Branch President Darren Pritchard, Prof MICME, welcomed members and guests to his end of year Banquet and Ball and thanked the hotel for the excellent dinner.  His guests for the evening were National President, Trevor Ayre FICME, National Vice President, Steve Hill FICME, West Midlands Branch Vice President, Mark Holliday Prof MICME, West Midlands Junior Vice President, David Hall Prof MICME, together with their partners, and the guest speaker for the evening, Black Country comedian, Ollie Spencer.  Also present on top table was Darren’s son, Logan.

Darren thanked the many speakers who had given their time to present technical lectures to the branch, with special thanks to those speakers who had travelled from mainland Europe. He also thanked the members of the branch council, ICME head office staff and National Council officers, for providing both help and support during his year as branch president. Darren spoke about the importance of the social side to the branch which has an additional aim of introducing the institute informally to potential members.

Outgoing National President, Trevor Ayre, spoke about the challenge of the falling membership of the Institute and the need to attract new members. He noted that the West Midlands branch is the largest, with 280 members, but that this number only represents 5% of the number employed in West Midland foundries.  he reminded delegates that the ICME is the only provider of the foundry specific education and training that is so essential for the long term health of the industry.

Change is taking place in the Institute to make it more pertinent for today’s industry, he noted. In the last year the Institute established Foundry Training Services Ltd, led by Michala French.  This company will provide all future training leaving Julia Cartwright free to manage membership and other aspects of the institute.  A new approach to boosting membership will be the introduction of Affiliate Member where companies can register affiliates with some of the benefits that a full member may have, including a discount on the cost of training.  There will be further changes as the Institute pursues its many aims especially in relation to education and training.

Comedian Ollie Spencer wound up the formal part of the evening after which Members and guests danced the evening away to the band Times Square.