2021 Reunion ...
The Management Committee had to rethink its plans for the 2021 Reunion quite a few times due to Covid-19 and I had begun to wonder if it would ever happen and how successful it would be!
I needn’t have worried, over 100 Veterans and Friends (now Associates) attended the September Reunion at our new venue, Pontlands Park, right alongside the former Marconi Baddow Research Laboratories. I looked up at the Chain Home Tower (now Grade II listed) and recalled working in a laboratory almost directly under it during my apprenticeship in the early 1960’s.
I am pleased to report that the new online booking form and BACS payment arrangements were utilised by most of the attendees and seemed to have worked well. This has led to a reduction in administration costs so thank you for your support in this respect.
Your Management Committee considered the venue worked well and the quality of the food and service was good. I am pleased to report that we have not received any adverse comments from members and have already booked Pontlands for the 2022 Reunion which will be held on Saturday 2nd July.
During the 2021 Reunion I reflected on the sad passing of our Patron, Robbie Robertson, in June 2021 but was pleased to report that my predecessor, Peter Turrall, had kindly accepted an invitation from the Management Committee to become our new Patron. I have no doubt that Peter will continue to contribute to the success of the MVA in the years to come.
My thanks to Veterans for approving the change to our constitution to reduce the qualifying period for membership to 15 years which I think is entirely appropriate in this day and age.
Finally on the Reunion – my thanks to our guest, Professor Lew Schnurr for his most entertaining speech on his past experiences which kept us all fully engaged. Lew was a lecturer at the former Mid-Essex Technical College & School of Art (to give its full name) in Chelmsford and had clearly not lost that professional touch.
Sandford Mill …
Most of our members will be aware that a number of our Veterans have used their experience and skills to maintain and demonstrate broadcast studio equipment as volunteers over many years at Sandford Mill in Chelmsford. When I took my grandchildren there a couple of years ago, it was easy to appreciate the attraction and interest that working equipment generates when compared to static exhibits.
In May 2021, Oaklands Museum (backed by Chelmsford City Council) wrote a letter to their Marconi volunteers which can best described as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for all their efforts over the years. If I summarise the letter, it says 'we have no further need of your technical skills and experience working with Marconi equipment so please remove anything that you may have loaned to us forthwith and don’t touch anything else on site without express permission'. There was no prior consultation whatsoever with the volunteers.
Despite efforts by many interested parties, the decision was not reversed and most of the equipment is now lost to the Marconi heritage in Chelmsford.
BBC Centenary year …
2MT (Two Emma Toc) at Marconi’s laboratories in Writtle was the first British station to make regular entertainment broadcasts – this was from an ex-Army hut and started on 14th February, 1922. The presenter, producer, actor-manager and writer was Captain P. P. Eckersley, a Marconi engineer. His regular announcement "This is Two Emma Toc, Writtle testing, Writtle testing", became quite well known.
The British Broadcasting Company Limited (as the BBC was originally called) was formed on 18th October, 1922 and led to 2MT’s sister station 2LO in the Strand which began broadcasting on 14th November, 1922. John Reith was appointed the BBC’s General Manager and Peter Eckersley became Chief Engineer.
The Writtle hut is still largely preserved at Sandford Mill and, at the time of writing, we wait to learn how it might figure in the BBC Centenary celebrations.
Our President for 2022 will be Veteran Dave Roscoe (one of our Management Committee members) and I am delighted to tell you that the author, journalist, broadcaster and historic consultant, Tim Wander will be our guest speaker accompanied by his wife Judith. Tim worked for Marconi for some 17 years worldwide including, Writtle, and he published '2MT Writtle – The Birth of British Broadcasting'.
And finally, my thanks ...
- to a former Veteran who made a generous bequest to the Marconi Veterans’ Association in his will.
- to Leonardo UK for assistance with our newsletter printing and postage costs. Their ongoing support is invaluable and very much appreciated.
- to all members of the Management Committee for their continued support and prompt engagement with Zoom meetings during Covid-19. We all look forward to getting back to normal in this respect.