SOCIETY PAGE BTS Dinner - an affair of mixed sentiment May 2010
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
Everyone enjoyed the occasion to dress up
- The annual black tie get together for the UK tunnelling industry last Friday evening had an air of expectation about it; and coming the day after the country’s inconclusive general election did not help. The room of nearly 500, comprising industry notables and individuals with their partners and invited guests, seemed to be waiting for something to happen, for a major announcement or a rallying call for unity. As it happens it was a pleasant rather than exciting affair.
- The number of women at the gathering - lady engineers and wives and partners - was again few. Many wives and partners decline the invitation to attend another tunnelling talking shop and increasing number of tables are being set up as men-only corporate occasions.
- The starter and deserts were very tasty and the red and white wine and drinks flowed freely. A champagne welcome cocktail before being summonsed up-stairs to the dining hall started the evening off in fine form. There were announcements made during the speeches and presentations but these were greeted by a rather supine crowd. Master of Ceremonies John Scholey called the diners to order after the meal and BTS Chairman Paul Hoyland did his best to be up beat and enthusiastic but again to an unimpressed audience. One of the principal announcements was that the James Clarke Medal this year is awarded to Martin Knights for his contribution on behalf of the UK to the ITA and his three-year presidency of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association that comes to an
- end next week at the Annual General Assembly of the international body in Vancouver, Canada. A smattering of applause died out quickly as if the interruption was untimely and the programme moved on. Perhaps the greatest understatement of the evening was delivered by Rob Holden, the Chief Executive of London's mega Crossrail project, who responded to Paul Hoyland's address for the industry. There was anticipation of a positive endorsement of the project to an industry that will have to deliver the most challenging part of the £16 billion publicly funded project, but perhaps the political uncertainty of the hung parliament result of the general election - confirmed just hours before - threw Mr Holden off his stride. As one industry guest at our table put it;
- "Mr Holden entertained the audience with a scintillating impersonation of the 1960s one hit hero Major Lance who shot to the top of the charts with his famous soul song 'Um, um, um, um, um’, presenting a display of verbs, vowels, adverbs and adjectives liberally interspersed with the mantra of er, erm and um!" The underwhelming address went unrewarded with a less than half-hearted applause and conversation at tables turning to questions of "So is Crossrail still on or what?"
- It was left to guest speaker Gyles Brandreth to lift the mood, which he did with aplomb. The jokes came thick and fast, and even when tunnelling itself was the source of humour everyone had a good laugh.
- The evening continued with recorded music for anyone inclined to dance the night away but many as usual gravitated to the bar, which remained open until carriages were called at 12.30am.
- It was an evening that drew together the usual suspects who regularly attend the monthly BTS meetings in the Telford Theatre and Buttery Bar of the ICE at One Great George Street in Westminster as well as many industry guests who managed to defy the threat of volcanic ash clouds from Iceland and flew in from abroad for the event. The buzz among the faithful was as it always is and it was a pleasure to be part of the gang.
- To record the occasion TunnelTalk hosted a professional photographer who mingled among the guests. Click here to view a full gallery of photos taken during the evening and click here to order your own personal copies.
- Three vie for the ITA presidency - TunnelTalk, May 2010
Preparing for the 36th ITA General Assembly - TunnelTalk, April 2010
Discussion Forum: Elections and mega projects - TunnelTalk, May 2010
Crossrail moves ahead with enabling works - TunnelTalk, March 2010
Shortlist for Crossrail running tunnels - TunnelTalk, Dec 2010
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