Dear London Branch members

I am delighted to present my first report to you as Chairman.  We are now back to a full programme of face to face events, although train strikes have been and continue to be a major challenge.

We have seen a continued demand for more lunches, and Ronda Fogel’s series of classic lunches has been well appreciated, as well as two superb events at Sam’s Riverside organised by David Wakefield.  Many thanks to all our organisers.

We have also enjoyed some superb wine tastings, including mature clarets generously donated by Lance Jaundoo and Michael Daiches from their own cellars, as well as many very interesting and innovative tastings from Dr. Bernard Lamb.  We are grateful for their continued support.

I must also mention our 90th Anniversary celebration at Windsor Castle, which went off without a hitch, and was an absolutely unique experience, as well as bringing us some welcome revenue from other branches.  It did a lot to re-establish our Branch’s reputation, and we are very grateful to Roger Ellis and Michael Rogers-Nash for making it possible.

At this point I should like to mention two members who have sadly passed away in the last year:  Julian Elllis, who was kind enough to enable us to hold some superb events at his Club, the Cavalry and Guards, and Simon Frawley, who died very suddenly, and only a few months earlier had organised an excellent dinner for us at Champagne Route.

I should also like to thank all our Committee members for their hard work and support over the last year.   As Jeffrey mentioned in his 2022 report, we are always looking for people who are prepared to organise or facilitate events, and also for members who would be prepared to serve on our committee.  Keith Ellis has decided to step down this year after many years of service, and I should like to take this opportunity to thank him for all that he has done for the Branch.  None of us are getting any younger, and I am very concerned that we do not have potential successors lined up for any of the major roles.  So we would very much like to hear from any members, and particularly the younger ones, who would be prepared to help out in any way whatsoever.  Please do not be concerned that you lack relevant experience: we are very happy to help people to learn on the job.  Succession Planning is an important part of my role as Chairman, and one which is now becoming critical.

We are also keen to recruit new members, and particularly people who might have the potential to take over from us in a few years time.  Maybe you might think of encouraging some of your friends and relatives to join us.

In spite of these challenges, your Committee is still working hard to provide you with a wide range of excellent events: probably we offer more variety than any other branch.  We are always looking for new ideas, and are prepared to run almost any event that has an organiser and an audience. Would there be an interest in reviving blind tasting competitions for example, or food tastings and cookery demonstrations?   I am very sad to report however that we have had to cancel several events for lack of bookings, and that some others have been very poorly attended.  We really do need our members to support all our events if they possibly can, and not just those that are exceptional.

That said, we are in a strong position financially, and looking forward to another excellent year.  Rising prices in London are a major challenge, but we are doing what we can to offer excellent value for money, and look forward to seeing you all at many of our events over the coming year.

Alan Shepherd
Chairman, London Branch
October 2023