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Every year my daughter Julie Lightfoot, Solar Solve’s MD and myself look forward to attending the (wait for it!!), Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (; Royal Institution of Naval Architects (; The Nautical Institute (; North East Coast Joint Branch Annual Dinner and Dance.

This year was no different and once again the very formal high profile event was held in Newcastle Civic Centre’s extremely prestigious Banqueting Suite (  and was attended by around 250 members of the Joint Branch, including partners and guests.

As guests arrived for the reception they were entertained by the Monkwearmouth Sunderland Salvation Army Band, with the Sea Cadets of South Shields T.S. Collingwood Unit (  in very smart attendance.

The main event took place in the Banqueting Hall, which is a modern-day take on a traditional, baronial style hall that is capable of seating up to 600 guests, and is breath taking in terms of both size and grandeur.

We dined in the height of luxury, surrounded by medieval-style walls inscribed with the names of past Lord Mayors, eating and drinking beneath beautiful Bavarian crystal chandeliers.

There was a lot going on with Awards Presentations, an excellent 4-Course Dinner, speech, Entertainment, Tombola and Dancing with the group ‘Chameleon’ until the early hours.

For Julie and I, the highlight of the evening is always the networking.  Taking every opportunity to meet up with current and old friends and meet new people who share the same interests as we do.  People who are passionate about the world wide marine industry, it’s opportunities, importance globally and the excitement of being a part of it.  In the attached photo are Laraine Knott, Jim Knott MD BMT TITRON (UK) Ltd., Julie  and John.

I was seated next to a young man, late thirties I guess, called Rob Elliot who was with his wife and they were farmers near Durham, about 20 miles from Newcastle.  Rob explained that he was not gate-crashing the event under false pretences.  His family are farmers but he wanted a sea-going career and ended up as master of 320,000dwt VLCC’s before settling down ashore on his farm.  He was at the event because, as an arable farmer with no animals, he has a lot of uncommitted flexible time and works as a marine consultant for a friend he worked with at sea, who runs a marine consultancy.

When Rob asked what I did for a living I told him I worked for Solar Solve and his instant reaction was that he knew of the product because in 1998 he had retrofitted some SOLASOLV blinds at the wheelhouse windows of the ship he was on.  He remembered they were easy to install, incredibly effective and that we called them Sunglasses for Ships®, which Julie and I were really delighted to hear.

For someone to still remember our Solar Solve products after 21 years, for only GOOD reasons, was the icing on the cake for us at this year’s splendid North East Coast Joint Branch Annual Dinner and Dance.
JHL MBE SSL Co. Chairman

Laraine Jim Julie John