Following the abrupt termination of the 2019-20 programme, the branch committee have been striving to establish a way forward that is in compliance with both Government regulations and with the safety of our members and speakers in the year ahead. The good news is that there will be a full programme of eleven lectures including all the speakers who we had to postpone in the lockdown and stimulating new topics that were already in the pipeline before we had to suspend the 2019-20 lectures. It is I hope a series that has both breadth and depth. Unlike some institutions, West Surrey branch of the Historical Association will give speakers of all persuasions a platform if they have something of interest to say that will both stimulate us and broaden our horizons.
Recent events have added to the timeliness of some important topics. Lawrence Goldman is to address Race, Region and Rebellion: The Origins of the American Civil War 1846-61. Tony Stockwell on one form of cultural appropriation “Whose Heritage? Imperial trophies and national treasures from the Elgin Marbles to the Benin Bronzes.’ Dr. Taylor Sherman considers, ’When Does an Empire Truly End? Exploring India’s Imperial Ties in the Decades after Independence.’ Professor Steven Gunn looks at’ Accidental death in Tudor Surrey’ –all too timely. In the USA election which many consider to between a bad candidate and an even worse one, West Surrey HA. will give you the opportunity with leading experts on the candidates for worst ever English King-was it John or Richard III. We have some fascinating modern topics on the end of the Cold War and Brexit. A mini-series on that most revolutionary period The Tudors and I did say broaden our horizons which I am sure Dr Priya Atwell will do as she traces The Rise and Fall of the Sikh Kingdom. I will be writing at more length on the programme next week.
The great difference in 2020-21 will be that rather than meeting in the flesh at St Nicolas’ parish hall, the meetings will be virtual. The speaker will be visible and audible on a zoom programme on your home device or even on your mobile. For those to whom this causes dread, please relax. There will be a guidance document emailed to the vast majority of the membership already on our email distribution list. For those without electronic devices, you will be able to listen to the broadcast speech from your regular home phone-instructions will be mailed to you. For those zooming there will be a function that will allow asking questions by a simple chat/message box.
We would have preferred to meet at St Nicolas but there are a number of considerations that we felt precluded that option. Firstly, it is as yet unclear whether the hall will be available-that is a decision for the Church to make. Secondly, with the social distancing requirements, the capacity of the hall will be severely restricted. Thirdly and most importantly is the safety aspect. Many of our members –indeed most of the committee – are in an age vulnerable group. The joys of meeting as a group are outweighed by the potential risk. There is a further compelling additional problem, one large local church that has investigated in depth the regulations suggests that a contact list of all attendees to a physical meeting must be drawn up and in the event of any single case of the viral infection developing from that audience, all the attendees would have to self-isolate for 14 days. I think many of us would find that an unreasonable risk to the quality of our lives.
So for the foreseeable future we will provide virtual meetings. In some cases these meetings will be available at a later date on YouTube but that will depend on the individual speaker who has copyright protection to their output. We will have this policy under constant review and hope that physical meetings will again be possible at some future date. It is our fervent wish to get back together in a live group as soon as we can.
We would ask our members to support us through this difficult phase so that the branch can remain viable for future years and more normal circumstances. The annual fee will remain at £12. One danger of not joining for the 2020-21 season is that as non-members the branch is forbidden to contact you-a perverse outcome of the recently imposed internet privacy laws. You however can contact the branch at a later date if you wish to renew contact with us but I hope all existing members will sign on for another year of great speakers.
There will be a virtual AGM on Tuesday, September 8th to elect the committee. An invitation will be delivered at a later date. One of the great servants to the branch Frank Flower has decided to retire and as a token of our thanks it was decided to make Frank an Honorary Life Member. In the next few weeks you should receive a number of documents including the 2020-21 list of topics and speakers, a note on how to pay membership fees and nearer the first lecture a guide to Zooming. If you have questions contact one of the committee.
My best wishes to you all,
Stay safe but don’t forget to have fun-we only get one crack at living