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Home > News and views > A message from our Chair

A message from our Chair

From Professor James Raven, LittD FBA FSA, Chair, English-Speaking Union:

Dear ESU members, alumni and supporters,

This is not how I envisaged my first greeting to you as newly-appointed Chair of the ESU (an opening letter will now appear as the Introduction to the next edition of Dialogue), but we are all having to respond to extraordinary times.

It is, of course, hugely disappointing that branch and other events are having to be cancelled or postponed and that planning ahead is so difficult. It may be months before we resume normal activity. The mission of our ESU, however, devoted to improving communication and to linking people across the country and globe by bonds of friendship and understanding, could not be a more positive one at this time – a time, also, which requires all of us to embrace new ways of thinking, different ways of working and socialising, and to respond to significant disruption.

Judging from the emails sent to me in the past few days, many members are already thinking creatively about how we might deliver alternative activity later in the year and beyond. Committee and other meetings are continuing by virtual means and as you would expect, our dedicated HQ staff are (even while Dartmouth House remains closed) responding impressively. Going forward, they will update you with news and developments, just as they are now reacting quickly and responsibly to the unfolding situation.

I am sure you can also imagine the impact that the current situation is having on the charity’s finances. The loss of commercial income from Dartmouth House functions is immediate and we have cancelled or postponed all our fundraising events for the summer. With your support, we hope to be able to continue to deliver our educational programmes and competitions in schools from September; we also hope to provide resources to schools, pupils and parents on-line in the very near future.  Of course, none of this has ever been possible without the generosity of our members and alumni – but we are facing a very difficult financial situation.

If you have been considering making a donation, or are able to, I would be immensely grateful for your support. A link to our donation page can be found here or please feel able to call us on 020 7529 1579.

One of my own disappointments is having to delay opportunities to meet with members, alumni and supporters. I have also postponed visits to branches, but I look forward to meeting with you again before too long. Meanwhile, this comes with my very best wishes as you all take precautions in the weeks ahead. I hope also that ESU friendship and community will contribute, by email, phone or other safe contact, to enhancing the kindness and understanding of each other and to supporting those who might feel especially isolated.

Please keep well and safe.

James Raven

Please note that, due to coronavirus, Dartmouth House is currently closed to members. We are also postponing our schools educational work and competitions. Please check the What’s On calendar for events details and contact local organisers if necessary.  ESU staff are working remotely, so do let us know how we can help you. Contact details are here. Thank you for visiting  

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