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BTS Dinner - another roaring success 10 May 2013
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
The best event ever! That is the resounding feedback following a rollicking good night at the annual BTS Gala Dinner last Friday (10 May 2013). The familiar and comfortable surroundings of The Brewery venue on Chiswell Street in London turned on its best efforts once again to accommodate a record breaking 818 guests hosted at more than 80 tables set with no room to spare beneath the broad beamed roof of the Tun dining room. Tables of 10, with smaller chairs than usual, all well capable of carrying the load, allowed for the extra tables in the hall to take the numbers to more than any previous attendance at the event.
Set tables await the guests

Set tables await the guests

2013 was the 25th anniversary of the BTS Annual Dinner, and while many can remember being at the first event in the Great Room of the ICE on Great George Street in the late 1980s, the number of new young faces in the crowd, either as professionals working in the industry or as their partners, was testament of the wealth and health of the tunnelling design, construction and supply industries in the UK at the moment. With a list of major underground projects advancing across both the capital and the country, some leading companies hosted several tables to entertain colleagues and business associates and their partners. Managers of different projects from one particular consulting engineering group played host on 14 different tables! TunnelTalk was a guest once again on the Bekaert table with host John Greenhalgh and with a group of old friends and new faces.
TunnelTalk also, once again, sponsored the professional photographs for the evening, and the many photos captured by Matt Chung during the champagne reception, sponsored by Halcrow/CH2MHill, and during the dinner proceedings are available to view on the website, with favourites available for order as jpg files or prints via the TunnelTalk order form. There are so many familiar faces among the collection, including one of an ex-pat guest who flew in from Florida to be among the number. Other sponsors of the evening included UK contractor J. Murphy, recruitment agency Hunter Personnel and consulting engineer AECOM, each sponsoring a part of the proceedings to keep the price of individual tickets to less than £100 per place.
A sea of diners packed the dining room

A sea of diners packed the dining room

With a great success came also a great hubbub. The sound of the 'meets and greets' and the networking in the reception room near-lifted the ceiling, and gathering points were definitely needed to make connections, many of us missing to meet up with colleagues in the crowds.
As well as the major projects progressing currently in the UK and the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dinner, the BTS was also recognising the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. After a welcome address by BTS Chariman Damian McGirr (his first time for leading the way), Miles Ashley, Director of Crossrail and Stations Programme for London Underground, gave a presentation about the history of London's vital underground link. He explained how the network has evolved over the decades to accommodate greater numbers of travellers, and how it is currently in another phase of overhaul and expansion to take in connections with the capital's new mega-transportation project: Crossrail. Many tables at the dinner were hosting guests involved with the management and construction of the Crossrail project as well as those managing the country's latest scheme currently in design development: HS2 high speed rail.
The guest speaker for the entertainment slot was actor, adventurer, and raconteur Brian Blessed. Everyone was prepared for a larger-than-life performance, but even his famed sonorous voice and "hearty, king-sized" delivery, from both the raised balcony end of the hall as well as down into the audience among the tables, could not keep order in the court. The urge to network and talk-shop at the back of the hall almost overpowered the personality as he took us on tours of his adventures climbing Mount Everest and of his preparations for taking a space voyage to Mars!
Top table hosted by BTS Chairman Damian McGirr (centre left) and Master of Ceremony, John Scholey (centre), their partners and guests

Top table hosted by BTS Chairman Damian McGirr (centre left) and Master of Ceremony, John Scholey (centre), their partners and guests

It was a tremendous night, everyone had a marvellous time, and comments have already been received from guests and table hosts wishing to extend congratulations to John Scholey, as the untiring and annually prepared Master of Ceremonies, and to members of the BTS Dinner sub-committee that he chairs. The consensus is also to keep the Dinner at The Brewery as the venue for the 2014 26th Annual black tie Dinner of the British Tunnelling Society.
Be sure to book your tables and dinner places early! It will be a first come, first served, allocation for booking a prized position and for filling the Brewery again to its fullest capacity. See you all in early May 2014 when there will be another year of great UK tunnelling activity to celebrate!

A fine social event that was enjoyed by all

  • Guest speaker Brian Blessed all at sea

    Guest speaker Brian Blessed all at sea

  • Miles Ashley

    Miles Ashley

  • BTS Chairman Damian McGirr

    BTS Chairman Damian McGirr

Gallery of photos from BTS Dinners in 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

British Tunnel Society

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