The British Musicians’ Union acted as host for the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) this week with the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, acting as a base for operations. I oversaw the set up of the principal meeting room on Monday, in preparation for two days of discussion and presentations involving the guests and delegates from around the world, a task which required the sophisticated installation of interpreter booths, headphones and audio/visual equipment.
In keeping with many MU events, I worked in partnership with my colleague Jane Austin and during the week worked closely with Benoît Machuel, General Secretary of the Federation who partners our own General Secretary as such meetings. Tuesday morning’s opening sequence incorporated a delightful number of instrumentals led by our own Midlands’ violinist, Pete Hartley.
Upon completion of the conference on Wednesday evening, Jane and I arranged for a coach to take the entire group of about 50 guests in total, to an event on the Terrace at the House of Commons organised to mark the retirement of MU General Secretary John Smith. I improvised as a light-hearted tour guide on the coach journey, pointing out landmarks of note.
I had also ordered a series of roller banners consisting of over ninety photographs of John from down the years, which proved a hit with the invited audience on the Terrace. Attending were members of John’s family, numerous members of the music industry, the Union’s Executive and officials plus a number of special guests.
Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP, gave an entertaining speech and was followed by Alison McGovern MP, whose speech included a quote from conductor Sir Mark Elder on the important role John had played in representing British musicians throughout his career. Former PPL CEO Fran Nevrkla also spoke movingly of his admiration for John’s work at the MU and time as Chair of PPL.
It was good to catch up with Kevin Maguire, political journalist and associate editor at the Daily Mirror, and Stevie Wonder’s European representative, Keith Harris, amongst the many guests.
My wife Julie and MU colleague Maddy Radcliff were given a tour of the House courtesy of Thompsons Solicitors’ Tom Jones, which included The Chapel of St Mary Undercroft and a special stop-off in suffragette Emily Davison’s cupboard.
The enjoyable and unique event on Wednesday was followed today by a tour of the Tower of London in the company of the highly-knowledgeable Leila Redpath, a respected London Blue Badge Guide. Our time with the FIM delegates ended with lunch at Dickens’ Inn. A rewarding week.