RCS Bath Chairs Report 2022-2023

A very full year, we have been heavily involved with students at both universities, schools in and around Bath and members within the city.

Much of 2022 was concerned with the Heroes of the Commonwealth Project which culminated on 11th November 2022 with a major service at Bath Abbey which was attended by schools, Commonwealth representatives and members. This was then followed by a reception at 44AD to present participating schools with world atlases and also allow people to see what had been achieved over the past few months. Schools in and around Bath took part in this project which was co-ordinated by our Vice Chair Anita St John Gray. It was covered on regional BBC Television and in the press and involved research into twelve Commonwealth individuals who had not been recognised for their courage and fortitude. The event included contributions from the Military Wives Choir and presentations by the then Deputy Lord Lieutenant Mohammed Sadiq and the mayor. The event was attended by a large number of individuals (there were around 250 in the congregation) including members of the High Commission local services such as the police, RNAS Yeovilton and family members of the twelve Commonwealth citizens featured in the event.

I also laid a wreath on behalf of the branch on Remembrance Sunday along with other associations and groups within Bath an event we intend to participate in again this year.

We have run a full speaker programme for members throughout 2022 and this year which has included talks by Professor John Strachan Pro Vice Chancellor of Bath Spa University ,students who had recorded work by a hairdressing charitable body linked with Bath and working in India, and a talk by Karen Brewer, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association. More recent speakers have included the COO of the RCS based in London and Nav, an ex-University of Bath student, employee of Dyson and founder of the washing machine project which has led to the instigation of low-tech washing machines in refugee camps and isolated communities empowering women throughout the world.

The Art prizes were given out on March 12th after our Commonwealth Service in Bath Abbey which included contributions from Commonwealth students. throughout the year there were various events held at the Bath and County Club and in the city.

I represented the branch at the Commonwealth Service in Westminster Abbey on March 13th and Anita St John Gray our vice chair (who has worked tirelessly for the society) represented us at the High Commissioners Banquet in London later in the year.

Grants were received from several organisation and establishments in Bath to support the art competition and also the Heroes of the Commonwealth project.

These included contributions from Bath Spa University, the Chartered Trustees of Bath, TSL Accounting, Norland and private individuals. A number of Commonwealth academics visiting Bath Spa University in 2022 met with members at several functions. We held a summer extravaganza which was postponed and then run again in October at Bath Spa University and members attended the Anzac Day Service and a wreath laying by the Governor of New South Wales at Bathampton Church and we were also represented at the Arthur Philip Remembrance Day events in October.

The winning entries for the art competition were also exhibited at the Bath and West showground during June and recently St Gregory’s School held a special art exhibition at 44AD which was part of their prize.

In August 2022 we joined with a children’s nursery in Bath and planted a cherry tree in remembrance of the late Queens Jubilee and more recently installed a plaque to celebrate the event.

The 2022 Xmas lunch was well attended and included a talk by the historian from the Nelson Society on Nelson connections with Bath and the Caribbean. This was also attended by visiting academics from India. Following on from this one of the highlights of my year was the chance to have a meal with a grandson of Gandi who was receiving an Honorary Doctorate from Bath Spa University.

Throughout the year we have been in constant touch with students and staff at both universities and Commonwealth related bodies within the city. We were represented at the Commonwealth baton hand over in Bath by our president Annie Maw and also several members who then attended the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

We have provided several grants to students wishing to follow up Commonwealth related projects and also scholarships for two Commonwealth scholars at both universities. We now have a scholarship set up and linked to Norland College to help a Commonwealth student with their fees. This last academic year it was a student from Australia. Norland also have a number of other Commonwealth placements and nannies working in Commonwealth countries. We have contact with Kingswood School who again have Commonwealth students and we have maintained contact with several other related societies as well as the West Country branch of the Britain Australia Society and African Society through Janet Kirk in Bristol.

An annual payment of £500 was made to the charity Children of Chobe (based in Bath), which supports a primary school in Tanzania.

Our president Annie Maw has resigned after her term of office as Lord Lieutenant came to an end however the new Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, Mohammed Sadiq has kindly agreed to take over and is now our new president.

Andrew our treasurer has been handling our finances and investments and we have constant updates at aur regular council meetings. Alan our secretary is in touch with members and contacts at the many establishments around the city and surrounding area.

Lotte Veale has now stood down as she is working in London and Natasha Hopkins departed earlier this year due to home commitments and a new job at Stourhead. We would therefore like to welcome three new trustees to our team this year Craig Jenkins, Chris Cook and Professor John Strachan from Bath Spa University...

I was present representing the branch at the inauguration of the new Mayor of Bath, at a remembrance service for the late Queen at Wells Cathedral and also one for the retirement of Annie Maw, our outgoing president and Lord Lieutenant of Somerset. Other member events during the year have included the University of Bath’s International Students’ Reception and the annual mayor reception for Commonwealth students studying in the city which is held at the Guildhall in the Mayor’s Parlour.

We have recently been working on the reconstruction of our website to be more in tune with today’s social media platforms and now have two new Commonwealth student coordinators at both universities. We are currently in the midst of our art competition which this year is entitled Moon Gazers and Star Finders.

We are also organising a Diplomatic Lunch for High Commissioners which is taking place on October 10th at hopefully the Pump Rooms when the Constable of the Tower of London will be giving the address. Other social events include a possible quiz evening and supper, skittle night and of course an our very popular Xmas lunch. We are manning a stand at Norland during a fresher event in late September when we hope to recruit more students. Norland have also now established, through one of our events, a link with the University of Bath reference their early years development programme.

During 2022 and early 2023 we have had a lot of contact with visiting Commonwealth scholars and academics from Malawi and India and would like to thank John Strachan and Ian Gadd at the Bath Spa University for involving us in their visits which have been most productive.

Finally, can I thank the Bath and County Club for being involved in a number of our events and for their hospitality also my fellow trustees who work so hard to make this society what it is today and Craig who has recently been providing a central base for our regular trustee meetings.

We have made contact with Fairfield House in Bath and hope to foster this relationship in the coming months. We have a wide range of speakers booked for this year and social events and hope to increase our membership and involvement with the city and its many Commonwealth links. We should also like to thank the Chartered Trustees of Bath, the mayor’s office and our sponsors for their continual support together with the many schools and educational establishments within the Bath postcode who have taken part in this year’s events.

Our aim this year and in 2024 is to develop a strategic policy for the next five years and continue to promote the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the city and surrounding area organising events and talks which will stimulate discussion and debate on the many issues surrounding our modern Commonwealth, its future and the opportunities it provides.