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Virtual Informal Networking Event (VINE)

The current restrictions on travel and public assembly, as well as the closure of the hostelry that we normally frequent, proved to be a challenge that the hardened networking members felt obliged to rise to and, indeed, overcome.  So, using modern IT it was decided that the informal networking events should continue, but on-line and from home, with members’ contributions being suitably lubricated from their own cellars.  By all accounts the event was considered a success, being joined not only by the normal protagonists but also by a number of members who could/would not have attended in person.  Freeman Stewart Owen therefore facilitated an on-line session, and he writes as follows:

“A healthy ‘online’ gathering of some 20 Constructors, young and old, male and female, active and retired,  from a variety of Construction and associated sectors, including the welcome presence of our Master and other Court members, took place from 18.00 to  around 19.00 on the evening of Thursday 2 April.

Organised by Gary Jackson (inspired by a suggestion from Chris Turner) and hosted by Stewart Owen, a quick round table review showed the members in fine spirits, (some with those fine spirits or similar close at hand), coping admirably with the prevailing challenge of Coronavirus and Lockdown

It was clear that the limited face to face interaction resulting from ‘social distancing’ is having an impact, and the benefit of such gatherings, albeit remotely, is important.  The general consensus was, ‘Working From Home’ (WFH) is ‘here to stay’ in some form at least and offers many benefits as well as some disadvantages to us ‘social animals’

The common ‘business’ themes included – lack of clarity about contractual implications for site closing; cashflow and credit access are, obviously under huge pressure; material shortages are biting hard; and these are unprecedented circumstances even to survivors of the various recessions.

However. . .   the current situation is a chance to ‘take a breath’ and rethink future plans; new remote working tools (Zoom etc) will be enablers in different ways; physical distance need not be an insurmountable means to keep in touch (representatives from exotic locations such as The Cayman Islands, Somerset, Ashford and St Albans – even Tunbridge Wells, were all able to participate and share a ‘virtual glass’.

One common initiative was the opportunity to clear one’s desk, organise all that paperwork, and re-discover your actual desk top (mine is glass apparently; who knew?). Sir Vivian’s is an, as yet, ‘undiscovered country’ and the new species that shall be discovered during that exercise are keenly awaited.

(Virtual networking is also a chance to have a nose round other people’s homes – Iain Meek has an impressive collection of art, unless he was visiting a local stately pile).

The most obvious beneficial outcome from the conversation was the willingness and ability for the various members to help each other.

The Virtual Informal Networking Event will be repeated and all members are welcome to join – the only qualification is that they ensure close proximity to refreshment – hydration is important especially when talking and sharing ‘virtually’.The good news seemed to be that the event allowed for a cheap round – as noted enthusiastically by Arthur Seymour and Andrew Hornby.”

The next Virtual Informal Networking Event will be advertised on the website, and members are urged to join in – if you are nervous about the new sport of “spot the home background” there are now even software packages for most remote conferencing applications that allow you to participate in a virtual meeting in front of a virtual background!

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