Our Annual General Meeting took place on 25th September 2008 at the Literary and Philosophical Society. A good number gathered to hear reports from the Treasurer, Membership Secretary, the Editor of the Cherryburn Times and the Chairman.
Below follows the Chairman's Report circulated at the meeting.
Chairman’s Report 2008
Annual General Meeting 25th September 2008.
Once again. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure and privilege to report to members on the progress of the Bewick Society. It is a pleasure because I believe the Society to be in good heart; and it is a privilege because I am perfectly aware that the lion's share of our success is the result of very hard work done by other members of your committee. I thank them all for their marvellous support.
With the splendid nurturing of our Membership Secretary, June Holmes, the Society's membership continues to grow steadily. For members near, and more especially for those far away, June is the friendly face and voice of the Society, the compiler of the newsletter, the gentle reminder about subscriptions, the one prepared to tackle the excitements of foreign exchange rates and the wonders of 'Pay Pal'. This time last year we had 160 members and, despite the sad departure of a few members, the total is now 171. By my calculation this is, at least, the ninth year running in which June has been able to report an increase. This is a remarkable achievement and the Society is greatly indebted to June for her highly effective labours.
One obvious outcome of this good membership work is that the funds of the Society have remained steady. We have paid our bills and had a modest growth. During the year Peter Quinn, our Honorary Treasurer, had an awkward decision to make about our modest account with Northern Rock. Happily, he decided not to join a queue, and I believe his decision to retain the account has proved to be wise. If the accounts as presented seem to be almost too healthy, it is worth noting that we are expecting some substantial expenditure soon, including another edition of Cherryburn Times and the cost of moving Bewick gravestones at Ovingham. The stones, of Thomas Bewick's children and of his brother, John, no longer mark graves but (with good intentions) were placed some time ago under the roof eaves in what has proved to be a very vulnerable situation. We hope to report soon that they are better protected.
As the pace of communication seems ever to accelerate, your committee took some time to reassess our ways of transmitting our message, both to members and more widely. The division of the Society's Newsletter from Cherryburn Times has been welcomed. The Newsletter, edited by June Holmes, provides an opportunity for more immediate news, responses to members' enquiries, and other more ephemeral items. This leaves more space in Cherryburn Times , edited by David Gray, for longer, scholarly articles with room for good illustrations. David has produced two editions since our last AGM and a third is on the way.
We are indebted to David Gray, too, for convening a sub-committee to decide on progress with updating the Society's website. Increasingly, the website is becoming our shop window for the world so it is important that it should entice people. David and the members of the sub-committee, with the expert advice and practical involvement of Ian Mckie, have done a great job. The website, just re-launched, is very much improved in layout and the range of content which now includes many of Bewick's pictures and even moving pictures - part of the Society's video on Thomas Bewick presented by John Grundy. Yet another important advance has been the transfer of the video so that it is now available on a CD.
As ever the Society's programme of activities has been central to its identity and to the furthering of its purposes. We try to balance winter gatherings and more adventurous events in summer - though the weather does not respect this distinction. Committee members have given an excellent series of lecture: David Gardner-Medwin on 'Bewick's experience of doctors and illness'; Peter Quinn on 'Bewick and Scotland'; and Peter Osborne on 'The Art of Thomas Bewick'. We also had the honour of sharing an evening with the Natural History Society of Northumbria when Professor Michael Thomas spoke about John Audubon, the great American naturalist who visited Bewick and was a great admirer of his work.
In May we had another opportunity, led by Anne Maule and David Gardner-Medwin, to enjoy a circular walk from Cherryburn which included Ovingham and a lovely stretch of the Tyne valley.
In June, after a few years without a London event, Felicity Stimpson, our Honorary Secretary arranged a most enjoyable visit to the Victoria and Albeit Museum to see items in the collection relating to Bewick. The selection, made by Felicity with, yet again, the help of David Gardner-Medwin, proved to be absorbing and enlightening both to experienced members of the group and to novices. Not least this was a good opportunity to meet or renew acquaintance with more remote members. We are already considering further London events: perhaps a visit to the British Museum with its a rich collection of Bewick material; perhaps a re-run of the very successful Bewick in London tours which were led by Nigel Tattersfield and Charles Bird. We would welcome members' views on this or other possible activities.
And so we arrived at August again and, thanks to Stewart Thirkell and his National Trust colleagues, to another Bewick Birthday celebration. This year, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Cherryburn we had a special 'Conversation' with some of those involved at the time. Our President, Dr. Frank Atkinson, former Tynedale Councillor, Nora Handcock, and two original Thomas Bewick Birthplace Trustees, Robin Dower and Philip Deakin were among those who contributed to a wonderfully informative and nostalgic time. It was such fun that we might do it again for the 21st!
The activities of the Society vary from year to year. In a world where effective communication is increasingly important we have made advances in our methods of communication - wondering once in a while what Thomas Bewick would have made of e-mail and the world-wide web. We have tried to improve our contacts with other organisations with parallel and overlapping interests. The loyalty of established members is bolstered by the enthusiasm of new ones with new ideas, new approaches, and different revelations.
One thing, however, does not change; this is the central purpose of the Society, and consequently the aim of your committee. It is our united wish to spread interest in the life and work of Thomas Bewick and his circle, and an understanding of his extraordinary achievement.
The Chairman, Hugh Dixon.