I travelled by train on Sunday from East Croydon to Brighton to attend and organise the MU’s Delegate Conference, which occurs every other year and is an opportunity for members to hear of, and question if appropriate, the work of the Union’s Executive Committee (EC) and Officials in the previous two years. The event also discusses possible changes to the MU Rules as well as the motions proposed by the Union’s Regions, all of which call on the EC to act on the issues of the day affecting working musicians.
For the third time, our Conference was to take place at Brighton’s Hilton Metropole Hotel and I settled in, having met up with my colleagues Jane Austin, Lisa Barry and Beverley Dawes.
Monday was to be a particularly busy day and I was up very early, knowing that deliveries of staging and promo materials were due at 8am. One of our agencies, Alice & Mo, had designed the staging artwork and I was looking forward to seeing the designs in place.
There are two main rooms of note at Conference. Firstly, the main delegate hall where the business is undertaken, plus a second neighbouring room, which offers a refreshment break area and tables of merchandise and publications. I had also arranged for our stand from the political party conferences to be set up, specifically for video recordings and photo shoots.
Jane and Lisa were busy arranging our registration desk in the Hotel’s lobby, plus together ensuring the Ambassador room where the EC were meeting throughout Monday morning, would be ready in good time.
My MU Comms colleague Maddy Radcliff arrived around half past nine and together we oversaw the room layouts and began positioning all the items that each delegate would require for the next 48 hours. Thanks to the professionalism of all the teams involved – including Sara Holland, Sandy Matthews, Teodora and Martin of the hotel staff, Neil and Robin of Modular Exhibition Stands, plus Oliver Friend and the audio/visual team – we made very good progress and by early evening all was in place.
Delegates and Officials arrived throughout the day and it was a pleasure to greet so many familiar faces from across the UK. Notably, the event was to be chaired by trumpeter Dave Lee and this would be the first time Horace Trubridge would be overseeing proceedings as General Secretary.
I had also invited journalist Andrew Stewart and photographer Joanna Dudderidge to capture the proceedings for the autumn issue of The Musician magazine. They are now key parts of our events team and it’s always great to see them.
Tuesday morning, the event was underway and sections of our Conference Report were being studied and approved by the delegates. Two guest speakers had been invited: Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party and Michael Dugher, CEO of UK Music. Unfortunately Tom could not make it to Brighton and so Cardiff MP Kevin Brennan kindly agreed to stand in for him.
With the formal items completed, Dave Lee closed the Conference but not before Horace had thanked everyone involved in the presentation of the event and we had received a round of applause from all present.
Dinner and drinks followed. Although before the night was out, with the skies dark and lightning flashing across Brighton’s seafront, a large group of partying members and guests could be found in my room until the small hours, singing and playing. A memorable moment.
Wednesday was to see the inaugural Members’ Conference and so the room was laid out in a cabaret style arrangement late on Tuesday evening and the artwork for the staging changed to mark the new event. This second event was created to be an informal, creative gathering, with breakout sessions designed to engage with members and to draw out new ideas and suggestions for future MU activities.
Five sessions in the morning and five in the afternoon covered live performance, education, equalities, orchestras and communications. These proved popular with members and produced numerous useful recommendations.
Unfortunately, a stomach bug had taken hold of several Officials and consigned them to their hotel rooms. A few delegates also succumbed and I was glad that I managed to avoid falling to what appeared to be a very unpleasant virus.
The Members’ Conference ended and most of the equipment and merchandise was packed up and taken away on Wednesday evening. I was finally able to relax and walked to the Ivy restaurant to enjoy a beer, G&T and burger. On returning to the hotel I ran into Alex Gascoigne and Colette Overdijk and so we repaired to the bar, where we soon met up with Dave Lee, his partner Liz, Dave Pigott and his wife, plus Brian Aylwood from Northern Ireland, Heidi McGough and former EC member Andy Gleadhill. An entertaining end to the night.
Thursday morning, with all the final details taken care of, and those affected by the bug looked after, I booked a taxi to the station and caught a train home.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this week so successful and possible the best MU Conference to date.