President’s report to AGM

The report sent out by post covered the year ending December 2016, so I gave the AGM a report about what has happened since, and what’s now in progress. (Now that our accounting procedures are very much more efficient, future AGMs should come earlier in the year – and we’ve already pulled it back from autumn to July over the past couple of years.)

So here are my notes from yesterday. This makes for a very long blog!

Today’s comments bringing us up to date following on from the 2016 report (circulated) – which ends in suspense with Claremont sale hanging in the balance. Completed 24 March, and we took over and moved into the new offices shortly before that. Most of the sale proceeds, £700,000 (less some relatively modest fees – lucky as David Lynch agent acted pro bono, and John Kelsall of Walker Morris charged much less than a commercial rate) – proceeds have been invested long-term in the CCLA fund.


With the move out of Claremont, our two remaining employees left YAHS. Judith Rushton had worked for the society in various admin roles since the late 1960s. Dawit Gharib was caretaker for 8 or 9? years. Both Judith and Dawit were helpful, reliable and popular with all, and we miss them. A presentation took place in May at Joseph’s Well.


The interval between exchange of contracts and completion was short, so the range of rented offices available was limited. We took the end of a lease on an office in Joseph’s Well. The office is perhaps larger than ideal, and relatively expensive (though not by central Leeds commercial standards) – we have always seen it as possibly a transitional phase. At the time we moved in, the extra space was useful, to continue sorting items from Claremont (the end of a two- to three-year process of managing the ordered disposal of Claremont contents.) (tending towards frenetic as moving day loomed). The extra space may yet be worthwhile, if we can base projects in the office and cover some costs through external funding. We are now closely monitoring usage of JW office, and coming towards the view that while we need an office, JW may be larger than required, and perhaps we can achieve better value for money elsewhere. So we are now starting a process of investigating what may be available, and at what cost, balancing facilities, accessibility, car parking, public transport links.


We are also considering the rather more limited options for lecture rooms for the sections’ regular programme of talks and other activities. Section activities are proving more popular than ever. Some of the audiences stretch the size of rooms at Swarthmore, and lack of disabled access prevents our use of the larger room upstairs.


There have been several meetings with Section officers, part of a strategy of bringing sections closer together, and to the centre. Some of these consultations have been on specific issues, about financial management, and about the new website. The MB members nominated to represent sections have helped develop two-way communications. (Please note that two sections have not taken up their places.) Partly because of the more active connections between sections, and also with an enlarged MB, we have a conundrum with council. It still meets twice a year, and forms a valuable link with our affiliate societies, but its purpose is not well-defined. It often seems little more than a rerun of MB. Its role needs to be re-examined.


Collections – The conservation bill which was very kindly covered by the Brotherton Library until Claremont’s sale was completed, has now been settled. The volunteer group, run by Dr Belinda Wassell, meets regularly and is working through the pamphlet boxes formerly stored in one of the back rooms of Claremont. Belinda reports steady progress on sorting and listing the box contents, having covered about 40% of the collection, more than 71 boxes. Some of the pamphlets (7%) are of sufficient value to move into the archives. More than half will go into the library, and the remainder will come back to YAHS for scanning (if appropriate).

Our archival collections in SC are proving very popular with readers. Prof. M Chase has taken on a role promoting their use internally within the university.


A number of other significant projects are underway, or being planned (that is, additional to the many initiatives of sections.) The new website is now being populated with content, and we expect it to go live in autumn. Retro-digitisation of YAJ (all the pre-Maney volumes) is happening this month, after diligent preparatory work by members. The volumes should be available online, free of charge, within a short time. Grants from Marc Fitch and Wade’s charity have minimized the cost to the society of the website and of YAJ digitization. The Promotions group has been extremely pro-active in raising the society’s profile, overseeing the website and also in developing a Yorkshire Dales project planned for 2018, to mark the 50th anniversary of Hartley and Ingilby’s best-known book. This will include a new edition of the book itself, now out of print, for a new generation and using some of Marie Hartley’s photos from YAHS archives.


We have embarked on a complete review of YAHS publications – to keep us relevant, and take advantage of new publishing opportunities. We are also in the process of reviewing policies and administrative procedures (some of this in light of the new website, some of it to come into line with a wholly volunteer society.)


Our new treasurer, Frank Jordan, will be making his report. We were delighted when Frank, who has worked for several years alongside Brian Barber, announced that he had decided to retire from paid work and was in a position to take over as YAHS treasurer. He and Brian were a terrific double act, to the extent that they credited each other with the dramatic improvement in financial management. So thank you to Frank for agreeing to take on this responsibility, and for everything he’s achieved in cost-cutting and working out new systems, and is continuing to do towards these ends.


And in particular at this point I would like to pay tribute to Brian. He was the Cassandra who insistently recognised the peril we were in – and who took on this exceptionally difficult task, when he would much rather have been editing WCRs or writing for the YAJ. The society is hugely in debt to Brian.


Finally – there are many other members, active in all kinds of ways, who enable YAHS to achieve as much as it does. But we do need more help, administratively and in various ways, to spread the load. If you have time and energy I would very much like to hear from you. Thank you to all who do so much.