IT was the social event where friendships and business partnerships were formed in Dorset’s digital industry.

Up to 250 people turned out to enjoy the 40th and final Meetdraw, the volunteer-run event which has ended after a decade.

The event, at Key West on Bournemouth Pier, saw thanks given to the 40 volunteer “butchers” who have run the event.

Butcher Andy Brown, a consultant financial director with firms including Salad and We Are Base, said the evening included many memories of the relationships formed at Meetdraw.

“So many people were talking about their first jobs, friendships and the memories of being able to relax and let it all hang out a bit, rather then networking where you need to be a little bit more professional,” he said.

He said he was one of the many people who formed lasting connections at Meetdraw.

“I moved to Bournemouth in 2013. Before I moved here, I went to Meetdraw. I’d never visited the town before I started looking for houses,” he said

“I knew the industry a little bit but didn’t know a soul. I would say 80-90 per cent of the work I started to do when I first came to Bournemouth came through people I had met at Meetdraw.”

Toby Pestridge, creative director at Bournemouth-based Createful, first went to Meetdraw for the fourth event and became a butcher from the eighth.

He said the last event saw people recalling the countless business connections and friendships they had made. “There was one man who met his future best man through Meetdraw,” he said.

“It’s hard to calculate what it’s contributed to the economy but I would say it’s a sustainable environment in which to create new business opportunities and that’s still there. That still exists.

“For me it’s really been about the friends, the people, the personal connection and getting to know people. It was also about the broad range that it attracted, so you could go from the most junior workers right up to the owners themselves.”

Meetdraw’s butchers decided to bring to the event amid a “changing landscape” in the industry, with many larger businesses taking their marketing in-house rather than going to agencies.

The final event heard a call for the sector to consider what it might want to replace Meetdraw.

Mr Brown said: “I’m a believer in the free market and if there’s a demand for something, someone will supply it.”

Photos: Chris Leach, @pistonographyuk