2024 Dinner

The 136th Henry Johnson Commemoration Dinner ~ Saturday 24 February 2024
Burlington Hotel, Birmingham

Dinner speakers (l-r): Cecilia Pipe, Eleanor Linford, Rachel Mitchell and Stephanie Warboys

The 136th Henry Johnson Dinner took place this year on the 24th February at the Burlington Hotel. As my first HJ, I am particularly pleased to say that I really enjoyed myself. In fact, even the start of the evening was great – after finally managing to find the entrance to the hotel, I was greeted with the brilliant sight of someone who took full advantage of the black tie optional dress code. I guess jeans and a t-shirt is a probably more comfy than anything the rest of us were wearing! (In his defence, his suit did arrive shortly afterwards). After grabbing a quick drink at the bar, and briefly considering selling one of my kidneys after seeing the cost, I headed into the main room to sit down.

The food was swiftly served, a smart idea considering that numerous pre-ordered bottles of wine were already waiting for us on the tables (I of course took part in enjoying a cheeky bottle of white). 

During the evening we were also treated to three great speeches. Though my memory of the night gets a bit hazy here, parts of each speech still stand out to me. For example, Eleanor took the time to make toasts to a whole range of people and groups, both present and not. It was great to recognise the contributions everyone makes to the guild and ringing in general. One toast that stood out to me was the one made to the women who rang the first ever ladies peal of Maximus in 1975. I found this to be particularly relevant considering that just before the dinner began, a band of 12 female St Martin’s Guild members ran the first ladies peal of Maximus for the Guild at Solihull (congratulations to Rose for her first peal of Maximus!). Stef then taught me more about Eleanor than I ever thought I’d know (and even taught me the name of a new element) and Cecilia then gave a lovely speech which really showed to me just how important the St Martin’s Guild is.

After this, with everyone suitably fed and happy, a brilliant hum began in the room as people moved around from table to table, catching up and generally having a good time. Just outside of the room, an arm wrestling contest sprung up and, despite everyone’s best attempts, Dan Earthquake remained the unbeaten champion. Personally, after suffering defeat by every non-professional I attempted to wrestle, I thought I’d save myself from any further humiliation and just attempt to goad others into embarrassing themselves by challenging him instead. 

With the wine, beer (real ale!) and spirits all drunk, the night finished and everyone definitely immediately headed home for an early night…

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to the next one – which a little birdie has told me is planned for the 22nd February 2025 at the Burlington Hotel – hope to see you there!

KIRSTY GIFFORD

Handbell ringers (l-r): Alex Frye, Jimmy Yeoman, Oliver Bates, Michael Wilby, Simon Linford and Alistair Cherry