Society in Lockdown

Written by Julie Nicholson, Society Secretary.

Boris says we can’t meet – oh no – what do we do? That was the question the committee asked themselves, back in March 2020. We’d just held our March meeting, in St Mark’s Church Hall – little did we know at the time, that it would be the last face-to-face meeting for over a year!

So, what did we do? We did what many, many organisations, large and small, across the globe have had to do – we put on our thinking caps and thought long and hard about how we could continue to “feed” our members with their regular diet of local history. How we could continue to stay in touch with our members and how we could hold the Society together through unprecedented times (how we’ve all grown tired of that phrase – that and “social distancing”).

As a committee, we’ve continued to meet monthly to discuss and agree Society business, using Skype instead of meeting in a member’s home. It meant we had to provide our own coffee and biscuits but it’s worked. I don’t think we’ve had one meeting without someone experiencing internet issues (and we generally take that in turn) but we’ve persevered!

Our Chairman, Trevor Pearce, agreed to research and produce an information sheet each month, to issue to members, entitled “Recollections of Peterborough”. As a Peterborian born and bred, his knowledge of our city is phenomenal – ask him about anything that’s happened over the last 71 years (oops, I’ve let slip how old he is!) and he’ll remember.

Box ticked – “feeding” members with a regular local history diet.

Peter Clarkson, our Marketing and Publicity Officer, had the task of sending out these information sheets each month, along with Trevor’s “Chairman’s Blog”. In his Blog, Trevor shared with members how he was coping with lockdown – or how he wasn’t, sometimes – showing a real human side, to help members realise that it’s “ok to not be ok” during this strange time.

Box ticked – staying in touch with members.

Annette Martin, our Membership Secretary, has been busy throughout. She also deals with enquiries received through the website and these have not reduced during lockdown. I’m delighted to say that we’ve been seeing new members join the Society – three, this last month alone!

The Society has still had financial outgoings – these haven’t stopped just because we haven’t been able to meet in person. Roger Dangerfield, our Treasurer, has managed these in his usual calm, efficient manner. For example, postage and stationery costs have increased (staying in touch with members with no email solution) and our website has associated costs that have continued.

What would our committee have done without the voluntary help given by Monica, our web coordinator? It’s vital that any organisation has a web presence – how do people know we exist otherwise? We’re not an exclusive club for the “in-crowd” – we welcome anyone as a member of the Society. Monica has pushed the boundaries for us during the lockdown, by creating our very own Facebook page – we may enjoy history but there’s no need for us to live in the past!

Last (and probably least!) what does a Society Secretary do during a lockdown?
Number 1 – postpone all the speakers that had been booked. “It’s all going to be ok next year – can you come then?”. A year on – oh, we’re still in lockdown – that’s not worked then! Contact all the speakers again – juggle dates. Hotline to Boris – “when can we meet face-to-face – can we hold our summer visits?”. Get the crystal ball out to see when this might be possible.

And finally – the revised program for July – December 2021 will be out shortly – watch this space…

So, lockdown, pah! – we didn’t let it stop us – we just had to do it differently. Advantages of a Zoom AGM – it cuts off after 40 mins, so boring speeches needed shortening and little time for questions (perhaps there were some advantages of lockdown after all).

Our member, Wendy Eagle, was voted the winner, at our Christmas Social with her festive headgear (no actual prize – just the honour of the moment). Again, on Zoom – thank goodness for technology. It’s meant that those of us with computer access could continue to see each other – not forgetting those unable to join in this way, nothing wrong with the postal service and the telephone – we still managed to keep in touch.

Box ticked – hold the Society together.

Julie Nicholson. June 2021

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