President Steve Robinson opened by welcoming members to the 111th Annual General Meeting of The Society of Old Friends, which was also the first AGM to be held virtually.
Over 40 members had registered for the event and received a gift box, including a small bottle of fizz and a packet of roast beef and Spitfire Ale crisps as an homage to the spirit of past AGM’s where Steak & Kidney pudding is always a highlight!
In keeping with Society tradition, the President began the AGM by asking all attendees to raise a glass to remember those Old Friends who had passed away. Particular thoughts for Old Friend Simon Robbins who always had a smile on his face, Old Friend Mike Gibbons who was a stalwart of Old Friends for many, many years and although not an Old Friend, a good friend to many Old Friends, Ed Barnshaw.
The President then reported on the 18 months of Society activity since the last AGM in April 2019. He shared reflections of the Thames Cruise in June, then the Brummie Clachan in July at one of Tolkien’s favourite haunts.
The London Clachan at the Silver Cross Tavern in September was followed by the Autumn Dinner at the Vincent Rooms where the excellent Tom Parker Bowles explained how to make a successful career out of eating and then talking about it!
The spiritual home of the Society, the Clachan Inn, once again hosted our Christmas Clachan where a plaque marking the link between the Society and the Clachan Inn was unveiled.
Then an evening of “freedom and jollity prevailed” as Old Friend Chris Exner and his fabulous Bootleg Band entertained the night away where, in addition to the band, a tumultuous torrent of Old Friends talent was on display!
Then COVID hit and as all know only too well it has been impossible to host lives events since then!
But that hasn’t stopped the Society from growing and the President concluded by offering a hearty welcome to new members; welcome new members – Heike Dieckmann, Paul Shawcross, Elizabeth Porter, Helen Wade, Julie Hawley, Joanne Woodman and Kelly Hilleard.
The Honoured Treasurer, Old Friend John Logan, then reviewed the finances and summarised with the fact that the Society entered the 2020/21 year with a completely clean sheet (i.e. no outstanding debt or income from last year) and that the Society finances were in good health.
Membership this year has not been entirely straightforward given the current situation. The call for subscriptions normally comes after the AGM. This year, the country was in lockdown in April. The Committee had no idea how long the pandemic would last at that time but had to guess that it would be into the summer and therefore have an impact on the number of events which could be held this year.
The Committee tried to reflect this and the effect COVID could have on the Society and took the decision to reduce subscriptions by approximately 30%.
Then it was on to the formal business of Rules and Elections.
There were no rule changes proposed.
The Committee propose that OF John Logan be re-elected as the Honorary Treasurer for 2020, there being no other nominations.
The Committee propose that OF Tina Russell be re-elected as Honorary Secretary, for 2020, there being no other nominations.
SR informed that after being Honorary Secretary since 2014, Tina has decided to step down at the next AGM in 2021 – and there will be plenty of time to say our thanks to her for her fantastic work over the last 6 years or more. However SR was delighted to advise Members that OF Sammy Bartley has offered to take on the role of Honorary Secretary from next April, and SR therefore requested members to recognise Old Friend Sammy Bartley as Honorary Secretary Elect.
For the election of the Officers, Old Friend Steve Hilleard was proposer and Old Friend Kiran Mistry was seconder.
The virtual voting confirmed that members were unanimously in favour of this election.
At the AGM, we would normally announce the nomination for the President Elect. It has been proposed by your Committee that, given that this has been such a disrupted year, your President should stand for a third, hopefully more normal year, and that therefore the Committee would announce the President Elect at the 2021 AGM, with the handover taking place at the AGM in 2022. We have Old Friend John Logan as proposer and Old Friend David Langdown as seconder.
The virtual voting confirmed 32 members in favour of this proposal, and 1 member against.
Finally, by long established custom, the auditors for next year’s accounts will be the last two Members to have joined in the last Financial Year, and they are Paul Shawcross and Vicki McKenna.
With all business concluded and no other business raised, the President then closed 111th Annual General Meeting closed at 19:13, after which some excellent virtual mingling took place!
A virtual event was never going to be as good as a face-to-face gathering of Old Friends, but the feedback on our first virtual AGM was very positive nonethless;
“Congratulations on a very good virtual AGM and the successful social event that followed. It was brilliantly organised and great fun. Please pass my thanks on to everyone on the Committee. I am looking forward to sharing a “face to face” beer in the not too distant future.” – Mike James
“Really enjoyed tonight Steve. Great camaraderie which is so important especially now. Looking forward to the next one.” – Julie Hawley
“Just a short note to say thanks for an excellent online AGM and virtual social, which was ground breaking for the society. You must be very pleased as it went so well. It was most enjoyable.” – Philip Lawson
“I really enjoyed it and thought the format was just right – and all the technology seemed to behave itself. We all spend too long these days on Zoom/Teams calls and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I wanted another 2 hours this evening – but glad I did!” – Jonathan Smith