The Wells Evening Society is a group started in 2006 with about 200 members who meet every month throughout the winter and spring for illustrated lectures given by leading experts in the Arts and Sciences and subjects relating to our cultural heritage. It was felt that the Wells and the surrounding area could benefit from a local society which met in the evenings, and it has proved to be a successful venture. The society chose not to be part of NADFAS following negotiations with that organisation.
From the outset, members were encouraged to socialise, one of the criteria in mind when looking for a possible venue. Wells Town Hall was chosen because of its central position, the seating capacity of its fine meeting chamber and the existence of a large foyer. The Town Hall has the necessary facilities and a license; the society has always provided wine and soft drinks for sale so that members could enjoy a drink before the lecture.
The four members who were involved with its creation, were, Sara Whitehouse, Chris Hann and Gordon Mills and Rodney Dodds. These members undertook feasibility studies and were heavily involved with recruitment, mailing lists, website development and equipment purchase and testing. For a variety of reasons the meeting day for the society was chosen as the first Thursday in each month and an evening meeting time was chosen to enable those who normally worked during the day to attend. Early in 2006, invitations were sent out to over two hundred postal and email addresses and the membership rapidly grew to well over 250.
A society logo was designed and refined, some press publicity was obtained and a bank account opened in the society's name. Detailed assessments confirmed the need to acquire suitable equipment. It became obvious that that available projector screens were too small for the sizes of audience that were expected and a 12 ft x 12 ft portable screen was purchased. Other purchased items of equipment included a slide projector, stand and lectern. Over the years, further items have been acquired including a more practical 12’ square screen and several pieces of state of the art digital equipment.
The first lecture (October 5th 2006) was given by David Battie (a frequent member of the BBC Television Antiques Road Show programme). This well presented PowerPoint presentation entitled My favourite things – Antiques attracted an audience of 176 and set the society off to a good start. As the season progressed, the attendance pattern became more predictable and the society was able to allow more to join. Membership reached a total of 263 by January 2007.
The steering committee worked on a constitution during the autumn and winter of 2006. With the first AGM set for the 1st March, 2007 The Society gained charitable status in 2008.
The constitution was drawn up so that Chairman and the main officers could only hold their position for three years. The committee has grown and changed over the intervening years and now consists of eleven enthusiastic members with most handling a specific role.
The committee arranges for lectures each year with a very diverse range of topics, including some musical and scientific talks as well as art and history. Only speakers of an extremely high standard give the lectures; it is a mantra of the committee that they must have been recommended before they are invited to Wells. Day outings and two or three-night trips away to places of cultural and historic interest were arranged from the beginning and these continue to the present time.
Conscious of the wider society in which the Society operates and on its behalf, the committee has over the last year or two arranged sixth former talks at the local comprehensive school, the Wells Blue School.. It has also arranged tea parties for the elderly house bound and sponsored music therapy for less able children and lighting for the exhibitions room in Wells Museum.
(CH,GM & SW 11 10 2013)