Chairman's Report 1995

Third Annual General Meeting, November 1995.

In the autumn of last year it became apparent that the Overseas Development Administration were showing no signs of reactivating the aid programme which had been suspended in the early part of the year. A considerable number of members took the matter up with the ODA., the Foreign Office and with their own members of parliament. A number of questions were asked in both Houses. I am delighted to report that, in March this year, the Minister of State, Baroness Chalker, announced that the bilateral aid programme to the Yemen would resume at the start of the 1995/6 financial year. It is not yet clear whether the level of support will return to the pre-suspension level, but it is very satisfactory that the principle of British development aid to the Yemen has been re-established and I have no doubt that the efforts of members of the Society made an important contribution to this successful outcome.

In March of this year, H.E. Dr. Husain Abdulla al Amri took up his post as ambassador of the Republic of Yemen in London. He kindly agreed to become our honorary Co-President and we had a chance to welcome him with a reception at the Arab British Centre which was very well attended. His help and advice has already proved of great assistance to the Society and he attended and spoke to members at our annual general meeting in May. He has also found time to attend other events.

In July, with the help of Visiting Arts, the Society sponsored Hamud bin Junayd, a classical Yemeni ‘ud player and vocalist, to come to Britain take part in the Llangollen International Festival of Music. In the competition for soloists and small groups, in which sixteen countries competed, he came third. He subsequently gave concerts in Cardiff, London and Birmingham, all of which drew enthusiastic audiences. He also appeared on various radio and television programmes.

The programme of lectures continued successfully and are reported on elsewhere in the magazine. The autumn programme has already been circulated.

Undoubtedly the major event of this autumn is the Wales-Yemen Festival which is to take place in Sana’a in October. Pat Aithie has given up an enormous amount of time to organise this festival, which has received enthusiastic backing from the Yemeni Ministry of Culture, the British Embassy and the British Council. It will consist of an exhibition of Welsh crafts in Dar al Kutub in Sana’a, a group of Welsh musicians and vocalists who will perform not only in Sana’a, but will tour the country performing with a group of Yemeni musicians and a festival of Welsh food in the Taj Sheba Hotel in Sana’a. Prior to its despatch to Sana’a, the exhibition was put on show at the Oriel Gallery in Cardiff, which was opened by H.E. the Ambassador on 31st July. Universal Travel and Tourism, the Taj Sheba Hotel in Sana’a, Celtic Surveys and Clyde Petroleum, amongst others, have helped to sponsor this event. The time and work involved in organising an event of this size is considerable and Pat Aithie and the members of her committee are to be congratulated on a magnificent effort.

At the time of going to press, the Society’s tour of the Yemen seems to be on course thanks to the hard work of Jim Ellis. At the last count 19 members have booked in. I have been forbidden to mention the average age of the travellers!

Julian Lush, the honorary secretary, has been unwell during the summer. He has carried the burden of all the administration of the Society since its inception and his absence, I am afraid, has caused a few minor hiccups for which I apologise. We fervently wish him a full and rapid recovery. Our honorary treasurer, Cliff Leslie, has resigned owing to his departure to warmer climes. Bob Davies has gallantly agreed to take over the post.

Finally at the annual general meeting in 1996, all the officers of the Society come up for re-election. A number of us feel that, after three years, fresh blood is needed. In due course nomination papers will be circulated, but in the meantime, would all members give thought to whom would best guide the Society into the next millennium.

William (Bill) D Heber Percy

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