This year has been a difficult one due to the changing Covid-19 regulations but I would like to thank all the members together with the trustees for bearing with us over this period. Many of our meetings have been held on Zoom which have been very successful.
Almost immediately after the presentation of the Art Competition in 2020 the country went into lockdown which curtailed any of our proposed events. However the 2020 art prize winners were immediately informed about any new arrangements reference their prizes which in some cases will now have to be provided once restrictions have been lifted. Further details of the competition can be found on our website. However I would at this point once again say thank you to all our 2020 sponsors , Michael Eavis for presenting the prizes, Katie at 44AD and Anita together with her team for all their hard work not of course forgetting the Abbey staff who helped with the service arrangements.
After the start of lockdown the trustees turned to Zoom for our meetings and together with a newly formed Art Competition 2022 sub-committee led by Anita we all began to adjust to the new regulations. The art sub-committee spent time working on ideas and sponsors for the 2022 competition and due to their hard work we then received substantial donations from Norland College, TSL Accounting, The Royal Order of St George, the Britain-Australia Society and Chartered Trustees of Bath. Advertising material has now been produced and there has been a soft launch of the event on several social media platforms including a promotional video produced by Alan Howe which can be seen on YouTube. The Hauser and Wirth Gallery are currently involved in promoting the event, as are several other outlets around Somerset. A recent BBC Radio broadcast featuring a Commonwealth student and Nancy Wise, one of our members involved in broadcasting, was very successful highlighting the work of the Society and our mentoring scheme.
During the summer months the trustees meetings continued online and in October the annual AGM was held on Zoom with presentations by several Commonwealth students on how they have used grants provided by the branch. The AGM was also attended by our Acting President Annie Maw (who was duly voted in by members as our president) and our patron the Mayor.
The annual Admiral Arthur Phillip celebrations at Bathampton was cancelled as was the Christmas lunch, Australia Day Celebrations and later in the year Anzac Day.
However In December we did manage to hold a virtual Christmas party on Zoom which included a seasonal quiz organised by Alan Howe. Music was provided by Millfield. Again the current mayor at the time Manda Rigby and president of the branch were in attendance. Over 25 members took part in this event. Also during this time, we were able to work with the University of Bath and managed to organise several walking tours for overseas students.
In the New Year a Zoom event was organised when students had the chance to talk about their courses and also exchange ideas with each other. This led to several links including mentoring sessions by some members. This was a very successful event.
In the first part of 2021 we organised a Commonwealth Cook Up when students and members presented a variety of dishes from around the Commonwealth. These include contributions from local members, both of our universities and live linkups with Quebec and Zambia. Lotte Veale, one of our new trustees then agreed to put together an online cookbook which is being launched immediately after this AGM. If this is successful then we may look at producing a printed copy for sale with the proceeds going to a Commonwealth Charity. Lotte has worked extremely hard on this project and should be congratulated on a magnificent and professional publication which even include a recipe from the remotest island in the world and a member of the Commonwealth, Tristan da Cuhna.
Currently we are arranging a picnic in Parade Gardens for August 5th (weather permitting) when members can get the chance to meet each other once again.
We are also hoping to include a Commonwealth related presentation at BRLSI late in the Autumn.
Our website www.rcsbath.org goes from strength to strength under the watchful eye of Al our IT expert and is probably the best place to look for current information on branch activities, student awards and project reports. We are also continuing to maintain contact with our London HQ and receive regular updates on events and developments around the Commonwealth.
Due to Covid-19 we have currently suspended grant applications but will consider this once the situation has eased. However a student from Malta and one from India, both at Bath Spa, have each received awards of £500 towards their studies as part of our annual agreement. We have also provided £1000 to the University of Bath as support for individual Commonwealth scholars. We have provided the Children of Choba with an annual donation of £500 however as the Mid-Somerset festival was cancelled this year there was no payment. Once again we gave £50 towards the Ghurkha Welfare Fund. You will find a short current presentation relating to the Children of Choba, a school based charity in Africa on our website.
We welcome two new trustees to our board this year Lotte Veale and also Natasha Hopkins from the University of Bath. Our student co-coordinator from the University of Bath, Habila Mormi has stood down and we wish him well with his further studies. In his place we have appointed Olalekan Samuel Bodunrin from the Department of Economics who is studying for his PhD. Gaiven Claremont is continuing as our co-ordinator at Bath Spa.
Anita is presently organising a Commonwealth Heroes Exhibition for later in the year and we are hoping to have our Christmas lunch once again on December 2nd at the Cricket Club in Bath, a favourite venue.
Trustees are also currently looking at matters of membership, our Commonwealth student grant scheme, awards programme and our commitment to promoting the Commonwealth in Bath and beyond.
The Abbey has arranged for our Commonwealth themed service to take place at 3.30pm on March 13th 2022 prior to the art competition prize giving and I am currently talking to royal contacts on who might be able to present the awards later that afternoon, so watch this space!
Emma Harris stood down in November 2020 after many years as secretary and trustee and in February 2021 we saw the retirement of Alison Furber our Vice President. A long-time member and supporter of the society. Alan Howe was kind enough to arrange a presentation and card.
Once again we have received substantial support from
both Universities and hope during next year to expand our membership to include more schools and interested individuals in the Bath area.
As the vaccination programme continues and Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, we trust we will be able to get back to holding physical meetings. In the meanwhile we will keep you informed of what is going on through our newsletters and postings on the website.
Can I finally thank our branch president the Lord Lieutenant of Somerset Annie Maw , our patron the worshipful Mayor of Bath , the trustees and all our members who have worked so hard in these difficult times providing support at our regular meetings, through sub-committees and events. I would also like to thank Andrew Prentice our treasurer for his financial expertise, work on constitutional matters, governance and the Charities Commission, Alan Howe our Honorary Secretary for all his endless secretarial support and the rest of our extremely vibrant team of trustees who have been working non-stop on our behalf during these strange times.
Chair RCS Bath and District