ANNUAL REPORT 2020/2021 – HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION (ESSEX BRANCH)

The year 2020/2021 has, due to the restriction of the COVID pandemic, presented both challenges and opportunities for the organisation and planning of Essex Branch activities.

All regular members will have missed the chance to meet face to face, take refreshments and talk with each other and the speaker at monthly meetings. We are grateful to our Membership Secretary who made telephone contact with branch members who do not have access to computers or Zoom technology.

In the past HA year all monthly meetings (including the AGM) have taken place on Zoom.  The success of this has been in great part due to the work and technical skills of our Treasurer. Consequently, we have enjoyed a significant increase in attendance at monthly meetings, with an average number of 90 screens (possibly 120 people at each meeting) The most popular talk was given by Dr.Christine Counsell ,Director of Education, Cambridge University ,”Teaching Interventions in History ”.It is estimated that almost 200 people attended the meeting via ZOOM . The enthusiasm for the talks was further evidenced by the significant number of questions to the speakers. We learned that many of our new audience belong to local history groups, but were not aware of the Historical Association. They expressed an interest in the organisation and its activities. It is hoped that this may result in an increase in membership at both local and national level. At present we have approximately 67 branch members. The number is based on the previous year’s figures. (Membership is normally renewed at the first monthly meeting of the year)

This potential new membership provides Essex Branch with the challenge of how to communicate with multiple audiences of whom we know little. To meet this challenge EB is currently examining its Publicity strategy and functions in order to find the best ways of engaging with them. We need to provide information about the local and national HA and also learn what benefits they would like to receive from membership of HA locally and nationally.

Essex Branch members have for some time expressed a wish to undertake visits to places of historical interest (especially when there is a link to one of the monthly talks).The branch is fortunate in having a committee member who has taken responsibility for this activity. A talk by Dr.Will Bowden “After Boudicca: Being Roman in the land of Iceni” generated interest in the archaeological site based in Norfolk ( and therefore geographically relatively close). On 18th July a visit was made to Venta Icorum by nine members.

The organisation and planning of these activities requires a large commitment from the EB committee. Currently, EB has a management committee of eleven, most of whom have specific areas of responsibility. EB welcomes members and those interested in helping the work of the branch, to make contact. Fortunately, the majority of the committee is willing to stand for re-election for the year 2021/22.  Shirley Durgan has made a huge contribution to Essex Branch over a number of years, during which time she has occupied all of the key committee roles (including Chair) Shirley has decided to resign from the committee. Essex Branch thanks her for all this work and is pleased that she will remain a national and branch member.

Although, we have not been able to benefit from the use of Trinity Methodist church for our meetings, we have maintained and valued contact with them during the year and are looking forward to resuming monthly meetings in the worship area once restrictions allow.