First presented to the Society’s Annual General Meting on 19 March 2019

I’m delighted to report that this has been a highly successful year for the Society.  Membership has for the first time reached three figures and attendance has averaged nearly 80 per meeting, with many visitors as well as new members. As a result our finances are in a healthy state. 

It has also been my final year as chairman and I’d also like to express my appreciation to the many people who have helped us reach our present position.  First, the Minister and Elders of the United Reformed Church for allowing us to meet here and to enjoy the use of the audio-visual system, which continues to impress so many of our guest speakers. And to our members and guests, for their support of the Society, as well as our excellent speakers themselves for coming to talk to us and providing us with the benefit of their knowledge and expertise.

My gratitude also goes to the members of the Committee, who work diligently and efficiently behind the scenes to make sure the Society runs smoothly and to promote it in the community.  Thanks go to our President, Professor Patrick Alderton, and to all those who served on the Committee during the past year: Peter Jarvis, who as vice chairman organised last year’s successful summer outing to Brighton Pavilion and Newhaven Fort, and is finalising the arrangements for this year’s visit to Brooklands Motor and Aviation Museum;  Jill Shillito, our secretary, and Anna Burrage, our long-standing Hon Treasurer; Chris Pended who remains our webmaster and has also taken on the role of programme secretary, which I say more about below;  Stuart Paterson, our press officer, John-Fogg Elliot the equipment officer, Trevor Burrage, who, among much else, produces and puts up posters advertising our meetings and Stuart Dennison, who joined the committee last year, and edited the latest edition of our newsletter.  I’d further like to record my thanks to Chris Bruce-Jones, who sets up of the slide and computer facilities on behalf of the church and Janet Brealey, who liaises with speakers a few weeks before they are due to visit us, to confirm the arrangements. 

One of the Committee’s key tasks during the year was to make sure we complied with new data protection laws.   Peter Jarvis drafted a consent form for new members to sign and I sent out 155 emails to people on our existing lists to ask if they wished to continue to receive messages.  Excluding non-replies and people who no longer wished to stay in touch for whatever reason, we now have 115 valid email addressees, some of which cover more than one person. Anna and I have revised the data we hold to ensure that the master list of members and supporters which she holds and the Chairman’s email list match and are kept up to date.  

But circumstances change.  As I come to the end of my three years in office, I’m pleased to place you in the capable and experienced hands of Peter Jarvis, while Stuart Dennison will become the new vice chairman.  I have offered to become editor of the newsletter.  As you know, sadly, Jill Shillito has resigned as secretary because of other commitments and I’d like to thank her for all her hard work over the last 2½ years.  

That brings me to the roles of web master and programme secretary, which are now both undertaken by Chris Pendred. First, Chris recently reported to the committee that our existing website is outdated and needs a major overhaul.  The committee has formed a small group of Chris, Stuart Dennison and myself to carry this through in conjunction with the web design company and to ensure we get value for money. Secondly in May last year Chris took over as the new programme secretary to put together our 2019-2020 programme. I’d been doing it in a temporary capacity for the previous two years, during which time I tried to arrange a wide-range of speakers.  This season we had six new guest speakers, three returning ones and two members, Stuart Dennison and Alan Goldsmith, also gave full length talks.  Two of the guest speakers were suggested by a member and Chris Pendred stepped in to find a replacement speaker for our very first meeting of the season.

Many visiting speakers have complimented us on our organisation, the facilities, the size of the audience and the good questions from the floor.  These last points demonstrate that our members are the Society’s lifeblood.  Your involvement is vitally important, especially when it comes to filling vacancies on the committee to ensure that we continue to prosper in the years ahead. 

Peter Shipley