Forum Society (28th February 2018)
The members of The Forum Society are proudly celebrating its 60th year since its first meeting in the Royal Albion Hotel in 1958. Despite all the changes and innovations in life, the members still enjoy regular meetings in the English Language Centre, social events and visits to places of local interest and entertainment.
In early 1958 three men, Eric James, Sidney Neve and Terry Burgess, agreed that there was a need in the area for an opportunity to discuss and debate the issues of the day in a non-political and non-sectarian arena. Following an advertisement in the Argus and encouragement from Mr W.Stone, Brighton’s Director of Education, a few trial meetings were held and were supported by many enthusiastic participants. The men were right – the interest was there.
On July 2nd 1958, the inaugural meeting of The Forum Society was held in the Royal Albion Hotel. A committee was formed and a constitution formally agreed. The Director of Education was appointed as its first President. Annual subscriptions were twelve shillings and sixpence. Meetings were held every fortnight to discuss current issues, even if controversial and questions were actively encouraged. The Argus published reports of these meetings, even putting a lively debate about black magic on the front page.
Gradually social events were organised including dinner-dances, a ball, rambles were popular and even poetry competitions were held. Members were aged between 21 and 40, so a few weddings were celebrated. Membership rose steadily to over 150 with a waiting list but then fell in 1970s. Depending on numbers, venues varied from the Royal Albion, The Teachers Training College in Eastern Terrace, Marlborough Hotel, and back to the Albion. The English Language Centre with its comfortable lecture room with up to date technology has been its venue for many years.
Fund raising for local charities was organised by Jean Clare, a long serving chair and later President. She called the fund ‘The Cause of the Year’ and raised £30,000 over many years.
The main anniversaries have been commemorated with special dinner dances and lunches in local hotels or golf clubs. A tree was planted in St Ann’s Wells Gardens and an oil painting of a Sussex scene by a well known artist, Juliet Pannett, was presented to Hove Library in 1983 for the 25th. This is still displayed today. Members had tea in the Mayor’s parlour and a special lunch for the 50th anniversary. This year there will be buffet and entertainment and the members will raise a toast to the future of the Society.
Over the years the age of the members has increased and in 2016 meetings became monthly. Talks cover a wide of subjects and questions are still welcomed, but the invigorating debates of sixty years ago have been replaced by friendly chat over refreshments and convivial meals and visits out and about locally.