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SATRA honoured by Royal Visitor

International guests join The Duke of Gloucester for a very special day at SATRA's headquarters.

His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester, visited SATRA’s head office in Kettering on Thursday 23rd May to mark the organisation’s 100th anniversary. The Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire was also present on this special day, as were the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire, the Mayor of Kettering, the town’s Member of Parliament and a number of specially-invited SATRA members from around the world. Journalists from BBC Television and BBC Radio attended the unveiling to record reports on The Duke’s visit and interviewed key SATRA personnel for broadcast that evening. The Northamptonshire Telegraph newspaper was also represented.

Two days earlier, members of the SATRA China Advisory Board (CAB) had gathered at SATRA’s headquarters (please click here for further details of this meeting). This meeting was chaired by Austin Simmons, who also made a brief presentation on key events in SATRA’s history.

On the day of The Duke’s visit, during which Kettering was basking in sunshine, SATRA’s employees joined the CAB members and other guests in front of the main offices to hear Austin Simmons welcome His Royal Highness to SATRA. The Duke then spoke on the organisation’s impressive achievements during its century-long history, and unveiled a contemporary sculpture that had been commissioned by SATRA to mark the centenary - shown in the photograph at the beginning of this article.

Learning more about SATRA

The Duke, who is first cousin to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, then toured a number of SATRA’s laboratories and saw a variety of tests being demonstrated. SATRA chief executive Austin Simmons and John Hooker, who will become CEO on Austin’s retirement this year, accompanied The Duke as he was shown SATRA’s Pedatron biomechanical walking simulator (which mimics the forces experienced by footwear during wear), as well as the eyewear, footwear and chemistry laboratories. In addition, The Duke visited SATRA’s research laboratory, the furniture and flooring department, the hemi-anechoic chamber (used for the assessment of hearing protection) and the footwear fitting room. The invited international guests and CAB members also enjoyed the same laboratory tour in small parties, after which they joined The Duke in signing a special visitor’s book to mark the occasion.

Head of chemistry Martin Heels explained his department’s work to HRH The Duke of Gloucester

Footwear expert Mike George highlighted the value of slip testing

Following the completion of their tours, The Duke and the other guests travelled the short distance to the 17th century Boughton House stately home to the north east of Kettering for a celebratory lunch. Each guest was presented with a copy of SATRA’s commemorative centenary book to mark the occasion.

SATRA chairman Stephen Etheridge (left) with The Duke of Gloucester, John Hooker and Austin Simmons

Specially-invited guests on the steps of Boughton House

The Duke received a framed silk print from SATRA CAB member Robert Tsai

On the evening of Friday 24th, all members of SATRA staff and their partners were invited to a party to celebrate SATRA’s centenary. This was also held at Boughton House.

Marking the centenary in steel, stone and film

When the SATRA team first considered commissioning a work of art to stand as a reminder of 100 years of research and testing, it was hoped that a local Northamptonshire artist could be found who could capture the essence of the organisation. As a result, sculptor Martyn Paul Steele was commissioned to make a contemporary artwork for SATRA to stand as a reminder of 100 years of research and testing.

After visiting SATRA’s laboratories, Steele was inspired by the forces of stress and tension played out on materials under test to create a piece called ‘No Compromise’. He conceived the idea of solid weathering steel plates being pulled apart by 100 stainless steel cables which are clamped and tightened in stone. This evolving dynamic contrast emphasises the uncompromising nature of scientific investigation and precision as materials and components come and go over time. SATRA also commissioned the UK Film School in Northamptonshire to produce a short film to highlight SATRA’s history. This can now be viewed on the SATRA website and is also available through SATRA’s FaceBook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts.

A short film has been produced by UK Film School linking SATRA’s present activities to its roots in 1919

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 6 of the June 2019 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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