Did you know we hosted the European Conference in 1985?

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Did you know we hosted the European Conference in 1985?

Posted By admin |25 May 2015
Did you know we hosted the European Conference in 1985?


Did you know we hosted the European Conference in 1985?

By Henry Ruddock

President 1983 - 1984 

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Well 1985 seems a long time ago! Before organising anything as big as a European Conference, doing there is always an element of doubt. For a start, it’s a risk. And a lot of work. With lots of worrying ques- tions...will we get the support from the members? And what about sponsorship? There’s all sorts of proverbs associated with this, one being ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.

Sheffield was being heavily encouraged to go for the Bid by Neil Kaiper-Holmes and Mike McKnight, National Presidents of the British Junior Chamber around that time. The bid had to be made two years in advance, at the European Conference, which in 1983 was at Aberdeen. We decided to go for it, and around 20 people signed up for the conference. Most stayed at the (cheaper) Northern Hotel, and Colin (who was to be conference director) and I (Administration Director) stayed at the Skein Dhu. Before all this, we got the rules from Coral Gables, and had prepared a bid document to circulate to the voting European Presidents. Remember this was in 1983, before social media, so cut and paste was the order of the day. Even then, the conference had to provide rooms and limos for the top brass, which concerned us slightly in terms of covering all the costs involved. I think now that has got to the point where I would seriously question whether the thing is worth it.

Part of our bid was hosting an evening in Aberdeen, so Nick Williams arranged a party. He found a baked potato seller, bought 500 potatoes, and the last one was taken just at the end of the party.

We won the bid unopposed, mainly because Neil and Mike had done their political stuff, but there was always a chance that someone would come in. The first thing that went wrong was when I approached the main hotels to book them, Finland had already taken all the rooms. They usually came with about 400 delegates, probably because alcohol was a lot cheaper here! That got sorted with a bit of goodwill all round. I also arranged that room booking would be done through us, with commis- sion of, I think, about 10%. That brought in about £6,000.

I approached David Blunkett, the then Leader of Sheffield City Council, to ask him if he would give a civic reception. Being in his office with just his guide dog under the desk, and nothing on the walls or anything else was a bit disconcerting, but being blind he didn’t need it. He readily agreed – Junior Chamber then was a big part of the City – partly because a big conference brought money to the City.

An office was organised, on the third floor of the Royal Victoria Hotel. Stand at the front door, and it’s on the right side of the building, at the back. The manager then let us have that for two years free of charge. A telex machine was installed (no email...). During the conference the office acted as the secretariat with four secretaries, including French speaking. The French always insisted on simultaneous translation during the conference, which is really expensive, but then only six turned up. Actually it was seven, but we were sure the seventh gatecrashed!

The opening ceremony was organised by Richard Grindrod among others, and each speaker was strictly limited to 7 minutes max. If you have ever been to a Junior Chamber opening ceremony you will know how welcome that was for the delegates.