Chairman’s Report 2021-2022

Chairman’s Report 2021-2022

19 Jun 2022


The year 2021 was not completely devoid of face to face activity but it was a delight to finally return to something approaching normality when we held the first meeting of our 2022 programme in January. Since then we have already enjoyed five excellent lectures which have been well attended and well received. It has been highly gratifying to see so many members both willing and eager to return after a difficult two years. It was also a pleasure to welcome our North West Area Chair, Pat Corless, and her husband Gerry, as our guests at the May meeting.  They very much enjoyed the event and Pat has since complimented us on having such a lively and successful Society.

We must thank Angela Pape for arranging our programme and liaising with our speakers to ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day, not always a straightforward task. We have five more lectures to look forward to this year but Angela is already in the process of putting together a programme for 2023 which I am sure will be equally enjoyable.

Judie Graham-Clegg, as Membership Secretary, is almost invariably the first point of contact between our members and the committee and is appreciated by all. In her annual report she also expresses her pleasure in the return to normal activities and notes that attendance has been steady since January with an average audience of 121 over four months. Membership continues to grow and thrive and has now reached a total of 242. She has therefore eliminated the old waiting list and, because of our move to create more capacity, she can now accommodate even more new members. Therefore, if you know of anyone who wishes to join, please ask them to get in touch with Judie.

Your committee continues to meet regularly, as it did throughout the period of the pandemic, and there has been some reorganisation of our duties and responsibilities as things have moved forward.

Our esteemed past chairman, Martin Gillibrand, has continued to serve on the committee and we appreciate his help and advice, based on his knowledge and experience of Arts Society.

Sue West has stood down as our secretary and I thank her for all her previous help and support in that capacity. She will now concentrate on the organisation of web-based communications with our membership as well as her involvement in the production of our very attractive annual membership cards.

As a consequence, Sue O’Brien agreed to accept the role of acting Society Secretary for the time being and we are very grateful to her for this undertaking in addition to her other roles and responsibilities, both locally and regionally. Many of you will be aware that Sue lost her husband Des in February and again we offer our condolences. Des will be remembered as one of the founder members of our Society.

Meanwhile, Jenny Fisher agreed to take on responsibility for matters relating to our meeting venue. This immediately involved her in much more work than she, perhaps, at first anticipated. While we are delighted to have a full membership, it has led us to reconsider the suitability of Borwick Hall as the venue for our meetings. For some time there has been a tendency for the hall to be over-crowded at lectures and this impacts on comfort, ability to socialise and, most importantly, safety. In addition, congestion in the car park has frequently caused difficulties; those of you who attended the March lecture will remember an embarrassing interruption caused by a tractor!

Jenny therefore carried out a detailed and comprehensive review into possible alternative venues and/or organisational arrangements. This was a major task and we very much aware of the work that went into it at the time and subsequently. The essential initial conclusion was that there is no local venue offering significant advantages over Borwick Hall which, indeed, suits our requirements very well apart from capacity.

Based on Jenny’s findings and recommendations, the committee therefore made the decision to adopt new arrangements for our meetings which involve delivery of the monthly lecture at Borwick in two separate sessions, one at 11.30am and one at 2.15pm. The lectures and other arrangements will be identical but we ask each member to commit to attending at the same time for the whole of the programme. Before confirming this significant change we were anxious to canvass the opinions of as many members as possible regarding the move. Among those of you who responded to a questionnaire, over 90% were in favour of our proposal and with this in mind we made the firm decision to go ahead from September 2022 onwards. If you have not already indicated your session preference, am or pm, could you please let Jenny know as soon as possible. There will be an informal Q&A session at the end of the AGM in order to answer any questions from members.

There have not been any study days or tours since 2019. The immediate reason for this was the Covid pandemic with all its restrictions but there were reservations before then about whether they should continue. It has become increasingly difficult to attract sufficient numbers to make them self funding. Jenny Fisher and Sue O’Brien, who have been responsible for these activities, have concluded that the time and energy spent on organising them would be better spent on other aspects of the society which would benefit a greater number of members.

In order to gauge members’ feelings about tours, during the year 2021/22 arrangements were made for a two-night field trip due to take place in May/June 2022. The relatively small and slow uptake of twenty-six confirmed that such events do not seem to engage a large proportion of the membership. We are aware that these activities are greatly enjoyed by those who do participate in them and we thank them for their support. For the immediate future, however, we will not be organising any more study days or tours.

John Wilson did organise one outing last October to Isel Hall and the Lakes Distillery in the north of the Lake District. Thirty members participated and found this a most enjoyable visit. They used their own transport and simply paid for the cost of the guided tours. It is anticipated that outings will continue and will revert to including coach transport. Indeed, John has organised an outing to Bishop Auckland on 1st July which we expect to be well supported.

Mary Frankland, who is responsible for Young Arts projects, must be congratulated on her successful application to The National Arts Society for a grant of £750.00 towards workshops on Illuminated Writing in two primary schools from less affluent areas of Lancaster. They will be held at Willow Lane and Castle View Schools, either in mid July or early September, targeted at 53 Year 6 pupils. Mary is grateful to the three members who have generously offered to help.                                                                                     

As announced at our last AGM, after a period of transition, it is proposed that Margie Dixon will now take over fully from Cathy Hartley as Society Treasurer. Once again, I would like to express our appreciation of all the work that Cathy has done over the last few years in keeping our finances in such good order. We are very grateful to Margie for agreeing to take on this considerable responsibility. Her end of year financial report has been circulated and is presented in item 6 of the AGM agenda. Essentially, although we remain solvent, we have sustained a significant loss over the last year as result of the disruption caused by the pandemic. Because of this and also the inevitable increase in our upcoming expenses we have been obliged to raise the annual subscription fee for 2023 to £55.00.  We are aware that this is a significant increase but it is in line with other societies in the area and, I believe, still very good value.

For many years, John Parkinson has been almost singlehandedly responsible for the audio-visual aspects of our meetings which are crucial to the smooth running of the lectures. Over the last few months, Richard Gargini has shared this burden with John, as well as looking for possible recruits willing to offer further back up in this vital matter. Unfortunately, Richard suffered a very nasty accident in May which necessitated hospitalisation with serious injuries. He is now home and has begun what will probably be quite a long period of recovery and obviously we wish him well until he is able to return to us. In the meantime we urgently need more volunteers to assist John in his work.

We are very happy that a new team of ladies is now providing the refreshments which are an important part of the social aspect of our meetings and we are very grateful to them for taking on this service. We must also thank John Wilson and Mike Fisher for their long suffering duties in organising the car parking, which should now be much less of a problem as we move forward.

The willingness of members to volunteer to help in a whole variety of ways is very important to the smooth running and long term success of our society and we ask any of you who feel able to do so to contact any of us on the committee.

I have very much enjoyed my first few months as a real, rather than a virtual chairman, and thank all members of an excellent committee for their help and support. The move to the new format for our meetings is challenging but will, I think, ultimately prove to be a change for the better and our society will continue to flourish into the future.

Very best wishes to all.

John Houghton

About the Author

John Houghton


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