Steve Coe, TSSA project lead for the TSSA125 anniversary, gives readers a ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse of what was involved in putting on the big day.
After all the planning and preparatory work for the TSSA125 celebrations in Sheffield, it began to turn into reality before my somewhat bleary eyes at 0600 on Friday 6 May 2022 when work began on setting up.
As the stage backdrop, exhibition stands, “history wall” and many historic banners were installed into their designated positions, a sense of relief washed over me that at last it was all coming together!
Just a few weeks before, we learned that a Special Delegate Conference was to take place in the afternoon of that Friday - prior to Annual Conference commencing on Saturday - so preparations for the conference(s) and TSSA125 had to be brought forward.
On Saturday morning stall holders started to arrive to set up to be ready for the commencement of Annual conference proper that afternoon. Annoyingly, a few stall-holders didn’t show up, or cancelled at the last minute, and this deprived others of the chance to have a stall.
Sunday went off smoothly, with a full day’s conference being followed by what I heard was an excellent social event organised by E-mix Reloaded – TSSA’s black, Asian, and minority ethnic group – at the Cutlery Works food hall (I was unable to attend because I was still sorting out last minute issues for the Big Day on Monday!).
When Annual Conference adjourned on Sunday, TSSA’s event company Asets (UK) Ltd had to work with the Mercure St.Pauls Hotel staff to remove the conference tables, and then set up more exhibition stalls and seating for our auditorium in the main hall. And then, at the close of the TSSA125 day event on Monday, the hall had to be cleared again and tables for the evening dinner had to be set up in the hall. And finally, the hall had to be restored to Annual Conference mode for Tuesday!!!
It was a real pleasure to work with Ashley Morton and Rob Hill from Asets, who are consummate professionals and for whom nothing is too much trouble. Asets have been working with TSSA on providing technical and logistical services for our Annual Conference for very many years, but the combination of the 2022 Annual Conference and the TSSA125 events was a quantum leap bigger!
And on top of all that, Asets had to set Annual Conference up to allow some delegates to participate in the conference remotely. The success of both Annual Conference and the TSSA125 day was very much down to them.
It was also a pleasure to work with TSSA’s Will Boisseau. Will is responsible for organising Annual Conferences, and we given the overlap between the conferences and the TSSA125 events we had to liaise closely to ensure the success of the events.
Dave Howarth of TSSA’s North East General Branch took responsibility for organising the sale of the commemorative shirts and other items both during the conference and at the TSSA125 day event. Executive Committee member Nicola Jukes and former Executive Committee member Andi Fox provided a meet-and-greet service for our many VIP guests invited to the TSSA125 events, liaising closely with Executive Committee members Melissa Heywood and Gemma Southgate who were the stage comperes during the TSSA125 day event. My sincere thanks to them, to Chris Hargrave, and to the other members and staff that mucked in and helped out on the day.
Entertainment was provided during the day by Banner Theatre, who performed material specially written for the day, as well as material from their touring show to mark the 50th anniversary of “the Battle of Saltley Gate”. Find more about Banner Theatre.
Well-known comedian Mark Thomas also performed a set during the day treating guests to his trademark combination of political satire and trade union agitation.
A former London Transport Routemaster bus made two tours of Sheffield, starting outside the main hall. The tour took in the site of the union’s founding meeting – now the Wicker Pharmacy – as well as other sites and sights of interest with a commentary provided by me.
And after the close of the TSSA125 day event and before the dinner, a drinks reception was held in the grand and opulent surroundings of Sheffield Town Hall, next to the Mercure St Pauls Hotel. The Labour Leader of Sheffield City Council Terry Fox, spoke at the reception along with Bob Jeffery, President of Sheffield Trades Union Council.
The dinner followed, with diners addressed firstly by Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail, and then by Angela Raynor MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Angela went down a storm, Andrew was less well received!!!
Mark Thomas then performed a second longer and even more hilarious set, and the evening concluded with local jazz-funk band Montuno.
I went to bed that night buzzing..!