Axe wielded but no blood spilt at SGMW Summit

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Every officer of the Southern Group of Motoring Writers was axed at the 2017 annual general meeting. But this was a re-shuffling of Group officers rather than shedding blood on carpets at the swish Dartford HQ of the SGMW’s hosts on the day, Mazda UK.

The key change was a job swap, with freelancer and Auto Italia editor Chris Rees shifting across to secretary after two successful years as Group chairman, while Diesel Car editor and publisher Ian Robertson replaces him, having served five years as eagle-eyed secretary.

Former vice-chairman Chris Manning takes over as treasurer, replacing Jackie Violet, who has left the Group to pursue projects outside motoring journalism; the SGMW’s former founding chairman Dave Ward replaces Chris as vice-chairman.

It was also agreed that this management committee should be expanded to five by the addition of Group publicity officer Steve Loader.

Chris Rees said: “It was an honour to serve a full two-year term as chairman of the SGMW – the UK’s largest regional motoring writers’ group in numbers and readership – and I’m delighted that Ian Robertson is taking over the chair.”

Ian responded with: “Chris has been a brilliant ambassador for us – affable, popular and knowledgeable – and we have enjoyed a good working relationship that will continue, albeit in different seats.”

Both officers had also instigated expansion of the committee to include the publicity officer and Ian Robertson explained: “We created the role of publicity officer in 2014 to make use of Steve Loader’s experience as both journalist and PR consultant and he has already boosted promotion of the Group generally and its fantastically successful annual Karting Grand Prix.”

“We won’t leave it there either: the SGMW will soon announce another exciting project for the calendar, plus celebration of the Group’s 15th anniversary later this year. There are other events to come too, making it vital for the publicity officer to be seated at the ‘top table’ and better able to promote them.”

Members reflected on what was largely a good year, with the 2016 Karting GP for industry PR teams reaching new heights and taking total charity funds to more than £12,000, to the benefit of several air ambulance services since the event launched in 2014. This year’s event (Thursday 27th April) already has a full grid of teams.

The SGMW website has also gone from strength to strength, being fully compatible with tablets and smartphones. Twitter feeds have become an increasingly important element of this Group shop window as well.

Competition to join the Group has increased, with the 30-member cap regularly under pressure and prompting former chairman Sue Baker to propose and win a vote to increase the headcount to 35.

The low point of the year was the loss of Brian Laban in December after a long battle with cancer. He wore his great talent lightly and SGMW colleague Dave Randle summed him up best: “It’s easy to think of Brian as a kind of Brian Blessed of motoring journalism. He was a big man with an explosive sense of fun, who scaled the heights of his profession… Our world has lost one of its luminaries; a genuinely great character and true talent and, behind it all, an ordinary bloke.”

The meeting closed with a loud ‘thank you’ to the Group AGM hosts: Mazda UK PR Director Graeme Fudge and his team, Owen Mildenhall, Lois Cavanagh and Martine Varrall.

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