23 members and guests came to the first meeting of Tyneside CHF which was held in Jesmond on Tuesday, July 25th, among them members of the North Yorkshire/South Durham and Nottingham groups, and of GLF, as well as others of us whose first experience it was of a gathering of this kind. Our Convenor, David, at once demonstrated his talent for creating a relaxed, informal atmosphere by faultlessly introducing every one of us by name to the last arrivals, and Derek, who had very kindly given us his hospitality, helped to make us feel very much at home by producing coffee at just the right moment before the talking started.
David, introducing the meeting, kept up the informality by suggesting that we first get to know each other and our thoughts about the Group before getting down to the business of constitutions, committees and subscriptions at a later date. Any fears that we might turn out to be a tongue-tied lot were quickly dispelled, and some pretty lively discussion took, place on the balance we should keep between carrying out the campaigning and educational objects of CHE and the fulfilling of social needs. Most of us seemed to agree that there need be no clash between the two, and that as well as furthering in every way we could the aims of the Campaign, we should also make our Group a socially attractive one (which it looks like being anyway), with special emphasis on helping those who have been victims of social isolation. David undertook to discover our “hidden talents“in the form of a questionaire.
On the subject of meeting-places, most people thought Newcastle would generally be the most convenient centre, but that we should aim to vary our surroundings at the homes of members who were able to offer hospitality. For the more organised monthly occasion, the possibility of our being able to use a private room at the Percy Arms would be investigated, also the Quakers’ Hall, and David mentioned that there was a chance of his being able to negotiate the use of other licensed premises where we could meet in privacy. Inevitably no one evening in the week would be equally convenient for us all and, though on Tuesday the Tuesdayites were in the majority, we would see how the evening could best be varied. Meetings with guest speakers from a distance might need to be on Fridays, and we resolved to invite as our first guest to speak National Executive member Ike Cowen, legal adviser to CHF, whose recent talk in Durham had been enjoyed enough for those who had heard him there to want to hear him speak again. We hope he will be able to come up towards the end of September.
Michael suggested the very valuable possibility of our being able to make eventual use of office facilities which GLF are hoping to acquire in Newcastle, and our thanks are due to Ken who is giving up his time and facilities for the duplication of material like this, and also to Alan who has offered the same essential service.
There was such a generous response to David’s request for offers of transport that there will be no difficulty over arranging a ferry service from Newcastle for anyone who needs it to our next meeting at David’s at North Shields on August 8th. An equally generous response to the plate which was passed around to cover immediate expenses raised £2.54 and since Derek absolutely refused to allow us to reimburse him we actually start with something in the kitty.
I think we all found it was a most encouraging beginning. Tyneside may have been the last major region to form a Group, but from Tuesday’s experience it looks as if our late starter may well surprise some of its elders.