MU Conference

MU Conference

A successful and satisfying week in Birmingham as the MU hosted its biennial Delegate Conference at the Park Regis Hotel at the top of Broad Street.

I drove up the M40 on Saturday with Mark Batchelor in a transit van containing all the required materials from MU HQ in London Bridge and we began the set up in the Sky Gallery on the 16th floor with the generous help of the hotel staff. This was to be my 14th MU Conference and I aimed to top all previous endeavours!

In addition to the prerequisite room layout and audio visual equipment, there were to be additional stands this year, including timeline panels with memorable moments from the Union’s 130 years. I had drawn up 10,000 words for this, but subsequently edited the copy to around 5,000 words to fit the 5 metre installation.

Once Mark and I had brought up the contents of the van from the hotel’s loading bay, we began planning the layout of the selected signage, merchandise and promotional items around the Gallery and Loft. I also liaised with the hotel team as to the positioning of the stage and room furniture, which is a crucial moment in view of the delegates’ requirements, and I was delighted that we were able to do this so swiftly after arrival. At recent Conferences it was often Monday morning before we could attempt this.

After several hours’ work, Mark and I returned to our rooms prior to a very pleasant Indian meal in the Hotel’s Indus restaurant and a drink down the road at O’Neill’s where a live band were playing.

On Sunday morning, after further work in the Gallery and Loft, Mark and I enjoyed a stroll around the canal area close to the Hotel and awaited the arrival of a dozen MU colleagues including some members of the Executive Committee, plus General Secretary Naomi Pohl, her PA Amy Grimes, and the Head of Communications and Government Relations, Isabelle Gutierrez. It was also a delight to welcome Tom and Mark of the Northern Cowboys, who would be recording the event. (The remaining delegates and staff – of the 142 total now due – were to set to arrive the following day).

On Monday morning, I met with the in-house audio visual team, led by the ever-helpful Chris Mobbs, and the positioning of the screens, mixing desk, speakers and microphones took place. A key element of the staging at our events is ensuring fully compatible access for wheelchair users and delegates with specific needs. I wish to thank the Hotel for their drive and efforts to comply with all our demands.

With most of the physical logistics in place, including the video backdrops courtesy of long-term contact Neil Davies, I was set to greet all the delegates, guests and MU staff during the afternoon. As I had researched and chosen the venue by myself, it was heartening to find that the hotel was proving a hit with the attendees.

With set up finally completed at 8am on Tuesday, the first day of the event itself, I settled alongside Phil on the sound desk and Neil Wright from our Membership team to hear and support the opening speeches by Chair Alex Gascoine and General Secretary Naomi.

I had in fact undertaken several weeks of preparation for the event, in partnership with my MU colleague Amy Grimes, with particular time taken to support Alex, who was to be in charge of operations for the first time. This involved creating a 20 page steering document for the top table, plus arranging all the accessibility support including a highly-professional captions service.

The Conference Report, the principal publication containing a summary of the Union’s work for the previous two years – which I had collated with the help of the excellent designer Chris Stenner – had already been emailed to delegates at the beginning of July. This was to accompany the busy agenda of 17 Motions and 20 proposed Rule Changes.

The business of Conference proceeded smoothly and at a good pace, with happily all of the audio/visual facilities contributing effectively.

I wish to thank at this stage the professionals I had hired to report on the event, namely highly-respected journalist Andrew Stewart, music image of the year award winner Belinda Enthoven, plus videographers, Northern Cowboys. A great team.

Amongst the discussion and voting on motions and rule changes, plus the Q&A on each section of the Conference Report, a series of invited guests took to the stage. Including Roger Wilson of Black Lives in Music; John Smith OBE, Chair of PPL and President of FIM (the International Federation of Musicians); Peter Leathem, CEO of PPL; Paul Nowak, General Secretary of the TUC; and Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO of UK Music.

It was also a pleasure during the day to catch up with Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, former General Secretary of the MU, Dennis Scard, plus former Chair of the Executive Committee, John Patrick.

Following Tuesday’s business, I joined the hotel staff in preparing the Gallery for the evening’s dinner and dance, which would feature a performance by popular pop/rock covers band, Mansfield Avenue.

Wednesday’s business ran from 9.30am to 1pm. First up was an Emergency Motion, introduced by Executive Committee member Nigel Braithwaite, which aimed to highlight the plight of railway station ticket offices, with the recently announced plans to close 1,000 of the existing services. This, plus all the remaining motions, were carried with enthusiasm and I am delighted to say that the agenda was completed on time. Well done one and all! My thanks to Naomi and Alex for their gift for my efforts.

My work was not finished there however, as Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning is always a busy time following the closure of Conference. All proceeded smoothly however and I was free to enjoy a curry on Wednesday night with Alex, percussionist Andy Gleadhill and violinist Pete Hartley.

With everything completed on site, I drove back down the M1 on Thursday and returned to HQ able to report on a most successful week.

A full report on the event will shortly be published on the MU website.

The top photo shows MU Royalties Official Jessica Morgan being interviewed for video by Katerina Baranova of the Comms team with the assistance of the Northern Cowboys.




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