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November 23, 2007

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They came, they saw, they conkered

IOSH went conker crazy in Northamptonshire in October — and the world’s media came along for the fun and games.

A record crowd of more than 5300 turned out in the small village of Ashton to see ‘Team IOSH’ — consisting of Lisa ‘Basher’ Fowlie, Ray ‘Smasher’ Hurst, Neil ‘Cracker’ Budworth, and Nattasha ‘Thumper’ Freeman — and IOSH staff team ‘The Conkerers’ — Jamie Knox, Andy Smith and Craig Darlison from the IT team, and Membership’s Ross McCart — take on the world and prove that health and safety professionals aren’t there to stop people having fun.

And good safe fun was exactly what everyone had, with IOSH’s participation helping to raise a record £24,000 for organisations for the visually impaired.

Sadly, Team IOSH didn’t manage to reach the heights of World Champion that president Ray had been promising the nation’s media!

Lisa suffered defeat in the first round of competition, while Nattasha made it into Round Two, before losing to a former champion. Ray saw his dreams shattered in the third round, but only after receiving a yellow card for attempting a ‘helicopter-style’ attack on his opponent’s nut — all in good fun of course (Ray was in cahoots with the organisers!)

Neil appeared all set to go a long way in the competition, until he met a crocodile in the third round, who was just too snappy! The staff team didn’t do much better, although Andy did get to the fourth round.

Media mania

Away from the competition, the IOSH presidential team found itself the centre of attention from no fewer than 50 photographers, camera crew, and journalists from media outlets ranging from UK national media, such as Five News, to Russian television.

In the build-up to the championships, Ray and Neil appeared on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme alongside John Humphrys and sports presenter Garry Richardson. They did so well that they even managed to get Humphrys to comment: “You know, you’re destroying the image that’s been lovingly nurtured of you health and safety-types over a number of years — the image of killjoys.”

Neil also appeared on BBC1 East Midlands Today, BBC Radio WM, BBC Radio Shropshire and BRMB Radio in Birmingham. He also featured on the front page of his local newspaper, the Tamworth Herald. Ray was interviewed on numerous occasions by BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Radio Cambridge, BBC Radio Ulster, and his local station, BBC Radio Essex.

Lisa was also kept busy, with interviews on BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Merseyside, and BBC Radio London, while Nattasha featured on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire.

At the championships, Neil was interviewed by The Times. He told them: “I don’t think the public think conkers are dangerous, but we are still getting a bad time because of these odd decisions that get blamed on health and safety. It all started a few years ago, when a school banned kids from playing conkers unless they wore goggles. It was a stupid decision that came to exemplify these sorts of stupid decisions.”

While that was going on, Lisa was making an appearance on Sky News and ITV Anglia News. She was also interviewed by Time Magazine and Country Life.

IOSH’s sponsorship of the championships was covered in many national media outlets, including The Sun, Daily Star Sunday, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, Metro and The Scotsman. Coverage was also achieved on the national BBC website.

Ray added: “We hope that having taken part in this, we’ve shown that health and safety professionals are not the killjoys some would present us as. The sponsorship of the conker championships has certainly helped raise awareness of IOSH and what we stand for, but this is an ongoing challenge — we can’t stop now.”

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