With the completion of the Labour Conference in Liverpool, I travelled down to Birmingham by train on Thursday 27th to work, for the first time, at the Conservative Party Conference. Their event was to be centred in and around Symphony Hall and with the MU’s Executive Committee electing in 2017 that we should have a presence at the Conference, I found myself on the way to the venue to assist Robin, Neil and the MES team with setting up stand number 16.
In fact, winning over the powers-that-be at Tory HQ had tested my negotiating skills to the full at the beginning of the year, especially during a lengthy phone conversation with the principal organiser. However, my reassurances that we would be highly professional and respectful on the stand at all times won the day and our application was accepted. I have reason to believe that we are the first Labour Party affiliated trade union to have a presence at the Conservative Conference.
Our team in Birmingham consisted of General Secretary Horace Trubridge, Assistant General Secretary Naomi Pohl, plus Isabelle, Maddy and myself from the MU Communications & Government Relations Dept. Maddy and I were staying at the Copthorne Hotel, conveniently just around the corner from Symphony Hall, although it was clear that the level of security around the Conservative Conference was much higher than the week before at the Labour equivalent.
The stand was very well received with plenty of interest. We collected nearly 200 signatures for the touring visa petition and handed out a lot of joining leaflets and MU Supporter postcards. Several MPs also had photos taken in front of the stand holding MU placards. We also had about a good number of MU members visit the stand during the four days.
Useful contact was made with: Peter Aldous MP, Bob Seely MP, Maria Miller MP, Karen Bradley MP, Rebecca Harris MP and Emily Clifton (Conservative Policy Forum Arts Champion). Ashley Goodall, Principal of Hybrid Communications, introduced us to a number of people including Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne. We also met Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of the Alzheimer’s Society and Simon Stanley, Deputy Head of Parliamentary Affairs at the Church of England, who wished to discuss issues for church organists.
On the Tuesday I was interviewed by a BBC News (South) camera team, who wished to cover the issue of touring musicians in Europe, post-Brexit, and I understand this was featured in several news broadcasts across the Midlands, south and south-east.
I rounded off my time in the city by meeting-up with long-term industry colleague Jason Hunt and we passed a very pleasant evening with a curry and some beers in Broad Street, across the road from the Conference.
I imagine that once reports are made to the Executive Committee on our success at both major party Conferences, that we will be booking stands at next year’s events in Brighton and Manchester.