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Central London Humanists Pages

NOTE - Scroll to the bottom of the page to see A.C. Grayling talking about Humanism

Courtesy BHA Choir

The Central London Humanist Group is an independent group affiliated to the British Humanist Association.

Regular meetings are held at least twice a month. A social on the first Wednesday of the month and a talk or other event on the 3rd Wednesday in the month. Occasional extra events are arranged almost every month, such as film nights, trips to places of interest and other excursions.

Non-voting membership of the group is by membership of this Meetup site or our facebook group. There is no membership subscription but only members who are also members of the BHA are voting members.
Usually a small voluntary donation is requested at meetings.
However, you will be most welcome to come along for a trial free visit.

As of January 20th 2010 the present Committee of the Central London Humanist Group is:

Helen Palmer, Chair & Events organiser
Alan Palmer, Secretary
David Miller, Treasurer

Clive Aruede, Campaigns organiser
Steve Clapman
Josh Kutchinsky Membership & e-reminders organiser
Mary Grove
Brendan Armstrong
Trisha Rogers
Baptiste Bourgougnon, Book Club Organiser

The Story so Far ( this was written early in 2009)

The Central London humanist group will mark its fifth anniversary later this year. In the wake of the phenomenally successful humanist bus campaign, and thanks to the efforts of various individuals as well as the power of internet networking, the group is thriving.

We have more than 370 members, money in the bank, a rapidly growing programme of events, and a buzz that suggests an exciting future. No one knows what that future might hold, but you might like to know how we got to this stage. So here goes.

It all started towards the end of 2004, when Jemma Hooper, who was then the membership secretary of the British Humanist Association, wanted to capitalise on the energy and natural gregariousness of at least some of the hundreds of thousands of non-religious professional people working in central London. Jemma hoped to set up a humanist group that might be loosely affiliated to the BHA, but would be independent and self-sufficient.

I was, as I still am, a BHA-accredited officiant, taking time off from my day job to conduct humanist funerals, weddings and baby namings. My office is only a couple of minutes’ walk from the BHA head office, and Jemma thought I might be interested in helping her. I liked the idea and agreed. She then put in all the work - combing through the BHA’s lists of London supporters, placing occasional advertisements in selected places and publications in the area - and we held our first meetings.

There were some odd characters who came to those early meetings - not all with immaculate dress sense or necessarily the highest standards of personal hygiene. We hadn’t known what to expect, but we did know that humanist groups in central London had had a chequered history. At various times, there has undoubtedly been some crossover between humanism and anarchism, and more than once Jemma and I were reminded of the fine distinctions explored in Monty Python’s Life of Brian between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front. Even now I think I can hear someone saying: "But what has the BHA ever done for us?"

Despite these occasionally fissiparous tendencies, we immediately established an ad hoc committee, and gradually a number of thoughtful and competent people came to the fore - even though Jemma continued to do the lion’s share of the organising.

The first year had its highlights - stimulating talks from people like the author and humorist Francis Wheen, enjoyable social evenings at Truckles wine bar, off Bloomsbury Square, and a triumphant finale with comedian Stewart Lee entertaining about 50 people in a rehearsal room at RADA. We had established some sort of routine, with a social gathering at the beginning of every month and a talk a couple of weeks later. But numbers fluctuated wildly. Some of the talks attracted only single-figure audiences - which didn't necessarily make them any less rewarding - and numbers for the social evenings varied between two and twenty.

The following year followed a broadly similar pattern, and there were moments when it seemed that the group might not survive. All credit, then, to the handful of people who kept the show on the road: Josh Kutchinsky, our own Father Christmas look-alike who combined a remarkable willingness to keep sending emails to all and sundry with seemingly limitless benevolence to those who proved less reliable than himself; Deborah Hyde, elegantly chairing meetings and introducing people, and setting up the group’s first website; and Sue Collingridge, unflappably holding the fort when others were unavailable. There were, of course, many others involved, some of whom burned brightly for a while and then were gone; others like Dave Miller who were with us almost from the first and have gradually been persuaded to take a prominent role.

It was in 2007 that Jemma left the BHA, and left a big gap in our organisation. By now, however, a new wave of humanists had joined, and other personalities were emerging who would guide the group into something closer to its present form. In Clive Wilson we were fortunate to have found someone who had plenty of administrative experience and a certain gruff authority. Clive’s day job involves directing the development of the south-east London borough of New Cross - so a bunch of Bloomsbury-based humanists held no terrors for him. Within a few weeks he had the group committee filling in forms and committing to attendance at functions.

In 2008 we opened a bank account and that August we had a picnic in Bedford Square which in some ways crystallised the progress we had made. Despite threatening weather, about 30-40 people gathered in the square. Mingling with the usual suspects were the BHA’s Andrew Copson and a couple of friends, a group of besuited young people hot from the City, a militant humanist poet, and for the first time a groupuscule of Conservative humanists, plus of course Gerard Earley, the irrepressible bouliste, creator of our newly invigorated website and hat-wearer extraordinaire. Alan Palmer, our urbane and silver-tongued new chair, sadly couldn’t make it. Arguably most impressive was the fact that we had so much more than we could eat - not only the food and drink the organisers had agreed on but a cornucopia of voluntarily contributed goodies - from champagne and strawberries to fresh-cream pastries. The weather had the last word that evening, and we dispersed after a mere hour and a half. In 2009, with better weather, we can surely expect the attentions of the London freesheets if not The Tatler or Waitrose Food Monthly.

Arguably more significant in the long term has been Josh’s & Gerard's tremendous work in developing both the Meet-up site and the groups offical website, with the assistance of Alice Fuller on Facebook. My own role in recent months has been so peripheral that I am no longer qualified to describe the group’s progress in 2009. I can only say that the auguries could hardly be better. Someone else will have to write about the next five years.

by Rupert Morris

About Rupert Morris

Rupert Moris has written speeches, articles, brochures, reports and books for business clients for more than 20 years. He founded Clarity in 1997 where he provides writing services, writing workshops and individual executive coaching.


Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
The End of Gay? - talk by Adam Knowles - video February 24, 2011 9:22 AM Josh K.
About Central London Humanists November 2, 2013 11:48 AM Josh K.

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