As we become aware of chillier mornings and the nights drawing in, we should be looking forward to an exciting calendar of events organised by our new President. Sadly, this year you will be well aware that this is not the case.
Firstly I am writing this as the President rather than Martin Amlôt because the AGM has been postponed until October 22nd in the hope that it will be able to take place in the familiar surroundings of the Athenaeum with as many proprietors present as possible. We are still hopeful that this will be the case, but to ensure that our President in waiting can be officially installed, we are also making plans to hold a virtual AGM – possible thanks to the wonders of modern technology but also something that we never thought we would have to do this time last year.
Secondly, due to the restrictions imposed by the government on people gathering together, we have been unable to restart our programme of social events although Martin has been working hard to ensure that when the time is right he will be able to welcome you all to his new year with an exciting and interesting calendar. At the moment we are all keeping our fingers crossed that the postponed Sir David Maddison Opera Prize Evening will be able to go ahead on Saturday 7th November. Huge thanks must go from Martin and myself to David Cox for his continuing support in organising this and other events. I know that many will be looking forward to welcoming the entrants to the Athenaeum and we all hope the evening will signal a return to normality.
Some of you have been able to return to the Athenaeum even though activities and hours are limited and I know you will want to join with me in thanking all of the staff for their efforts and professionalism in dealing with the challenges posed by the current situation. It has been a pleasure being able to catch up with friends in such a welcoming and safe environment and put aside some of the oddities of current life.
Although outwardly the Athenaeum has been closed, behind the locked doors there has been a lot of activity. Great strides have been made in implementing some of the recommendations of the strategic review. One of the most significant changes was the appointment of a general manager. Proprietor John Blain very bravely took on this role and he and our Club Secretary, Jack Birley, have been working hard to implement other recommendations which will see the Athenaeum emerging from these strange times in a stronger position. In this instance the enforced closure has been used to advantage – as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.
These have been strange times and I certainly did not envisage my Presidential year coming to such an end. However, can I thank everyone involved in the Athenaeum, Proprietors and staff, for all the support given to me during the past year. It has truly been a memorable time and contrary to what might be thought, I will remember it not for the challenges posed by the virus, but rather for the pleasure and honour of acting as an Ambassador for the Athenaeum and for the opportunity of being able to meet so many proprietors. I thank you all for giving me this opportunity.
Not only has the current situation made the end of my year rather strange, but of course it will also have a huge impact on Martin Amlôt’s year. It is not the easiest job trying to arrange the Presidential programme in normal times, but Martin has to be ready with a programme for when we can return to the, now slightly strange, art of socialising – I don’t envy him! He has given me great support during my year and particularly over the last few months and we will continue to work closely together until he officially inherits the Presidential title. We will all be hoping that he can enjoy his year without the spectre of the ‘virus’ in the background.
Times continue to change and we don’t know what is around the corner, but we will take every opportunity to return to normal and in the meantime the Athenaeum will continue to welcome Proprietors and guests, and do everything possible to ensure the Clubhouse remains a safe and secure environment. I look forward to seeing some of you in the coming weeks enjoying some respite from the rather strange times in which we find ourselves.