Around 490 days since our last face-to-face meeting and 484 days since the Prime Minister announced the first lockdown, our Members were able to meet once again in person...with some joining online as we also piloted our first "hybrid" meeting using Zoom!
Friendship is one of the great benefits of Rotary and it's someting much valued by our Club, so the ability to meet face-to-face and catch up with each other's news is very important to our Members. On Tuesday, following "Freedom Day" on the 19th, our Members were able to meet once again over a nice lunch at the St Lawrence Cricket Ground - our usual meeting venue.
Freedom day has meant different things to different people, and it's just the same for our Members. Some are cautiously expanding their social activities - while others are a bit wary and still not venturing out too much. But our Club has been able to adapt to this thanks to our "fab four! (Past Presidents Martin Ward, Richard Kemball-Cook, Peter Hermitage plus Rotarian Caroline Lees) who made it possible for us to host our first "hybrid" meeting in which Members could also join the meeting by Zoom.
Most of our Members have had two vaccine doses and President Stephen Thompson suggested that all those attending in person should do a Covid lateral flow test on the morning of the face-to-face meeting so as to reduce risk of coronavirus transmission. The meeting itself was purely one of fellowship - there was no speaker, no official Rotary meeting, and no specific Rotary activity. So those at the meeting were able to chit-chat with other Members and find out what each other had been up to. They were joined by ADG Kevin Fielding who was keen to be present at the meeting.
Around 20 Members attended the meeting at the cricket ground in person. Several had been unable to attend due to work committments and health-related issues and had sent their apologies. All those that were there certainly enjoyed each other's company. Although it was an atypical meeting, there was the usual quick business and announcements and welfare update. Stephen had been in touch with our Pentagular partners in Germany, Belgium and Holland and we were relieved to know they were unaffected by the terrible flooding in parts of Europe. Our regular fundraising raffle was won by Rtn John Bobba and one of our generous Members, unable to attend due to health reasons, marked his birthday by offering to buy everyone a drink!
Martin Ward was in charge of the hybrid side of things and spent some time before the meeting setting up the projector, webcams, laptops, audio visual feeds etc. It was very much a test approach with 7 or 8 Rotarians joining by Zoom at different points in the meeting. Martin has been following up with these Members to find out what the experience was like and to modify future meetings to improve the hybrid model. Just as many of us found Zoom hard at first, it was a strange experience that we know will improve in time - as Martin said "We need to nurture the hybrid system so that it can be a valuable adjunct to our Club's activities. Tuesday's meeting was a very useful excercise". The opportunity to join by Zoom offers those Rotarians unable to join a face-to-face meeting because of work or health issues to do so; it also means in due course we can have external guests and speakers join us online (during lockdown we had speakers and guests join from Australia, Mauritius, Pakistan and Bangladesh - as well as from various locations around the UK; this was a great boon that we didn't want to lose). However, the hybrid model is very much seen as a "means to an end" and will not be replacing our normal meetings and activities. President Stephen and our Chair of Fundraising, Dee Mepstead, have a great programme planned for this year - including a farm visit and picnic next week to fit in with Stephen's theme for the year of "The Food We Eat".
Well, it's certainly good to be back - and hopefully you will see and hear much more from us in weeks and months to come. Stay safe & well everyone!