This year marks a very special anniversary in the history of our Annual Congress. It will be the 30th year at Birmingham – and also our last Birmingham Congress before we buzz off to Manchester for Congress 2021. To help us mark the momentous occasion, we’ve been asking our members and supporters for their Congress memories.
The first week of hearing your Congress stories has certainly not had me disappointed. As you can guess from the title, there’s been mention of some rather interesting things that have happened over the years. To tell you the truth, as a newbie to BSAVA and yet to experience my first Congress, I was expecting stories about things like lectures, people who have helped you out or attended Congress with you - or simply memories from our famous party nights! I was not expecting mentions of Spiderman, cardboard cut-outs and baby sized hard-hats in the same sentence. Neither were you? Let me explain…
The year was 1990. Frances Barr helped to draw up the programme of exciting and imaginative lectures for the first BSAVA Congress at the newly built ICC in Birmingham. Frances said:
“I recall visiting the building site that was to become the ICC at a Congress Committee meeting in January 1990. I had to take my eldest, who was 6 weeks old – but then had to leave him with one of the staff when we toured the building site as there was no hard hat suitable for a baby!”
Frances’ baby, Tom, was 17 months old at the first Birmingham Congress and is now a 6’4” 30-year-old rugby playing teacher at the last.
It was great to hear Frances’ memories. Congress has obviously played a huge part in her life. We feel really lucky that Frances – like so many of the members and volunteers involved at the first Birmingham Congress – will be with us to give Birmingham the send-off it deserves!
Frances is now one of our Online Coordinators, however back then she was on the Congress committee alongside her ‘Congress Hero’ John Dalton, who was then Chair of the Congress Committee.
“I remember looking deep into the ground at the foundations of Hall 1 and wondering how it could possibly all be built in time for our Congress. It was a huge leap of faith - but John kept everyone motivated and energised.”
As well as John, a special mention also goes to Des Thompson. A Past President known to so many – unfailingly cheerful and friendly, loved a party, loved a gossip.
The next #30yearthrowback comes from Benjamin Dales. “I will always remember being tasked with getting some cardboard cut outs as information points so sending the printing company a picture of me holding a sign to indicate the type of thing we wanted. They took this literally and made us 20 cut outs of me to use as information points (we named them ‘Congress Phil’ but that’s another story!).
Fast forward to the Saturday morning of Congress and the slightly inebriated people of Brindley Place had taken some of the cut outs and hung them from bridges, thrown them in the canal - I think one is still floating around the canal network of Birmingham! Birmingham will always have a special place in my heart after spending so many hours there over the course of my 7 years at BSAVA!”.
As much as I LOVE this concept, unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything like ‘Congress Phil’ at this years’ event. I guess we could always keep an eye out for the ones in the canal though.
Finally, last but not least we have a slightly more whacky Congress memory from BSAVA staff member, Graeme Kowalewicz. Now, in the office Graeme is well known for his humour, and after hearing some of the stories I have about Congress, it didn’t really surprise me to see him dressed as Spiderman abseiling down the side of the ICC. You’d expect this kind of thing at Congress, right?
Tweeting us, he said “It’s not just vets and vet nurses who get to experience new things. BSAVA Congress 2015 was the year I volunteered to abseil down the ICC as Spiderman for PetSavers. Sadly, my trainers had no grip! #slipperywall #spiderfail #30yearthrowback”.
It’ll be interesting to see what Graeme will get up to at this year’s Congress, although I’m sure we can’t expect him to be abseiling down the side of a building again.
Keep sending in your stories, it’s amazing to see the different memories that people have and to see just how much Congress has played a massive part in people’s life. And don’t worry, your stories don’t have to be as whacky as these ones!
See you next week.
Image 1 - Tom, Frances Barr
Image 2 - Des Thompson 1983
Image 3 - 'Congress Phil', Benjamin Dales
Image 4 - Spiderman, Graeme Kowalewicz