On the 24th March 2015 I received an email reading: ‘The Prime Minister requests the pleasure of the company of Siamak Eynollahi at a reception to celebrate Keeping Britain Moving at 10 Downing Street on Monday 18 April 2016.’
Our computer security software selfishly decided that it would select this email as SPAM! At the time, I was not aware of the reception so to avoid any nasty bugs infecting our systems I deleted the email. About two weeks later, I received an email from Tom Jeffery of the Community Transport Association requesting my RSVP to attend, it was only then that I had realised what I’d done! Yes, that deleted email was genuine and I was one of the lucky few that were selected to represent Community Transport at this reception being held at the famous 10 Downing Street. Without any hesitation, I quickly retrieved the email and confirmed to attend.
The excitement started building! It was remarkable that I had been given the opportunity on behalf of Brent Community Transport and other valued CT members, to meet the Prime Minister and other MPs. Their presence at this event was important to the CT sector; our continuous hard work and commitment to the communities we serve was finally being recognised on a larger scale and by those who have the influence to help move our sector forward, not only in London but in the whole of Britain.
Monday 18th April finally arrived. Bill Freeman and Charlotte Hughes of the CTA had arranged that all of the 12 selected CTA members gather in the cafe at One Great George Street and that we would, together, make our way by foot to 10 Downing Street. As we made our way to the reception hall, I gazed at the historic magnificence of what, for centuries, has been the home to past and present Prime Ministers of Britain. The walls of the staircase displayed portraits of former Prime Ministers, adding to the grandness of the house.
We walked into the spectacular reception hall which very quickly filled up with officials, representatives and providers of transport from all over the UK. Canepés, wine and sorbet were served throughout the reception by the professional and pleasant staff of 10 Downing Street.
The event was the perfect opportunity for networking, not only to spread the word about Community Transport but also to become more knowledgeable about other providers and how they contribute to the sector. As I spoke to more and more people, it became clear that many were not aware of the work that we do, but this was okay as it gave CTA members the opportunity to enlighten them about the services we provide to our communities and also about the ongoing challenges we are facing.
It was already very much enjoyable by this stage, but the excitement levels increased when the Prime Minister, David Cameron, joined us. I was lucky enough to speak with him and tell him about Brent CT and the work we do. He told me that it’s good to see a mix of transport providers at the reception, including those from Community Transport.
Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport, delivered the opening speech, highlighting the role and importance of transport and his appreciation of the work it does. It was then time for the Prime Minister’s speech; all eyes in the room were focussed on him. In his speech he recognised the work of Community Transport, he was very supportive and requested that others value the services CTs provide.
It was at this time that the other providers we had spoken with looked our way and showed gratitude. I felt a moment of achievement and it was a pleasure to share it with my fellow CT representatives. The Prime Minister also shared with us that it was Samantha Cameron’s birthday!
The reception and evening overall at 10 Downing Street was remarkable and an experience that I will never forget. I hope that those we spoke with were able to understand Community Transport better and see how proud we are in making a difference and contributing to the social value and needs of the disabled, elderly and vulnerable people in our communities by delivering accessible transport services to them with the dignity they deserve.
As the event drew to a close, we made our way out of No.10 and of course, we had to have that famous photo moment standing (very proudly) in front of the door.
The event addressed Community Transport on a whole new level and I would have never in a million years thought I would get the opportunity to go to 10 Downing Street and meet the Prime Minister of Britain, shake his hand and speak with him; it was an absolute pleasure.
Endless thanks to CTA and Patrick McLoughlin MP for making this happen. And thank you Tom for getting in touch and making me aware that the email was not spam!