Chairman’s Report 2023-2024
During my membership of the Arts Society York there always appear to be challenges for the members of the Committee. Previously there has been the name change from NADFAS followed by the problems caused by Covid. This last year has been no different as it was becoming increasingly obvious that we should have to find a new venue for our meetings. It was apparent that the future of the Society was at risk owing to the increased costs of holding meetings. Also, having enjoyed many happy years in the Gimcrack Room, we had to move to the Ebor Suite. This had advantages but was not ideal. The Racecourse was unable to confirm that there would not be further increases in our charges. It is understandable that a business has to make commercial decisions and as a charity we did receive a reduced rate but decided that another venue had to be found.
Various alternatives had been investigated in the recent years but nothing was found to be suitable.
Luckily the Delta Marriott Hotel appeared to fulfil most of our needs. Obviously we need to make some changes to the way we organise our meetings and this has involved much discussion between the Committee and the hotel. However, the staff have been fantastic and a pleasure to deal with. They are really committed to ensuring our meetings are successful. Having only had our first meeting there we still need to settle in. The good news is that financially it has been the correct decision.
The major event in 2023 was the 50th Anniversary of the Society. This was celebrated appropriately at The Merchant Adventurers Hall in York, a beautiful setting on a lovely June evening where we were able to be outside in the garden. The Clerk and staff worked very hard to ensure a very successful celebration with wine and delicious canapes prepared “in- house” and we are so grateful for their support.
The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of York were able to be our guests and were very impressed by the display of the history of the Society which was produced by May Townsend, Susan Dudley-Smith and Susan Elliott. The Arts Society National Chairman and Florian Schweitzer also came specially from London for the evening.
As we return to normal activities it is good to resume holidays and day visits again. Already we have had most interesting holidays in Normandy and Ayrshire where we visited Dumfries House. These were organised by Joanna Finlay who ensures that all details are taken care of. The meals are delicious, hotels are well sourced and visits arranged to places of differing interest to appeal to everyone.
It is a very enjoyable way to get to know each other and make new friends. Also the holidays are good value when you consider what is included in the total cost. Joanna’s next visit is a return to Dumfries House where we shall be able to have specialist talks on the contents of this beautiful property rescued by King Charles. As members of The Arts Society, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
In her role of Committee Member for Special Interest Days, Carole Galpin has produced some very imaginative visits out. Derby Museums and Pickford House were a new experience for most of us and very impressive. The Marks and Spencer Archives in Leeds was another “find” of Carole’s.
It certainly brought back memories of items we knew from the past and amazing what articles used to be sold by the company in our youth! The Brotherton Library and The Burton Gallery also added to the enjoyment of the day.
Carole has further plans for a visit to Auckland Castle and also a day in East Yorkshire visiting two historic houses
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. She has to ensure that Head Office has accurate membership details There is much paperwork and record keeping involved. This takes many hours of her time as well as recording the minutes of the Committee Meetings which can be quite lengthy.
Although some members have had to resign for various reasons our numbers are healthy and new applications are being received. The support of members is really appreciated and it would be good to hear of anyone who would consider joining our Committee. We are a friendly team and even helping out at meetings initially would be very useful. Then you can get to know us.
Carolyn Haynes is to be congratulated on arranging splendid lectures. She has chosen inspirational topics and several have exceeded all expectations from what the title may have suggested. The range of subjects is chosen so that there should be something to appeal to everyone and these are planned well in advance. Already most of the 2025 programme is booked as the best speakers are in considerable demand. Carolyn, Jane and I recently attended the Directory Day in London which is where the accredited lecturers are given a very short time to introduce themselves. It also gives us an opportunity to meet potential speakers which is useful.
At this point I wish to thank Rose Xu. In fact “thank you” does not seem adequate for all the work Rose does. She works incredibly hard dealing with the finances. There is tremendous effort
in-putting all our financial transactions on a system which the accountants require. This involves every payment and debit we receive for all our activities. I urge you at this point to pay by BACS as much as possible, ensuring you put the correct reference for each payment.
The bank limits the number of cheques we pay in each month without an extra charge.
May Townsend is the Committee member responsible for Young and Community Arts providing tremendous support for Danesgate School which educates over 170 pupils aged 5-16 who have special needs. May liaises with the dedicated staff of the Art Department and we have been able to provide extra financial support. The Art Department had a sink which was totally unsuitable and so we decided to help. The most appropriate sink was expensive so we were delighted that Derwent Lions generously offered to help with the purchase. We are very grateful to the Lions for making this possible. The Arts Society head office also makes grants available for Community projects which May applies for when possible and these are added to our Danesgate support, particularly for the Annual Exhibition prizes at the Council Offices in York.
There was an unexpected surprise for us just before Christmas when I was contacted by the Arts Society Treasurer to say that head office had received notice of a legacy from the family of Yorkshire artist Heather Foster. In her will Heather had specified that the legacy had to go to a local Society for the promotion of art in the community. It was decided that one of the prizes awarded to the Danesgate Art Exhibition would be named the Heather Foster Prize. Heather’s family were very pleased with this decision and it has been awarded to a pupil from the school, who described to us how art has changed his life.
I hope members look at our web-site It is very impressive, one of the best! All the work of John Finn, who also produces the rolling slides each month which keep you informed of our activities. We are so grateful to John who provides the technical expertise which we need and he is a valued member of the team
Most importantly I wish to express my grateful thanks to George Smith MBE, our President.
I appreciate his advice and support of the Society. George has such a wide knowledge of the art world and he is a source of great knowledge and insight.
Helen Gregory