Friday, 21 May 2010

wio farewell

On Wednesday, I stood down as chair of Writers in Oxford after two years.  I was sad to do this but my life has changed so much over the last couple of years that I can no longer devote enough time to the society.

I wish my successor, Peter Groves, who I have worked with on the committee, every success.

Here is an edited version of my farewell speech.

'As you will know by now, I am standing down as chair of the society at this meeting. While I would have liked to continue for another year my professional life has changed significantly during 2009/10, leaving increasingly small amounts of time for other things.

I hope that the last year has built on the hard work of the committee during my first year as chair and on the work of my predecessor, Julie Summers.

The committee has continued to organise a full calendar of events that centre around the most popular of them all, Drinks and Digressions. Thanks to all members who have hosted parties at their homes and put so much effort into creating memorable evenings.

WiO visits to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, the History of Science Museum and the recently-reopened Ashmolean Museum have also proved highly popular.

There have been some terrific Topical Suppers led by WiO members, most recently Maggie Black and Renee Hirschon. The committee is aware that some members feel that we should invite more visiting speakers to lead Topical Suppers and this issue will be discussed, along with other events suggestions, towards the end of this meeting. I would say, however, that during the economic uncertainties of the past 18 months, it has seemed sensible to keep money in reserve. Now, though, may well be the time to loosen the purse strings.

At last year's AGM I mentioned that we hoped to organise WiO readings at Borders, an initiative that grew out of Cherry Mosteshar's book fairs. I was delighted when Jane Robinson, Julie Summers and Nikki van der Gaag took part in what was intended to be the first WiO evening of many. Sadly, this was not to be because Borders went into administration--a terrible loss to us and to the city. I would like to extend thanks to Victor Glynn of Borders for his help with running the first event and other WiO-related events and readings over the past couple of years. I hope very much that he and the other members of staff who lost their jobs have found new positions.

I would like to thank Joy Hendry and Denise Cullington for their hard work in putting together the programmes of events over the last year.

As in previous years WiO members were very much in evidence at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival and Oxfringe 2010, both as speakers and as writer-minders. This year the writer-minder scheme was run by Jane Bingham who put in a fantastic amount of effort--for which many, many thanks…

…During the latter part of 2009 WiO launched a new website, which was constructed by Andrew Chapman. Members have been extremely complimentary about the new site and its features. Many thanks to Andrew for this and for maintaining the site.

The society also has a Twitter page, which is a useful way of getting updates about forthcoming events. If you are on Twitter, do check out this page and become a follower.

I would like to thank Dennis Hamley for the three entertaining and thought-provoking issues of the newsletter which he has edited over the last year.

This year has seen two members retire from the committee, Andrew Chapman…and Rita Carter, who has made an outstanding all-round contribution to the society. Her latest contribution being a terrific article for the current newsletter. Rita was on the committee the last time I sat on the committee several years ago. Thank you so much Rita for all you have done for WiO.

At the last AGM, I mentioned that I hoped to introduce a microfiction page on the new website and find ways of involving WiO with the MSt in Creative Writing course on which I teach. Sadly, time prevented me from achieving these goals but I hope they will be ideas that the committee will consider in future.

In a few minutes, the committee will stand for re-election and I would personally like to nominate Peter Groves as the committee's new chair. Peter was a member of the society at the very beginning and has been a consistent and very energetic contributor to its continued development and success…

…So, my time as chair is almost over. I have loved chairing the society. It is the most fantastic group to be involved with. Thanks for all the fun over the last couple of years. And especial thanks to the members of the committee for all their support and hard work. It has been a privilege to work with you--members of the committee past and present.

Thank you.'

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