2019 began with the very entertaining Tony Rawlins, his lecture Mad Men and the Artists was a cheerful beginning to the programme. Then Catherine the Great and the Frog Service in March which some of our members had been fortunate enough to enjoy viewing on a visit to St. Petersburg in 2017.

In March several of you made your way to the National Gallery to an exhibition on the works of Sorolla, who could forget the magnificent painting, Sewing the Sails as well as many other breath-taking exhibits. The Chagall Windows in Tudeley Church visited in April were very beautiful and quite moving once the very competent guide explained the story.

The year continued with the lecture on Waddesdon Manor followed by a visit to see the treasures housed there and described to us by William Forrester in such splendid detail. This idea of linking a lecture and a visit was well received so we are looking to organise something similar for 2020.

June was another enjoyable lecture from James Lindow explaining the rivalry between Leonardo and Michelangelo. The visit to Arundel Castle was well received and proved to be a pleasant visit, the gardens were super having been reviewed on a television programme prior to the visit which was an encouragement for some to brave the slightly wet weather.

Andrew Prince certainly dazzled us with his lecture in July bringing with him some items he had designed and made for the Downton Abbey series. I believe a few of you were privileged to have photos taken wearing Lady Mary’s tiara and other jewellery.

Neil Faulkner’s lecture on Lawrence of Arabia was one which attracted visitors from other Societies as well as our Headquarters drawing high praise. This was a slightly different lecture which the Programme Secretary and I selected from the pool of Arts Society approved lecturers. Our Programme Secretary Linda Guest does a superb job organising and selecting the Lecturers but also looks after their travel arrangements collecting them from the station and sometimes offers accommodation and a wonderful meal to send them on their way. I thank her most sincerely.

The trip to the Towner Gallery and Michelham Priory in September organised by Alison Chandler our Visits Secretary was a very enjoyable day. I would like to thank Alison for all her hard work and patience required in this particular role, I believe she has one or two exciting visits organised for 2020.

We have just returned from the Norfolk Tour and the weather was unbelievably warm and calm, something Norfolk is not known for. The visit was an insight into the delights of the Historic Houses, Cathedrals and Waterways of Norfolk which some may not have thought would be so agreeable. It was a pleasure to have Andrew Davies with us who is always so popular.

This year we have had to replace various equipment, which was old, broken and not fit for purpose.  The Hall is a difficult space, but I believe our new sound system has provided a much-improved acoustical standard. I would like to thank Richard Coleman who has adjusted to this new equipment brilliantly also for helping us with assembling the speakers at each lecture.

I must mention how much attention to detail is given in not only setting up the projector but organising the computer connections for the lecturers and dealing with any technical difficulties which sometimes occur when the lecture commences.  A massive thank you to Brian Guest for his IT Technical support, Brian is invaluable in so many ways to the Society. Brian is also responsible for sending the monthly newsletter for those of you who have email, maintaining our website and keeping the membership data base up to date which is essential to aid the smooth running of the Society.

I would like to thank Colin Campbell our Hon. Treasurer, who diligently ensures the smooth financial running of the Society, always keeping a close eye on costs, he also advises and helps us in many other ways, Colin is greatly  appreciated for the ideas and common sense approach he brings to the Committee for which I am very grateful.

Brian Green our Hon. Secretary has proved invaluable covering Risk Assessment which was required by the Society and the Data Protection guidelines which we must abide by also handling other legal areas we have had to deal with this year.  He spearheaded our visit to Waddesdon Manor and was instrumental in the selection and purchasing of our new sound system.  Many thanks Brian.

Our Membership Secretary Irene Jones will be retiring from her role for next year and I want to warmly thank her for all her dedication and hard work with the Society.

We are fortunate to have Jane Hitchings as our Minutes Secretary, she carries out her role efficiently and conscientiously, an asset to the Committee.

I also wish to thank our new Young Arts Coordinator Angie Fry who has taken over this role mid-term and applied herself wholeheartedly as I knew she would.

I must mention our wonderful Church Recorders, led by Rosemary Wasserberg and Roger Nixon. The team are currently working on Ivychurch hopefully completing by the end of the year. They are an extremely dedicated and talented group and a very important part of the Society.

I would like to thank the young people at the Hall who are always helpful and our ever-cheerful coffee lady Lesley who is so kind to everyone.

We have had to review the annual subscription for 2020 which has remained static for many years.  The increase is necessary to keep pace with the Lecturers’ fees and the yearly rental increments for use of the Hall.

My thanks to you the loyal members who continue to support us and I trust you will do so in future years. Our aim with your support is to provide you with an enjoyable and varied programme for 2020. With every good wish for the coming year.

Chris Dennis