne proved it could be done, although she does not want to be seen as some kind of trend-setter.

She explained: "It is great if I am an inspiration, but there is still so much women can achieve.

"Myself, having started in journalism, and women like Eve Pollard and Janet Street-Porter were pioneers in that field.

"As women, we all have roles to play, but unless women are prepared to step up and be mentors to younger women, we are never going to move to a place of equality."

Lynne maintains that not much in the way of the development and roles of women in society has changed.

She added: "We make up 50 per cent of the population, yet we are still lagging behind men in the careers' field."

Her success is a long way from her upbringing in London, the daughter of a kosher butcher.

Brought up in what she calls a "liberal Jewish family," her great-grandparents came to Britain from Lithuania.

Lynne attended Hebrew school until 13, but has not practised Judaism since her teens.

Later beginning a spiritual journey which encompassed Buddhism and Hinduism, Lynne has been taking much more of an interest since the birth of her grandchild, Mordechai.

She said: "My son Josh (Howie, a well-known comedian) and his wife and son regularly attend Westminster Synagogue.

"I've been to Yom Kippur services there and they were gorgeous.

"I do seder night and always light the menorah at Chanucah."

Lynne's career took off following her stint as a journalist at teen girls' magazine Petticoat, where she worked under future Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express editor Eve Pollard.

But it was after working as a PR assistant that Lynne started her PR agency when she was 21.

Among her first clients was Katherine Hamnett's fashion business.

But, back in the early 1970s, it was not plain sailing for Lynne.

She recalled: "I started it all from my kitchen table.

"I was combining setting up a business with raising a family (she also has a daughter, Jessica, who live in Mallorca with daughters Lola Mae and Memphis).

"It is difficult, but it can be done."

There can be no doubting that Lynne was THE face of PR throughout the 1970s, 80s and even into the 90s.

Lynne Franks PR helped to establish London Fashion week.

Her clients included Harvey Nichols, Swatch and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as Jasper Conran, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Annie Lennox, Ruby Wax and Jennifer Saunders.

In fact, urban legend abounds that Saunders' character, Edina Monsoon, in the hit BBC1 comedy series Absolutely Fabulous was based on Lynne. But is it true?

"You'd have to ask Jennifer," Lynne laughed.

"I think she based a lot of what happened in the series on stuff I had told her about, but, to be honest, I had a lot more fun in real life."

However, Lynne has graced British TV screens for more than 30 years, much more so recently, with appearances on This Week, Come Dine with Me and Loose Women.

Perhaps her most famous stint on the box came when she was a contestant on the ITV reality show I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! in 2007.

Enough has been written and said about Lynne's time in the Australian jungle, but she explained that it was a fun time and she rarely keeps in touch with her fellow contestants on the show.

Lynne, who maintains homes in Oxford, London and Deią, in Mallorca, used her reputation - and doughtiness - to make a difference to those struck by poverty.

In the mid-1980s, after helping to promote Live Aid, she teamed up with Bob Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith to create Fashion Aid.

It raised £300,000 for famine victims in Africa.

Lynne has also worked with various non-governmental organisations, helping women in Bosnia, Bangladesh and Congo, as well as women's-lib groups.

Wanting a new direction in her career, she left her agency in 1992 and became fervently involved with wanting a better world for women.

"One of the main things that has held women back is a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence," Lynne explained.

"Women seemed to have been portrayed as weak for at least 2,000 years.

"Why does no major religion let women into its clerical leadership? I find it extraordinary.

"Why should a man be a better leader than a woman.

"As women, we don't need to fight against women, we just need to be as equal.

"I wasn't a great fan of Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister, but I have realised what she had to put up with anti-woman wise.

"There are so few women political leaders, the only other ones I can think of were Golda Meir and Indira Ghandi.

"I loved Golda - because she was like a Jewish grandmother."

Empowering and encouraging women is now Lynne's main work, and, having set up her SEED programmes for women, she's designed many workshops and training programmes to recreate her ideas.

In fact, SEED facilitators, supported by the British Government's Department of Trade and Industry's Strategic Platform for Women and Enterprise, have taught her programmes across Britain.

And Lynne has penned numerous books, holds women's creative leadership retreats at her Mallorca home and is a strategic adviser on women's issues.

But there are no plans for retirement.

"I'll just keep on going - the younger generation of women needs to be empowered too," Lynne added. and

© 2011 Jewish Telegraph