The Arts and Humanities Society is delighted to be celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. Founded on 24 June, 1972 and originally known as The London Region Arts Club (LRAC), the objective was to provide support to students of the Open University, which received its first students the previous year. The society became fully affiliated with the OU Students Association in 2021.
The first AGM was held on March 20, 1973 which recorded a membership of 250, seeing a marked increase from 65 in 1972. Now, they have almost 2,000 members, which is a huge achievement.
We maintain regular contact with our membership by issuing regular newsletters via email and Facebook.
Interestingly, there is a historical note in the third Newsletter dated November/December 1972, which was typed up and sent out by ‘snail mail’. It recorded a charge of 25p and commented that “production of the Newsletter has turned out to be a bigger undertaking and challenge, than most members of the Committee envisaged”. While great care is still taken to produce Newsletters, things are much simpler these days with the internet and social media!
During those 50 years, the Society has been run by a group of volunteers on a non-profit making basis.
While not part of the OU, our aim has always been to provide study days, lectures and visits to galleries and museums which complement OU courses, led by a cadre of lecturers and experts in various fields of study.
The range of subjects would be too long to list, but in addition to specific lectures they broadened events to include theatre visits, walks and tours of places of interest which, most recently, included Windsor Castle Chapter Library, Archives and Chapel and Roman Wales, Castles and Snowdonia – the latter being in collaboration with Siragusa.
The Covid Pandemic meant that, like so many other organisations, they had to adapt to ensure they were able to help their membership continue their studies, which resulted in on-line lectures being introduced. As already noted, the transformation of technology since LRAC’s inception has made it easier to contact a much wider audence. This became key during the pandemic enabling them to reach students far and wide. As a result, it prompted them to change their name to the Arts and Humanities Society in recognition of this, and to ensure they are more inclusive and open to students wherever they live, both in the UK and abroad. This online programme of lectures and workshops continues and in the last few months has included Analysing literature: what, why, how; Lupanar of Pompeii; analysing ancient sources; and Georgian Townscapes: fashions, style and rivalry.
These online lectures are then made available on their YouTube channel and has grown into a valuable resource across the arts and humanities. They now offer a hybrid programme including online lectures and face-to-face events – they have forthcoming visits to the British Museum to study myth in Greek Art vase painting and to the British Library to learn more about the British Library’s history, its collections and architecture. They also have plans to go onboard HMS Belfast in March 2023 and to visit the House of Commons and Lords next year.
For all our events, whether online or real, we try to keep our ticket prices as low as possible.
While the society does not charge for membership, they charge discounted rates for ‘members’ (ie OU students/alumni/staff) for their events, along with a limited number of ‘non-member’ tickets for family members and friends.
The Arts and Humanities Society have truly achieved a lot during their time, and here is a wonderful closing quote from the society:
“We are very excited to have reached this significant milestone and are so happy that a few former members of the LRAC’s Committee, along with some of our current tutors, are able to join the committee for a celebratory dinner at the end of September. We should also like to extend our congratulations to a number of other Societies and, of course, the OU Students Association who are sharing this special Golden Year.”