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The end of an era for C&W Humanists
We hope all members will be able to celebrate the work of Roy Saich and George Broadhead, our two founding members, who due to ill health will be hanging up their respective Secretary and Chairperson hats. Roy and George have worked tirelessly to promote the group for over 40 years, so we decided to get their views, reminiscences and personal reflections. Here's an interview with them both.
In what year was C&W Humanists formed?
In 1975, a year after we moved to Kenilworth. We put an ad in a local paper which resulted in an inaugural meeting at our house in Kenilworth. Our original name was Warwickshire Humanist Group but as more and more members joined in Coventry, we later changed it to Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists.
What was the impetus that made you set up the group?
We were members of the British Humanist Association and were keen to set up one of its local groups.
What was it like in the early years? What sort of activities were you engaged in?
In the early years we met in members’ homes then, as we started to grow, we hired a meeting room in the Society of Friends house in Coventry. Later we moved to the Waverly Day Centre in Kenilworth. We have held regular meetings with guest speakers as well as socials. For many years running we set up a stall at the annual weekend Leamington Peace Festival in Jephson Gardens. We pitched a tent and as well as having lots of leaflets and badges and books for sale, one of our members offered “free arguments”! Quite early on, we offered Humanist ceremonies, mainly funeral but also naming (instead of Christening) in our catchment area, with six members acting as officiants. All funeral directors were notified about these and requests for them gradually increased. We received publicity via a regular Humanist column in the Kenilworth Weekly News, and in other papers like the Coventry Evening Telegraph as a result of letters and press releases. On one occasion a meeting in Kenilworth was attended by Rosemary Harthill, Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Times, and a photographer, which resulted in some excellent publicity in that paper. Currently some good publicity is achieved by monthly Humanist Opinion columns published in the Courier Series of newspapers in Warwickshire.
You also established the Pink Triangle Trust. Tell us a bit about the links you see between Humanism and LGBT rights.
In 1979 we co-founded, with four other gay Humanists, the Gay Humanist Group, later to change its name to the Gay & Lesbian Association (GALHA) and afterwards we became trustees of the LGBT Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT). We were both on GALHA’s committee and George acted as its secretary for twenty-five years. GALHA is no longer independent having become a section of the British Humanist Association. The Humanist movement has always been strongly supportive of LGBT relationships and rights.
How has being people without belief personally affected your lives?
Not at all.
Who do you think is the most interesting speaker the group has invited?
Undoubtedly the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell for whose talk we hired the large meeting room at the Friends’ meeting house in Coventry. Peter’s topic was “Organised religion is the biggest global threat to human rights”. This was publicised as a public meeting and was very well attended.
What battles do you think are left to fight for Humanism?
Overall getting politicians, educational establishments and the media to recognise Humanism as a worthy life stance and that a substantial part of the UK population live their lives without any religious beliefs.
What were the high points of running the group for you both?
Meeting and making friends with like-minded people.
Finally, what is your favourite Humanist motto or short quotation?
Can we have two?
“My country is the world and my religion is to do good” - Thomas Paine
“The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, and the way to be happy is to make others happy.” - Robert Green Ingersoll.