Welcome to this End of Year report for the period January 2014 to January 2015; it comprises four sections:
But first, as this will be my last report, it would seem timely to review how far the Society has developed since the idea was first mooted in July 2008, against the ‘Aims of the Society’ as they appear in the Constitution.
The first stated aim is to
‘promote social, cultural and recreational activities for retired staff of Oxford Brookes University and its predecessor institutions and for their guests.’
The main way in which we work to expedite this aim is through the events that we offer, and in 2014 we have offered 10, all of which have been well attended. As those of you who have been on one of these events will know, every effort is made to allow for time when attendees can sit and have a chat over a drink or two. Since we started, there have been over 500 attendees at events, together with over 350 for the 4 Brookes Society lectures we have hosted, with many members partaking in more than one event over the year. Information is distributed by notices on the University Alumni Web-site and by e-mail, while members without access to the web receive the same information by post.
As regards the future, the Committee is looking at how to engage with members about broadening out the range of Events offered, including development of Specialist Groups, and how they in particular could be ‘managed’.
The second stated aim is to
‘maintain and facilitate contact between former staff and between them and the University.’
The society has built up its membership from the initial 155 (75 not on e-mail) in September 2009 to over 350 (c87 not on e-mail) as of today with the Alumni Web-site being our main medium for news of members, happenings in the university and the services that are available to members.
The Committee is starting to discuss how we can bring a wider range of information about the University to members, and how to encourage them to contribute to the site.
As regards contact between members we have to work within the constraints of the Data Protection Act. In particular, we are working with the University Data Protection Officer how best to provide a list of members’ names via the website. This would allow members to then contact each other through the Alumni Office.
The third stated aim is to
‘provide appropriate support to the University.’
We endeavour to provide support to the University e.g. through a link with the Archivist, but a long term aim is to link with departments and faculties in a way that would allow them to tap into the expertise and knowledge of the University that resides with our members. To set this ball rolling, we are beginning to explore ways of raising our profile, one first step being to ensure that staff at the point of retirement are fully informed of the role of the Society and the benefits that are available through membership.
As you know, the Society is fully supported through the staff of the Alumni Office in implementing everything we provide. However, we are not provided with a budget, and the Committee feel that it is incumbent on the Society to raise some finances; so far we have built up a bank balance of £482-47 through raffles and other means. The monies raised will enable us to expand our range of events to include those where deposits or pre-payments are required, such as booking theatre tickets. One measure for raising funds we are looking to explore is that of charging members a small booking fee for all events.
The above summary of the development of the Society raises of course the question ‘where to next?’
In short, all of the above can be divided into three generic areas. : How best to:
raise the profile of the Society within the University and how members might contribute to the future development of the University.
bring members’ attention to happenings within the University, and to provide opportunities for them to alert the Society to activities in which they themselves are individually engaged that may be of interest to other members.
consult with members over how the Society might develop.
The implications of the above is that the responsibility for each of the generic areas outlined above will have to be divided between the different members of the Committee. I would make a plea for all members to consider seriously putting their name forward for the Committee, and help to raise ideas and aspirations for the Society while contributing to decisions about how the Society goes forward.
The 2014 AGM, which took place prior to the Not the New Year Party in February was attended by over 60 members and resulted in a number of changes to the committee. Rodney Tulloch resigned and Ann Edmunds was elected in his place, while Albert Eastham and Byron Mikelides completed their year of co-option. Rodney’s resignation released a vacancy on the committee and Tim Bolton, ex Finance Office, was elected. During the year Clare Fox and Sue Piggott took over responsibility for managing the Events programme, and Mariabelle Headlam took on the role of Website co-ordinator.
There has been a change in our Alumni Office support, with the committee welcoming Helena Astbury who joined the University from the National Theatre in London where she was a Tours and Information Officer. Helena took over from Tiffany Delgado-Feist in order to make time for Tiff to focus on the University 2015 Anniversary celebrations. Tiffany has subsequently left the University and moved to Torquay, Devon. We are much indebted to her for close attention to detail and all her hard work for the Society.
Ceri Butcher, Mollie Ashley and Vanessa Hack continue to support us in the Alumni Office while the University Archivist Eleanor Possart has provided us with memories of days gone by with displays of memorabilia at each of the two parties. June Girvin, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, has represented the Vice Chancellor at both of our University sponsored parties, making the welcoming remarks at both of these events.
The Committee has met six times during 2014, the primary work being to:
further develop Guidelines for managing events.
clarify the procedures for Co-opting members to the Committee.
set rules for members wishing to attend meetings as observers, something that has been taken up by two members of the Society so far.
work with the University Data Protection Officer on Guidelines for managing membership data under the Data Protection Act.
consider ideas for raising income for the Society.
The membership of the Society currently stands at just over 350, an increase of around 200 since the first membership list of 2009.
The membership of the Society was initially built up by contacting retired staff whose details were held by the Human Resources Office at the time. Our current process now comprises sending out a very attractive enrolment form, together with a notice of forthcoming events, and a letter from the chairman inviting them to join. The Committee is now provided with lists of newly registered members, and is considering sending a further mailshot, 6 to 9 months later, to those retirees who haven’t joined. One regret is that the University does not provide a Retirement presentation for prospective retirees, and so we have been unable to speak directly to prospective members. This is another reason for giving thought as to how we can be more visible within the University, as mentioned elsewhere in this Report.
On a more positive note, we have been in discussion with the University Data Protection Officer as to how names and contact details could be made available to the Committee or other members of the Society. It has been agreed that members of the Committee will have access to the membership list, including contact details, providing that members have completed the Data Protection form. This will make it easier for those managing events to contact members registered on events to advise them of any subsequent changes to meeting places or to contact members on a waiting list for oversubscribed events etc. As a result when, registering for an event the following statement will be included as part of the Registration Form.
'By signing up for this event you agree to the Group Leader having access to your contact details for the purpose of efficient event management e.g. members attending, enabling lifts to be arranged for those without transport, contacting any member who has not arrived at the meeting point on time etc.'
The Committee has also been exploring the benefits of having a membership list available to members. This would allow members to find out if past colleagues have also joined, thus allowing them the means of contacting them with a view to registering for events and more particularly our parties. As a result, we will be putting a Membership List, comprising members’ names only, on the Brookes Society Web-page. In order to interrogate this list, members will have to log on to the site using their ‘Username and Password’. Those of you who have forgotten these details should contact the Alumni Office for advice.
Any member who does not wish their details as above to be made available, should contact the Alumni Office by the end of March 2015, so that their name came flagged up as wanting their details to remain private.
The following is a short summary of this year’s events, with the full reports being available on the Society Web-page. Thanks must go to all those who suggested, arranged and led these events.
Merton College Library Visit 14 January 2013
This year the College, is marking the 750th anniversary of its foundation in 1264. A small group of 10 members took part in this visit to the oldest academic library with an unbroken tradition in the western world led by Anna Fraser. We were given a wonderful opportunity to see many spaces, several usually being inaccessible, and we got a feel for what it must be like to study at Merton and were regaled by the magnificent Merton bells tolling at 2 o’clock.
Not the New Year Party - 19 February 2014
Over 60 society members attended the annual Not the New Year Party. The party was preceded by the Annual General Meeting at which the chairman, Geoff Bremble, delivered his annual report and thanked Rodney Tulloch who was standing down from his role as Secretary. Ann Edmunds was elected as the new Secretary, Mike McCluskey was re-elected as Treasurer, and Tim Bolton was elected as a new committee member.
The lucky winner of the star prize of £60 Blackwell vouchers, kindly donated by Oxford Brookes Blackwell’s Bookshop was won by David Mancey. The raffle raised a total of £131.
Backstage Tour of the New Theatre Oxford - 13 March 2014
18 members of the Society gathered at The New Theatre in George Street and were met by Mike McCluskey. We visited the Press area, various dressing rooms, before venturing beneath the stage and being shown the revolving stage mechanism and the amazing stream that runs under the theatre, before finishing on the stage itself. The highlight of the tour for the group was gazing out into the 1700 seat auditorium and imaging oneself in receipt of rapturous applause from a full house.
3rd Brookes Society Annual Lecture – ‘Climbing and Beyond’ - by Albert Eastham
9 April 2014
It was a buzzy evening with over 150 people arriving to hear the former Brookes lecturer and experienced mountaineer Albert Eastham talking about his adventures. He recounted his expeditions which with the aid of splendid slides, which included climbing Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, The Haute Route and Mont Blanc, the Volcanoes of Ecuador, as well as Mera Peak, near Mount Everest.
Oxford Botanical Gardens visit Friday 2 May 2014
The weather was kind to the 19 members and guests who attended the visit to the Oxford Botanical Gardens which was led by Rodney Tulloch. We visited the Lily House and Fern House then were taken into the Palm House and finally the Arid House. Then it was out into the gardens with the star of the show being the Handkerchief tree, Davidia, which waslooking magnificent
River Trip to Kelmscott Manor 18 June 2014
20 members and guests of Brookes Society set off from the Trout Inn at St John’s Wharf near Lechlade to visit Kelmscott Manor, the home of William Morris. We travelled by boat with our leader Mike Breakell at the helm; the leisurely time on the river was a delight. At the Manor, we were free to explore as we wished and the time spent there was both informative and relaxing, with sufficient opportunity to partake of cream teas on the lawn.
Brookes Society: The Vice-Chancellor's Summer Party - 23rd July2014
Over 70 members and guests attended the annual Vice Chancellor’s Summer party which this year was held in the newly refurbished Abercrombie Atrium on the Gipsy Lane Campus. This allowed members to visit the newly refurbished parts of the University. We also took advantage of being in this new setting by arranging two pre-party tours, to give members an opportunity to see either the new library or to find out about the energy saving design of the new John Henry Brookes Building.
The party itself was the usual mix of wine, soft drinks, scrumptious sandwiches and cakes, coupled with an opportunity to catch up on friends and former colleagues. June Girvin, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences gave the welcome address, concentrating on the events being planned for the 150th Anniversary of the University
A Walking Tour of London’s 'Albertopolis' - 13 September 2014
18 members and guests assembled at the Royal Albert Hall Coffee Bar and were given an interesting introduction into how accumulated funds from the Great Exhibition of 1851 and subsequent exhibitions were used to develop an educational and scientific quarter to rival other European capitals and which also served to enhance the reputation of Victorian design, engineering, technology and architecture.
From the Albert Hall itself we moved to look in detail at the Albert Memorial, the modern Royal College of Art, the Royal Colleges of Geography, Music and Organists, Imperial College and the Science and Natural History Museums. By this time we were ready for lunch at the Insitut Francais after which we completed our tour by returning to Exhibition Road where we learned in more detail about the development of the original Victoria and Albert Museum.
Thanks are due to our guide, Pete Edwards, for providing a rewarding and stimulating ‘grand tour’ of one of London’s most famous areas of architectural excellence.
A visit to Westonbirt Arboretum - 23October 2014
9 members and guests met at the Trout Farm in Bibury en-route to Westonbirt Arboretum. After coffee, we travelled on to the Arboretum. Byron Mikelides provided commentary on the various species of trees and we were fortunate to have caught the acers in their full glory, the colours of which contrasted with those that would turn in the coming weeks.
After around an hour and half we moved over to the Terrace for a light lunch, before going on to a fascinating exhibition of artworks in the Great Oak Hall followed by a visit to the gift shop before returning to our cars for the journey home.
Visit to Houses of Parliament - 3November 2014
14 members visited the neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament and it proved to be absolutely fascinating. There was a tour of St Stephen’s Hall before we moved into the Houses. As neither House was sitting, we were able to go into both the Lords and Commons chambers (and stand in the opposition benches).
The tour finished back in St Stephen’s Hall, with the opportunity to view the many plaques marking such events as Nelson Mandela making a speech and the lying-in-state of the Queen Mother, King George VI and Winston Churchill.
At the end of our tour, we took a boat down to the Tower of London to see the poppies in the moat, a fitting way to complete our interesting day.
Finally, one event that did not take off was the Dinner scheduled for 11 November, introduced to mark the 150th Anniversary which failed to reach its minimum numbers. We are in the process of exploring with members why this did not attract a good response.
Events January to July 2015
Below is a reminder of the Events planned for the first six months of the year, details of which are on the Web-page, where you can register.
Wednesday 25 February 2015 - Not the New Year Partyand AGM followed by
Brookes Society Annual Lecture, to be given by Professor Sir Clive Booth (Vice-Chancellor 1992 – 1997) beginning at 6pm.
Thursday 9th April 2015 at 10:30am -A Visit to The Foundling Museum, London
Tuesday 19th May 2015 at 10:30am - A Guided Walk through Oxford's Vaults
Tuesday June 9th at 2:15pm - A Visit to Sulgrave Manor
Finally don’t forget to look for the notice about the Brookes Society Restaurant lunches with one or two members of the committee. These take place, usually on the first Monday of the month and at a special price, when the students are in residence and details can be found on the Website. Even if you don’t feel the need to meet with members of the Committee you can always book independently, have a look at Brookes Restaurant on the University Website and discover all the services that they offer.
As a member of Brookes Society you can also take advantage of a range of services and benefits that are open to all Oxford Brookes Alumni and which appear on the University Web-site. For example:
Brookes Library: you can continue to access the library and take books out on loan using your membership card
Special deals at the theatre
Discounts at restaurants and hotels
Money off car hire and breakdown cover
Discounts at top UK attractions
Also we have the following at special discount prices, and you can go to our Web-page for full details:
10% discount at Chateau Gateau on St Clements Street in Oxford by showing their membership card
10% discount of Italian organic, unfiltered olive oil. Profit goes to charity, usually Pump Aid, but this year also to the Philippines.
The University is of course gearing up for the major events associated with the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the University, the objectives of which are: to celebrate the 150 years’ development of the University, to engage with the outside public and with city decision makers, and to assist in raising funds. Projected plans include the formal opening of new buildings, an updated history of the institution, a celebratory book of 150 facts or anecdotes about it, a ceremony to present honorary University awards to holders of qualifications earned at our predecessor institutions and further development of the archive. It has been suggested that the Society should mount its own commemoration which at the moment will be a call to all members to dig out their memories, both physical and cerebral, for display at the Summer Party.
As regards the 150th Anniversary, some members of the Committee took part in a couple of Round Table lunches earlier in the year and many members will have attended the Brookes University ‘Live Friday’ event at the Ashmolean Museum in March. We were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity of viewing the exhibitions used at ‘Live Friday’ again, at the Vice Chancellor’s Summer party.
The University Web-site provides notification of the death of former members of the University, both students and staff, and the Society in turn informs members as best we can when we hear of funeral arrangements. We would encourage members to alert the Alumni office about such arrangements and it is with sadness we report the deaths over the last few months of:
Zoia Beresford, Anthea Rogers, Geoffrey Stevenson, Betty Jaggers, Ivor Robinson, Michael Howes, Peter Farrar, Mike Pixton and Mary Hodges.
We also received the sad news that a founding member of Brookes Society, Professor John O'Connor, former Head of School of Hospitality passed away aged 80 in August.
Annual General Meeting
Please make sure that you attend the 2015 Annual General Meeting. We are looking for active members to put themselves or their colleagues forward for nomination! We need people with a continuing commitment to Brookes, and enthusiasm to take part in developing the Society, and who are able to enjoy themselves.
Even if Committees are not your scene you can contribute to the Society with ideas for furthering and broadening the aims of the Society or with ideas for events. If so then please contact the Committee through the Web-site or by telephone.
I would like to finish this report by thanking you for your support during my term of Office, and in particular those who have served on the Committee, those who have been guides on our Events and those of you who have supported those Events.
Also, on your behalf, can I thank the Vice Chancellor for her support when setting up the Society and her continuing support since then.
Finally, a thank you to all those University staff who have advised and supported us day to day without which we would be unable to operate and provide what, I hope is seen as a valuable asset of the University.
Geoff Bremble (Chairman, Brookes University Society for Retired Staff)