It is fifteen months since our last AGM in July 2019 and how our lives have changed since then! Sadly, we haven’t met face to face since October 2019 and all the visits organised for 2020 have had to be postponed owing to Covid 19. Hopefully, pandemic permitting, the visits will take place in 2021.
However, what has given me great satisfaction and pride, is that we have still been able to achieve progress and completion on a number of projects.
Your committee has met monthly via Zoom meetings and has kept up momentum despite all the restrictions. You have been kept fully informed about developments, projects and our achievements by a monthly News-sheet distributed by email. Members without internet connection have had hard copies posted to them. I must especially thank Tina Jones and Pat Barnett for editing and producing the news-sheet. What an excellent job they have done over the past seven months. It was encouraging to receive so many favourable acknowledgements from members regarding the quality of the news-sheet and the information it contained.
Despite lockdown we have achieved the following since March 2020:
· The pawnbrokers sign on Carolgate has been refurbished
· A Chesterfield Canal and Town Lock sign has been installed at the entrance to the Bay Tree car park
· The restoration of Victorian cast iron street signs around the town centre has been completed
· In Carolgate the Retford in Bloom sculpture outside HSBC Bank has been cleaned
· The ring road planting scheme has been completed
· Jenny King and the Pilgrim Embroiderers finished, in the style of the Quaker Tapestries, sewn artworks depicting the five churches in our area which feature in the Mayflower Pilgrim’s story. RCS contributed to the cost of the oak framing.
· The Town Lock Arch has been installed over the passage way on Albert Road
· All our projects from 1990 – 2020 have been researched, dated and catalogued in a commemorative booklet thanks to Pam Barnsdale and Joan Turner.
The Planning Committee have continued to meet with BDC Officers and Councillors to discuss Retford issues through internet facilities. These are very worthwhile and productive meetings.
Pam Barnsdale and Simon Holdaway have also represented RCS on the Retford Business Forum via Microsoft Team.
Heritage Day this year turned out to be a virtual event. Planning and consultation had been by Skype hosted by Bassetlaw Museum. Pam Barnsdale and Joan Turner represented RCS at these meetings. Our team of town guides were filmed at various locations explaining the heritage and importance of buildings in our town. Thanks go to Rob White, Bruce Barnett, Bob Lamb, Roger Stenson, Mylle West and Jenny King for their excellent performances in front of the camera. I was filmed introducing the Retford Heritage Day and dropped a clanger that went viral!
Unfortunately the pandemic also meant that our annual Retford in Bloom competition did not fully take place this year. However, what was pleasing was the high standard of front gardens this year – obviously we all had more time on our hands that enabled us to focus on our gardens.
The pubs also made an impressive effort to brighten our lives despite all their problems. Thanks go to the Retford in Bloom Committee for ensuring that the event went ahead despite all the difficulties. A full list of winners will be published in the November News-sheet.
At the end of August 2019 we also unveiled the Canal Heritage Mural, a thirty-six foot long piece of community art work, organised and brought to fruition by Jenny King, in the passageway between Town Lock and Albert Road.
Two Open Meetings have been held since July 2019 as the March 2020 meeting had to be cancelled:
· At the AGM in July our guest speaker was Harry Foxley who talked about ‘The Deserving Poor – The East Retford Union Workhouse’.
· In October our speaker was Rick Brand and his topic was ‘Mayflower 2020’.
Joan Turner and Hilary Holdaway organised three visits before the March shutdown:
· A summer visit to Woodhall Spa
· An autumn visit to Lichfield
· A Christmas visit to York – the Castle Museum and Fairfax House
Thank you Joan and Hilary for organising our visits so well.
Retford’s 12th Heritage Open Day took place in September 2019, the theme being ‘The Chesterfield Canal and Retford’s Working Heritage’. The Society also supported the Chesterfield Canal Trust Walking Festival and our guides provided walks around the town.
The Society provided a tree at the St Swithun’s Christmas Tree Festival. Members played a major role in the setting up, stewarding and the serving of refreshments. We also supported Grove Street Methodist Church and their Star Festival with a star and a display of some of our work and achievements in Retford. Sadly these events won’t take place this year.
Despite everything – we have made a difference this year! As an organisation we can only achieve with your support. Thank you for staying with us through these difficult times. Your continued membership not only gives us the finance to continue our work but the greater our number of members the more authority we have when negotiating.
It has been a strange year for us all but despite that I have found my twelfth year as your Chairman very uplifting and I feel really proud of what we have achieved despite the obstacles placed before us.
This year we should have celebrated the 30th birthday of Retford Civic Society – unfortunately the celebratory event at The West Retford has had to be postponed. At the meal we had intended launching a rather fine new booklet outlining all the projects we have undertaken over the past 30 years. The booklet will soon be delivered to all members and is something that all of us should be very proud of.
Finally, special thanks must go to the Committee who have adapted to working virtually together, like astronauts to space, rather than ducks to water. Their smiling faces on the screen, their good humour and enthusiasm has meant we have been able to achieve so much in 2019/2020 despite everything thrown at us.
Let’s hope and pray that all our lives and expectations will improve in 2021.
Keep smiling and keep safe.
Chairman – Retford Civic Society