This year our president Vanessa Thomas and our Chair Jenn Bullen both retire. Their concluding statements are below. I am sure that we wish to thank them on behalf of the committee and all our members for their sterling work during very difficult and testing times.

Thoughts from our President

2020 has been the 47th year since North Yorkshire and South Durham Decorative and Fine Arts Society’s inception and it continues, albeit as The Arts Society, despite these strange times.

We were able to enjoy lectures on photography, musicals, the 1920s and diaries, all from the aspect of fine and decorative arts, together with a study day on the Silk Road, until the programme was curtailed by Covid-19. Facing the challenge of virtual presentation, the committee have presented us with innovative lectures via Zoom with others due in following months. While not ideal, there being no option on gathering at Blackwell Grange as before, the digital presentations give us the opportunity of distraction from the current situation.


As always, we are blessed with an enthusiastic, dedicated and hard-working committee. We rely on them for the smooth-running of the society and, even in these difficult times, to provide us with the excellence we enjoy. Our thanks to them all.

After 3 years in a more than usual challenging position, Jenn Bullen is finishing her term as chairman of the society. She has had to deal with more than usual unusual situations, particularly in dealing with the intricacies of running meetings and introducing lecturers via Zoom, all part of a steep learning curve! Her efficient and calm manner have helped to ensure the continued running of the society under challenging circumstances. Despite not being able to hold the AGM this month, Jenn is retiring. We wish her well and thank her for everything she has given us unstintingly – and we have said it with flowers.

The new chairman of The Arts Society NY & SD is Rita Smith, with David Phillips as Vice Chairman. Julia McCourt moves to organising the programme and Clive Reeves takes on the website as well as design; otherwise the current committee remains the same. Formal instatement will take place when it becomes possible to hold a full meeting.

I have very much enjoyed my time as President of the society. Having been involved with The Arts Society (and NADFAS) over many years, it has been a pleasure to have been part of our society in a delightfully calm way, so, after 7 years in post, I hand over the baton to Christine MacKinnon, society chairman from 2014 to 2016.

I wish the 2020/2021 committee very well and look forward to when we can meet again in person, not only online.

Vanessa Thomas

Retiring President

October 2020

From our retiring Chair

Dear Members 19th October 2020


Our Zoom lecture meeting in September was considered a success and David estimated that we had approximately 55 attendees – some members not on the internet were invited to join those who were, hence the estimate. A comment was made about the quality of the photographs. These were archive material and this was obvious when Nigel showed us the photo of the stage set up for the 2019/20 production of The Nutcracker which could be seen in all its glory. Nigel was an excellent ‘host’ and managed us all so well. Lydia Bauman is ‘hosting’ her lecture on 19th October – ‘Painting the Modern Garden, Monet – Matisse’ but we are in the process of applying for our own Zoom licence from HQ. I hope that more members will join us on Zoom for Lydia’s lecture.

The AGM due to take place on Monday 19th October at 5.30pm has been postponed to January 2021 at the earliest – Roger has confirmed to me that there is provision to do this. However, I (as Chair) will be stepping down on 19th October – having served my 3 years – and Rita will be taking over. David will embrace Deputy Chair along with continuing as Membership Officer. Julia is to be your new Programme Organiser and Clive is continuing with Publicity alongside being responsible for the Website and he is full of ideas for this including putting a monthly Newsletter on the website. The Chair and Committee en bloc will be voted on when we are in a position to hold the AGM.

I have said to Rita that I am happy to continue ‘looking after’ the members who are not on the internet until ‘normal service’ is resumed and am prepared to organise the UK Tour for 2021 unless there is anybody else on the Committee or amongst the members who would be willing to take this on. I have received a new mini lecture on Turner from Lizzie Darbyshire and this will be going out to all members shortly via MailChimp and post.

Since we have taken the decision to Zoom our lectures up until Christmas and this may have to be extended into 2021 depending on the continuing Government restrictions, we will obviously not be able to hold our Christmas lunch at Blackwell Grange. I have been in constant communication with both the hotel’s General Manager and Rebecca, the Events Coordinator, throughout the period March to September and we are looking to organise a ‘Welcome Back’ lunch in its place – hopefully subsidised by the Society subject to Roger’s comments! This more than has the blessing of the hotel! I have also kept Joe abreast of what is happening in the Society and he is as ever supportive of what we have had to do in the interim. This brings me to the subject of a replacement for Roger, our Treasurer, who wishes to step down after long service to the Society as too does John Stoney, one of our tech gurus. We would welcome overtures from you, the members, to fill these two roles and please remember we can only keep going if you are prepared to support us whether it be by serving on the Committee or by membership. If we lose members and cannot replace them, this will have an effect on what we can offer you be it the lectures or study days etc.

I would now like to thank you the Committee for all the help and support you have given me throughout my term of office – official thanks will be made at the AGM whenever! It has been an eventful three years but a most enjoyable time for me commencing with the 50th Anniversary Tea at the Bowes Museum and ending with the major problem of Covid! There have been many highlights during my term of office: I particularly remember our Study Day with Andrew Prince who designed the jewellery for Downton Abbey and actually wearing the Tiara together with speaking to Florian, our Chief Executive, at an Area Meeting. We actually provide 11 lectures per year so I am spoilt for choice in selecting highlights! Rita has produced a magnificent varied Programme for us throughout that time including the Study Days held at Worsall Village Hall enjoyed by all who attended. David and Judith have done a great job dealing with the Membership and encouraging new members and latterly David has hosted our Zoom Committee meetings and kept us right!


Roger has had his finger on the money and advised us as to what we can and cannot afford! However, we are looking to replace the screen once we resume as this is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Clive has worked with Rita on the Website having already done some exciting things with it. He is also continuing with design. Suzanne produces our excellent Minutes which I am very grateful for as they are very much an aide memoire. Della plans our Outings which sadly have had to be put on hold because of the virus but before we went into lockdown we had an amazing trip to York which included visits to the makers’ studios – very different. Jan has put together our exceptional Overseas Tours though regrettably Dresden too had to be cancelled but we are looking forward to the Puglia Tour – anyone who wishes to sign up for this, please contact Jan sooner rather than later. Last but not least, Sandra has looked after Young Arts (now Arts Volunteering) which took in Arts in the Churches in the Dales - this proved very popular with the school children and gave them the opportunity to talk to ‘real’ artists! She is also very involved with her primary school producing a banner (in liaison with the Bowes Museum Education Department). Furthermore, there is a possibility that we will be approached by The Friarage Hospital Psychiatric Department to work with young people on arts projects. We must also thank Julia for all the work she has done on publicity – something she has loved doing and probably wants to keep doing – as she has been responsible for putting our name into the market place. She has also given a helping hand to Rita but will now take on the planning of our future Programmes. There is one more thank you that I want to add and that is to Brian, Rita’s husband, for the design work and painting of our lectern due to our change of name. TO THEM ALL I SAY A VERY BIG THANK YOU on behalf of myself and you the members.

Vanessa, our President, is also standing down after seven years in the role. I would like to thank her for all the help and advice she has given me throughout my term of office and welcome Chris MacKinnon into her shoes who too has been a great support to me along with Ian, her husband, who has endeavoured to improve my computer skills! You, the members, have also played a part and it has been a pleasure to get to know many of you so much better. I too owe a debt of thanks to John, Ian and Joe – our tech guys – for keeping the ‘show on the road’.

I end by wishing Rita well during her term of office and a speedy return to ‘normal service’ and I shall now enjoy my ‘retirement’!

I hope you continue to stay safe and keep well.

With very best wishes


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