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TONY HILLIER: Society needs your support - and your talents

PUBLISHED: 17:34 20 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:10 07 September 2010

I am most grateful to the Ham&High for giving the Heath and Hampstead Society regular column space, starting today, to keep readers up to date with what we are doing. Last month we held our annual new members party (our turnover is about 100 members a yea

I am most grateful to the Ham&High for giving the Heath and Hampstead Society regular column space, starting today, to keep readers up to date with what we are doing. Last month we held our annual new members party (our turnover is about 100 members a year) in Burgh House. We asked them "Why did you join?" and "Why did you not join before?"

The answers to the second question were very revealing and it became clear that we have allowed a lot of myths to surround our activities, which I hope to dispel. First, membership is open to all who share our vision for this wonderful part of London. Second, we need and warmly welcome all of you who support our aims, even if you do not have time to become actively involved.

Of the 1,700 or so typical membership number, a core of only around 2.5 per cent are active on committees and working groups. This hard core of expert and dedicated people have not become active by some magic wink and nod; they have come forward because they want to make a difference locally and we have found interesting jobs for them, so thay become hooked.

So why not you? Just email info@heathandhampsteadsociety.org.uk to enquire and let us know how you would like to help. There are two big gaps in our line-up right now. We would like a few talented organisers: one set to build a section for people with younger families to meet together in the playgrounds on the Heath, and learn more about the natural history of the Heath and Hampstead.

Secondly, in previous years we had a popular programme of literary lunches and teas to listen in small groups or larger gatherings to a series of talented local writers. Would anyone like to organise these again and other social events with the society's support?

The reason why the other 97.5 per cent is so important is because of the politics - with a small 'p' of how we achieve our aims. We work with, through and at times against the various authorities who manage and control the Heath, the streets, buildings and living environment of Hampstead. We aim to protect the special charms of our locality for visitors and residents alike. Simply by joining you help us fight for these many, important and usually quite complex causes, both technically and legally.

Our continuing influence depends on two factors: our expertise and our weight of membership. We maintain our strong tradition for the former with the professionalism of the 2.5 per cent. It is equally important that we carry the support of as many local people as choose to join us.

There is clear evidence that a lot of people who are not members do generally support what we do and what we stand for, and would like to register that in some concrete way. I believe it is mainly because we have not made joining easy enough, that they have not done so. Hence this column.

What's in it for you, you may ask? In addition to the genuinely warm feeling of making a real contribution, we send you a first class Newsletter three times a year; membership of the Hampstead Card, which supports nearly 100 local independent shops and services, who usually offer members an attractive discount; and invitations to interesting events.

I should like to leave you with two messages. To learn more about us, why not come to our AGM at Rosslyn Hill Chapel next Tuesday, June 24 at 7pm? Join the Society at the door and hear the officers' account for their actions over the previous year to members in our usual democratic way. Debby Moggach, a member of our Heath sub-committee and well known local author, is guest of honour.

Alternatively, just join by sending back the form which appears in this week's Ham&High (page 18) or by going to our prize-winning website. The myth is "you must wait to be invited". The reality is "please contact us!".

Tony Hillier, Chairman, Heath&Hampstead Society


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