By the time any of you read this, it will probably be into 2019 so I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year.
This is probably my last article as Membership secretary as I shall be leaving the post and the committee immediately following the AGM in March. I’ve been on the committee now for around 11 years apart from a short break of 6 months. During that time the club has seen many changes - we purchased the airfield from Parham House 9 years ago and gained our security of tenure. This enabled us to started developing the club like never before. We pulled down the old transport hangar and built a new one with an integrated workshop. We invested in a new tractor and mower, and we converted our glider fleet to all-composite. We built a new private owners hangar which now holds over 20 gliders, and now we are just about to finish a major renovation of the clubhouse - a task well overdue. Once that is complete, a new briefing room is planned to be built alongside the clubhouse.
All this was achieved by forward thinking management committees upon which served dedicated and enthusiastic club members, and they in turn were supported by equally good members of the club.
In researching some vintage copies of photographs of club life for our new clubroom, it became obvious where our ‘DNA’ came from. The enthusiasm and camaraderie which seem to come across in those sepia-tinged photos of past members, pre and post-war at Southdown, was unbounded - first at Friston in the open fields by cliff-tops near Beachy Head, then at Firle Beacon from 1955. Their passion, teamwork and devotion to developing the club was embodied in none other than Joan Cloke who served on our committee for many, many years post-war and was instrumental in helping the club make a successful move to our present airfield in 1974. She also did much work for the BGA and was eventually recognised for her work by being awarded the MBE for her services to Gliding. When she passed away 5 years ago, her love for the club was reflected by her very generous financial bequest which has helped us finance the clubhouse refurbishment.
We now have further challenges ahead - the Farnborough Airspace review, the condition of our airfield, safe airmanship and the pressures of life in today’s society. In the last 10-15 years society has changed somewhat. There is more work and study pressure, and consequently more pressure to spend valuable downtime with family and friends. When people do seek leisure activities, they have to be good investments of their time - so, as a club, we must compete for that investment. If we are to win the challenge of attracting more people to our sport yet keep costs affordable then we have to show prospective members we have the year-round facilities, rain or shine, for them to learn to fly safely from solo to competition level. We have to show them we’re friendly and welcoming - not only to them but their families and friends also. We also have to show them we cannot operate or develop without their involvement. We must motivate current members to get more involved in running the club and improving it because if we don’t, the club will simply die. To paraphrase an excerpt from a famous speech of the past:
“It’s not what your club can do for you, but what you can do for your club”.
Our past members lived and breathed this philosophy and our club wouldn’t be in the position it is now without the hard work they and current members all put in to the club’s development.
Our membership must now take up these challenges and get involved to further the club’s development. We will have 3 vacancies on our committee as from March, vacancies for new instructors to be trained, and many regular jobs in maintenance which are required - yet I worryingly see a certain malaise and reluctance creeping in by members to partake in the nitty gritty of club life. We should not let our illustrious club ancestors down but take up the mantle, make them proud and help the club move successfully into the next chapters of its life ahead.
Happy New Year and see you at the launch point!
By Dave Clews