The quiet determination of one man saw the formation of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers back in 1989.
It was perhaps somewhat of an anomaly that until then the heart of the British motor industry had no motoring writers' group. Other areas of the country had such groups but the Midlands was sadly lacking.
This thought had obviously struck well-known Midlands newsman Tony Willard (right). He decided that a Midland group was needed and with help from the press lists of Rover and Peugeot a call was put out to attend a preliminary meeting at the National Motorcycle Museum. Such was the response that the group was officially formed a few weeks later at a meeting of the ad-hoc committee at the Belfry near Sutton Coldfield.
Three decades later the motoring landscape has changed beyond anything that those first group members could ever have envisaged. The group is perhaps more relevant than ever nowadays and has members from the new media of websites, blogs, vlogs and podcasts as well as traditional print media.
In a challenging environment the group offers test car rotas to assist members and has embraced the world of social media itself with a web and social media presence. It has also organised a social media course for members.
We still have some of our original members from 1989 when the group was formed. Obviously youngsters at the time! Sadly we have also lost more than a few including Tony Willard, our founder, and Pat Braithwaite who was one of our first committee members.
Over the group’s 30 years it has only had three chairmen, Cliff Webb, Tony Willard and the current incumbent Ian Donaldson. It perhaps shows the stability of the group in somewhat unstable times for both the motor industry and the media.
There is no doubt that the group system has had to adapt and change to stay relevant. What will happen in the coming years? Well cars will not be going away anytime soon despite the predictions of their imminent demise. It may be that electric power will take over from petrol, certainly diesel, sooner rather than later. The loss of tax revenue from such a move may also see the spectre of road pricing rear its head and manufacturers will continue to face substantial challenges.
Motorists and industry watchers need unbiased reporting on what will certainly be an interesting time for the motor industry. Thirty years after its formation members of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers will continue to be well placed to report on how the industry looks to meet these challenges.