No more Newton's Astronomical Society?

I had some rather sad news over the weekend: it's starting to look like we might need to suspend Newton's Astronomical Society.

Basically the reasons are twofold.

The first problem is that we're struggling to increase the number of members — in fact just sustaining the membership numbers is proving to be difficult. There could be any number of reasons for this but I suspect it isn't a lack of good speakers. Given where we meet it generally seems easy to attract good quality speakers. The main reason for the low numbers mostly seems to be down to the fact that Lincolnshire is a largely rural county and Woolsthorpe is a reasonable distance from anywhere. Even if you're traveling from Grantham you've still got to get into a car and drive there.

The second problem, which also involves the first, is that the National Trust have just rationalised their charges for use of their facilities. The new charging scheme means that the cost of room hire (for nine meetings in a year) alone will use up almost all of our membership subscriptions and door takings for the year. Once that is paid there will be nothing left to pay for speakers, let alone things like FAS subscription, tea, coffee, nibbles, etc...

When I first read that there was an astronomical society starting up that was going to be associated with Woolsthorpe Manor I was shocked to realise that there wasn't one anyway (having only recently moved into the area I'd not checked yet). For some reason I sort of assumed that an organisation like the National Trust would encourage and nurture such activity given the historical associations between those buildings and astronomy (speaking to a number of friends about this I find that they're also a little surprised that this isn't the case). Since joining I've been proud and delighted to be part of something that, to me anyway, is quite special (even more so given that membership of the society has been instrumental in me getting back into active observing). If we have to suspend the society, or have to find a venue that's more affordable for such a small society, I can't help but think that we'll have lost something important.

I can't help but think that Woolsthorpe will have lost something too.

File Under: Woolsthorpe Manor, Newton's Astronomical Society, National Trust.


Anonymous said...

That is very sad news. My local society went through a period of change when the planetarium we had used as a meeting place since the society was formed in 1990 was demolished two years ago. We now use a local village hall for our lectures, but have kept our association with the observatory going by holding monthly workshops there. The society did see a drop in numbers, although it is looking more healthy now.

I hope that a solution to your problem can be found, it would be a great shame to have to suspend the society.

Dave Pearson said...

Thanks for your comments Megan. At our meeting last night we all had a chat about the situation and I'm happy to say that no matter what happens we're all agreed that we want to keep the society running.

So, even if we have to abandon Woolsthorpe due to the new room costs, we'll carry on doing something even if it is scaled down.