This report was presented to the Annual General Meeting held by Zoom on 16 March 2021


This time last year the Committee reluctantly decided that because of something being called Covid19, the AGM should be held via something called Zoom. Both the virus and the means of communication were new to me and perhaps to some of you. At the time I expressed the hope that all would be back to normal by the autumn and that our lecture programme would return to its traditional format. How wrong I was. One year on we again have our AGM via Zoom.


I should like first to thank you as members for your support through the year. After a slightly slow start, as members made their judgment on Zooming, membership steadily increased and now stands  only a very little below the numbers in the previous year.


It is ironic that your Chairman this year is sandwiched between a past Chairman  and Vice- Chairman who both have considerable technical skills while I struggle with anything more complicated than looking something up on Google or typing an e-mail! I therefore record with gratitude and thanks the assistance, patience and forbearance of Peter Shipley and Stuart Dennison on numerous occasions throughout the year. To them I would add Fiona Shipley who bravely took on the rôle of Secretary last year, unaware of my limitations. She has also had to cope with minuting the increased number of  Zoom committee meetings which Covid19 has necessitated.


To Stuart, assisted by Peter,  has fallen the bulk of the work of setting up our Zoom lectures, providing the link, and ensuring that our speakers on the night are happy with arrangements, particularly when it comes to illustrations. Zoom at its best is particularly good in this respect as the recent lecture on Sir Robert Peel demonstrated.


In a further demonstration of their skills, Peter and Stuart provided an additional Zoom lecture in January on Researching Local History which was very professional and well received by those who attended.


Anna Burrage has continued in her rôle as Treasurer, with her accustomed quiet efficiency. Covid19 has of course meant extra work in getting in subscriptions and means that the Accounts will be presented in unaudited form.


It was not possible to make our planned summer outing to the Weald and Downland Museum for obvious reasons, and the Committee has decided not to organise a visit this year. Should the situation improve significantly later in the year the matter can of course, be reviewed.


The programme for the year, which Chris Pendred put together, has gone well.  Attendances have steadily increased . The first three talks averaged 53, and the last three 75, while Bletchley Park attracted 83. These are devices (desktop, iPad etc) and can be increased to reflect the number of couples watching on the same device. Chris however has indicated his wish to step down from the rôle of programme secretary. This will leave a vacancy within the Committee which we need to fill. It is an important rôle and in current circumstances more of a challenge than usual but there is surely someone out there who would relish bringing new ideas to the committee. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more.


This brings me on to the question of next year's programme, both as to content and presentation. In its early years, the Society found many of its speakers locally and they spoke on local topics. Over the years the range of speakers and topics has greatly widened and Zoom widens the choice even more. The question arises as to how much advantage we should take of this new technology.


It was clear from the poll conducted after discussion following the last lecture that a wholesale transfer to Zoom was not popular. The view is strongly held by some members that we should return to the URC in October.  A split between the two emerged as the preferred option, recognising that Zoom had enabled us to hear several excellent speakers who could not have travelled to Oxted. It is the split which has occupied much of the Committee's time, to be set against the uncertainty of when and how the URC, or any other venue might reopen.


I can however give you a flavour of a potential programme. Among the topics currently under consideration with a local interest are the Titsey Estate and the impact of geology on the history of our area.   Of wider interest, possibilities include the development of cinema buildings and their social impact, the life of Richard III, and Ivan the Terrible.


Hopefully, speakers booked for a live presentation will, like this year, be able to offer Zoom as an alternative if necessary.   It is also our hope that, if cost savings are made in terms of room hire or travel expenses, extra Zoom lectures will be affordable within the present membership fee.


I look forward to the time when current problems are behind us and life returns to a more predictable pattern.


Peter Jarvis