This has been a year of adjustment after two years of uncertainty. We are gradually returning to pre-Covid activities although a sense of caution still prevails.
Membership numbers did decline owing to various reasons but I am happy to say we have had a very encouraging number of new members. There are also further ones who have attended as guests but intend to join as full members in May. They are very welcome and the Committee appreciates the support of all members.
As the situation returns to normality we have, as expected, had to deal with increased costs of hire charges for the Racecourse, the technical help at lectures, increased lecturers’ fees and travel expenses. We also have to pay an affiliation fee to the Arts Society for each member. Therefore it is unavoidable that membership subscriptions have to be increased and for this year it has to be £60 per member. The Committee has considered other venues but these do not provide the facilities or certainty of availability which the Racecourse offers.
Jane Ashby and Carolyn Haynes have been very supportive in their roles as Vice-Chairman, which I really appreciate.
Jane has a huge task keeping the membership details up to date. There is a lot of paperwork and record keeping involved. This involves many hours of her time and she also records the minutes of the Committee Meetings which can be quite lengthy at times. She does this with great patience and always has required information at her finger-tips
We have had some excellent lectures this year and Carolyn Haynes has to be congratulated on presenting a varied and attractive programme. Most lecturers are chosen from The Arts Society Directory after they have undergone quite a vigorous selection procedure. During Covid they had to present on Zoom but we are gradually returning to “live” presentations which are easier to judge.
At this point I wish to thank Rose Xu who succeeded Caroline Hepworth as Hon Treasurer. This is not an easy role to take on and Rose has worked tirelessly to acquaint herself with all the finances of the Society. I am very grateful to her for her hard work in managing our bank accounts and payments.
Joanna Finlay has planned exciting visits and these are an excellent way to have a holiday which is well organised with a range of activities – interesting houses, museums, art galleries, delicious meals and experience different cultures and ways of life. A well-trained guide adds to the enjoyment and we also have the opportunity to get to know each other better. The May visit to Sicily was a real success. In fact so successful that next year we may explore another area of this lovely island.
Joanna spends much of her time planning these visits and it was disappointing that we could not go ahead with the Manchester visit. The itinerary was really interesting and often it is only by visiting places that one discovers unknown treasures.
Normandy is our next holiday in June and we shall be based in the attractive city of Rouen.
Susan Elliott organised a Special Interest Day to Renishaw Hall, home of the Sitwell family who have lived there for over 400 years, so the history of the building and contents was fascinating.
Susan also took us to the Piece Hall at Halifax and Shibden Hall, home of Anne Lister and the setting of the television series Gentleman Jack.
Susan is relinquishing her role organising these Interest Days to Carole Galpin who will be assisted by Tess Finnamore. Carole has already put together a very interesting itinerary for our visit to Derby.
Happily Susan Elliott is staying on the Committee and will take responsibility for updating the noticeboard to keep you up to date with new activities.
I would urge more members to join us on these visits. We often have spare capacity and greater numbers help to reduce the overheads of such events. Everyone is welcome.
Our Christmas Coffee and Mincepie morning at The York Medical Society Rooms was very well received and an excellent opportunity for the Committee and members to mingle and chat to each other. Hopefully we shall be able to repeat a similar event.
Our Young and Community Arts project is being led by May Townsend and she has worked enthusiastically to support the young people at Danesgate School. The pupils have learning difficulties but the art work they produce is outstanding. Interestingly it was pointed out to us that, unlike many mainstream pupils who are often given a specific topic, these children are encouraged to display work which is of specific interest to them. We sponsored prizes for the exhibition they displayed at the York City Council West Offices last year and are also presenting the prizes for this year’s exhibition. Do visit the exhibition before it closes on 17th April 2023.
May is also working with the school for the craft department to produce a new bookcase for our library. This should present the books more safely for members to borrow, as well as supporting the craft department in gaining extra skills.
Susan Dudley-Smith is a valuable Committee member as she is a qualified First-Aider, joins Jane Ashby on the Reception Desk and accepts the guest bookings. Susan is always willing to help in other roles which is much appreciated.
We are grateful to John Finn for his excellent work in keeping our website current and producing the rolling slides shown at each meeting. This technical input is fantastic and certainly needs great expertise.
I must pay tribute to my predecessor Helen Byard for all the help and guidance given to me in taking over as Chairman. She set a very high standard to follow and put procedures in place to follow for the smooth running of the Society. Therefore, I am delighted that we are proposing Helen be appointed Vice-President of The Arts Society York. This is a well-deserved recognition for all the hard work she put into the Society during four difficult years.
My grateful thanks are also due to our President, George Smith MBE. George is a very supportive President, keenly interested in all our activities and always available to discuss arrangements and offer sage advice when approached. I value his wisdom and friendship very highly.
As you will see from our new programme we have an exciting year ahead. Our 50th Anniversary Celebration takes place at The Merchants Adventurers’  Hall on Wednesday 21st June 6.00pm to 8.30pm. The National Chairman Liz Woods will be attending and I hope as many members as possible will enjoy the celebration on what is Midsummer’s Day.
50 years is a tremendous achievement and hopefully with your help, our membership will grow to enable more people to enjoy and explore different forms of art available.
Helen Gregory