This has been a year of innovation for the Association, especially in the way we communicate with our members and the College community. The Association website, which is now updated almost daily, has been totally revamped with the addition of a community notice board, photo gallery, and an expanded OB Hall of Fame. We are registering an average of more than 150 hits a day on the website and many OBs are emerging from the woodwork to provide us with news. Going forwards, we are developing a new membership page, and looking for greater expansion of the Directory of OB Businesses and Services. My thanks go to our web designer, Alex Bremer (R. 1979-83) for all his hard work and constant enthusiasm which goes well beyond the call of duty.
Thanks to the generosity of the College Development Fund and the College every member of the Association has received a complimentary copy of the Brightonian magazine for the first time in many years. This has been welcomed by many and has led to one OB contacting us to say that she is considering sending her children to the College on the strength of what she has seen in the magazine!
The Pelican magazine has undergone considerable changes in content and style and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It is my hope that in the year ahead we can further improve the magazine and generate advertising revenue to help cover the cost of production and further improvements.
The welcome pack for College Leavers has been re-written and letters sent to all new College parents. The OBA now has a page in the Brightonian magazine and we work more closely with the Family Society and provide news for the College Newsletters.
Improving communication with our members has been a key consideration throughout this year and must continue to be so. Enormous effort has been put into ensuring events are well publicised in advance and as a result we have seen both an increase in attendance but also many new faces.
Established events such as Old Brightonian Day have been improved with the addition of House tours, a shooting tournament and the extension of OBA hospitality to College parents for Drinks at the Headmaster’s House after the day’s Home fixtures.
Personal letters from the President to targeted age groups have helped with specific reunions, and it is hoped this approach can be used again in the year ahead. Greater use of email, the inclusion of our events in the weekly College newsletter, the distribution of flyers at events and the constantly updated website have all generated additional interest. Indeed, the Annual Dinner will be the best attended in many years with 150 guests, requiring the additional use of the Blackshaw Room. With the Guest of Honour already confirmed for 2006, I anticipate another sell out for that occasion and, hopefully, a small profit.
The London Drinks have continued to be well attended and I would like to see a similar approach employed in other parts of the country to provide opportunities to network for OBs in other areas. The first Corporate Hospitality Day at Brands Hatch was a sell-out and we are grateful to Jonathan Palmer (OB) for his generosity in giving us such a good deal. A repeat event is planned for 2006.
In view of the OBA’s financial situation, the Committee took the decision that all future events must pay their way wherever possible. There is of course a balance to be struck between offering first class events whilst also ensuring members are not priced out of their comfort zone. The OBA should, after all, be accessible to all, not only the wealthiest. But we must also be conscious of our financial situation.
For all the changes we are making to meet the expectations of a 21st century organisation, I believe the Association also has a duty to remember our traditions and the role we play in safeguarding the College’s heritage. I am pleased that the College Archivist has been able to collate two small exhibitions for us at OB Day and for the Annual Dinner. I would like to see the Association working in greater partnership with the Archives and I know this is a view shared by Mrs Heater.
In sport, which has always been the traditional bedrock of the Association, there have been mixed fortunes. I asked John Aiken to be the Committee’s Sports Representative and despite a very demanding professional workload, he has done much to highlight the needs and expectations of the teams among the College and OBA communities.
The OB golfers have played in all the major nationwide Old Boys events this year. Various rounds were won in the Halford Hewitt plate and the Cyril Grey (over-50s) Tournament and the OBA team qualified for, and recently took part in, the Grafton Morrish Trophy, losing in the main event but coming 7th out of27 schools in the subsidiary competition. An autumn meeting was held at West Hill Golf Club.
The College’s cricket tradition was celebrated in suitably grand form at a Dinner in June at which many OBs attended. Matthew Prior (R. 1995-00) is currently on the full England tour of Pakistan. Playing for the opposition is another Brighton College Old Boy, now Pakistan all-rounder Bazid Khan (S. 1998-00). Sadly, neither are available to play for the OB side (!) but with the England Women’s Cricket Captain, Clare Connor (W. 1989-94) back on the College staff, perhaps we can impress upon her to join us! Congratulations to her both for leading England’s women to Ashes victory and coming runner-up as The Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year. With such prestigious representatives at national and international levels, it is to be hoped that OB Cricket can gain in strength in the years ahead.
The rugby club is still struggling but the veterans team are playing once a month and remain undefeated and it is great to see staff & parents turning out. The Under 25’s are playing during University breaks and scored a hard fought and memorable victory at the Cronk Cunis tournament in September. The Headmaster will be hosting a reception on the evening of 20th December to celebrate winning this prestigious tournament.
After promotion this year to the Intermediate league from Division 1 on Sundays, the OB Football Team would welcome any recent leavers who are interested in playing for the club. They train on Sunday mornings at 10:30 at Patcham Place, and had an unbeaten season up until the match against Colourfast Lave which was a close call losing 4-3 in later October.
A convincing victory against Fishersgate Flyers who are currently sitting mid table in the premier division was no doubt satisfying and though I know little about sport, I know this team has a great future.
My thanks go to everyone who gives their time, energy and commitment to OBA sport. We have a proud tradition and it is our sport which has held the Association together through some of the more difficult times in the Association’s history. My hope is that in the year ahead we can see more involvement in sport for women and that we can encourage the introduction of other sports which have for some time now been absent from our fixtures list.
I would also like to thank all members of the OBA Committee who have supported me in the changes I have tried to bring about, even when at times they may have thought my ideas were ridiculous rather than radical. The same goes to our Administrator, Fiona Aiken, who has to suffer my early morning calls to her office and a daily avalanche of emails. She suffers me well and (usually) does so in good spirit. Without her hard work and dedication so little could be achieved and we all owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the Headmaster and his wife Joanna. Both have been staunch supporters of the Association in all its work and they have become personal friends of many Old Brightonians here and overseas. Anthony has always offered me and my predecessors the benefit of his experience and wisdom, which at times has not always been comfortable to hear but has always been given in the spirit of co-operation and in the interests of both College and Association.
There is no sense pretending that any successor could or should try to take his place, but I am sure that Richard Cairns will be a remarkable Headmaster in his own right. We look forward to working with him and introducing him to generations of OBs at events in the year ahead. Anthony and Joanna leave Brighton College and the OBA with our deepest thanks for all they have done. We wish them every happiness and success in the future and we extend an open invitation to return to see us at any OBA event in the future.
It remains only to thank all members of the OBA who support our events, contribute their news to the website and Pelican magazine, and those who have been able to contribute to the various appeals which will help the College to develop the facilities it needs to provide future pupils with the best possible education. Please keep supporting the Association and the College, especially in the year ahead as the new Headmaster finds his feet. I promise an even more exciting year ahead and continue to welcome your comments and ideas by email, telephone or letter.
I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year