Last week you might have seen the stories that came in were a little on the crazy side. Congress 2020 seems so far in the future, but in reality, it’s only 5 weeks away! So, this week I’ve dug a bit deeper down memory lane and asked our Past Presidents for their stories and ‘Congress Hero’s’, and I’ve had a HUGE response! So today, I’m going to kick off with memories sent in from Professor Edward Hall, Ian Mason and Carmel Mooney.
Names sounding familiar? You might have heard that Emeritus Professor Edward Hall has been announced as the well-deserved winner of the prestigious Bourgelat Award at this year’s Congress. This award is presented by the BSAVA as the primary recognition for really outstanding international contributions to the field of small animal practice. You may also know that Professor Hall was our President in 2008/9, and he definitely has several ‘Congress Hero’s’ that he feels deserve special recognition.
It’s no surprise that without the many volunteers, staff and officers here at BSAVA, Congress wouldn’t be able to happen. Professor Hall was quick to mention the many officers involved in the brave decision to move Congress to Birmingham before the ICC was even built, such as John Dalton et al, alongside the many volunteers who participated in the Scientific Programme and Congress Committee, and of whom were crucial to the success of Congress, and still are!
Those who he felt should be specifically mentioned are Alison Phipps, Edward said “she had progressive ideas, always wanting to make the next one better, who bargained hard with the ICC to get BSAVA the best deals, but she never seemed flustered!”. Another mention goes to Mike Jessop, for his very bold step to move the exhibition into the NIA. And last but not least, our Volunteers Manager Carole Haile, for her leadership of the Woodrow House staff.
It goes without saying that as well as mentioning those who worked for the BSAVA, Congress would not happen without the staff from Arena Birmingham and the ICC. One of Edward’s ‘Congress Hero’s’ is Catherine Caiger, who managed the ICC. He said, “Catherine was a true supporter of Congress, and hardly blinked when, during negotiations to renew our contract, the JVP suggested the ICC should pay BSAVA to come to Birmingham because of all the business that we brought!”. Carmel Mooney also named Catherine as her ‘Congress Hero’, saying “Definitely my heroine, she was there from the outset leading us from one successful Congress to another”.
Other notable ICC staff were Tony, the ICC driver who ran endless errands for Officers, and Wesley the catering manager who organised the most superb banquets with freshly cooked food for over 600 guests, and went on to be catering manager for the 2012 Olympics”.
Ed’s main personal highlight was the progression of Party Night from an almost amateur production to having big named comedians and bands. One of the biggest things that BSAVA Congress is known for is the socials, last year we had a beach party, and this year we’re playing Bongo’s Bingo, which didn’t even exist when we had the first Congress in Birmingham!
Some of big names from over the years include Andy Parsons, who gave vets a roasting, and Scouting for Girls who appeared at Congress on the week that their record reached no.1 in the charts. Whilst this is great, Ed couldn’t forget the weird requests that came in. Tony Hadley required “12 freshly laundered (not new) towels”, and Jools Holland required 10 stamped postcards of Birmingham, even though he lived there! Maybe he just really wanted a souvenir from Congress? Who knows!
Ian Mason, president in 2004/2005 also mentioned a few of the fantastic cover bands we’ve had over the years like The Bootleg Beatles, Bjorn Again and one of his personal favourites, Ska Wars who we even had twice!
And whilst every year Congress is always a success, Edward also mentioned that “although, for delegates Congress always seemed like a swan gliding serenely, under the surface the Congress Team was paddling like hell to avert disaster”. Examples of this include the year of the Foot & Mouth epidemic, the year Jools Holland played when Ruby Turner went to the NEC by mistake, and also the year the lights went out on Broad Street and the Officers had to climb 22 flights of stairs to reach a meeting in the presidential Suite because the lifts weren’t working in the building! I’m confident we won’t be ‘paddling like hell’ to avert disaster this year, although if the weather carries on we might possibly have to swim to get there.
So there you have it, some lovely memories shared from Professor Edward Hall, Ian Mason and Carmel Mooney. Next week we’ll be looking at stories from John Dalton.
See you then!
Both from Professor Edward Hall