Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)
We held our 50th anniversary dinner at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club on 06 September 2017. Attendees were as follows:
Photographs by Roy Gooding.
On Saturday 29 July 2017, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of OASI with an astronomy convention in the iconic Waterfront Building of the University of Suffolk. Presentations by prominent astronomers, displays by astronomy societies and trade stands, and attendance by more than 300 amateur astronomers and interested members of the public combined to make the event a great success.
Photos below are by James Appleton, Martin Cook, David Murton and John Wainwright.
Planning for the event began almost two years earlier. In early September 2015, the Committee began brainstorming ideas to celebrate the anniversary. Initial ideas included an astronomy exhibition, a lecture by OASI President, Allan Chapman, and a dinner. By late 2015, a small subcommittee had been formed (comprising Roy Gooding, David Murton, Pete Richards and Paul Whiting) to progress arrangements and thinking began to gel around a convention and exhibition to be held in the University of Suffolk Waterfront Building and a dinner at a later date. The venue was booked by early 2016 and the search then began for some additional "big name" speakers to complement Allan Chapman and for traders and other exhibitors.
Efforts to attract astronaut Tim Peake to speak proved frustratingly inconclusive, with repeated requests to his support team eliciting neither a definite acceptance nor a definite decline, and eventually had to be abandoned in favour of speakers with diaries under, perhaps, less pressure. Prominent astronomers and astro-imagers proved much more supportive of the event, and the following line-up of speakers and lectures was soon in place:
The SPA was unable to attend as the date clashed with one of the Society's quarterly meetings. Fortunately, the BAA was keen to attend, as was the Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS). Janice McClean, Council Member, attended for the BAA and Phil Lucas attended for the CfDS, in place of Bob Mizon, CfDS Co-ordinator, who was otherwise engaged.
By September 2016, the committee had reached out with invitations to astronomical publishers and traders, both locally and nationally, with varying degrees of success. Replies ranged from a rapid acceptance to no response at all even after repeated attempts at communication! Traders who attended the event were:
By early 2017, the following astronomy and related societies had confirmed attendance, providing a satisfying mix of local, regional and national coverage:
Tickets went on sale in February 2017, available in person from Treasurer Paul Whiting or electronically via the OASI website; sales were slow but steady! The OASI homepage was given a makeover to focus primarily on the Convention. Other efforts at this time to publicise the event included posters, listings in What's on websites and the local press. Later, adverts were placed in the national astronomy press and interviews about the event were broadcast on Radio Suffolk and Town 102.
In the final weeks and days before the event, a manpower rota was devised and agreed and exhibition material was created. James Appleton assembled displays on: OASI activities, the formation of OASI, OASI astro-photographs and astronomy in Suffolk. David Murton produced a display of his own excellent astro-photographs. University of Suffolk employee and OASI member Jennie Wood organised a virtual reality tour of a simulated "Mars Colony" using equipment belonging to the University. Pete and Nicky Richards created activities to amuse young visitors, including colouring drawings of planets and a lunar impact crater simulator, involving flour and projectiles - messy! They also reworked a 1:326 million scale model of the solar system by Alan Smith for use on the day. On the afternoon of Friday 28 July, members of OASI visited the venue for final checking of the arrangements and to assemble the displays. By 6.00pm, everything was in place, and all agreed that the event itself was thereafter in the lap of the gods...
So, went the day well? Indeed it did! Despite the event being held during the summer holiday period, over 300 visitors attended. The venue was excellent and the arrangements worked smoothly. There was much interest in all the exhibits, the lecture programme was well-attended and the lectures themselves were excellent. During the day, too, many old acquantanceships were renewed: special mention in this regard must be made of Phil Lucas (manning the CfDS stand) who, it transpired, had joined OASI in the early 1970s before moving to the South Coast and losing contact with the Society - see the photo above of Phil and other members of OASI who joined in the early 1970s.
The following members of OASI supported the event: Roy Adams, Merlyn Adams, Martyn Andrews, Alexander Appleton, Hilary Appleton, James Appleton, John Barbrook, John Barnet-Lamb, Bill Barton, Trevor Boyd, Ned Cartwright, Allan Chapman, Adrian Cubitt, Daryl Cliffe, Judith Cook, Martin Cook, Nigel Evans, Kevin Fulcher, Nigel Gage, Andy Gibbs, Mandy Gibbs, Roy Gooding, Richard Gruber, Ian Hastie, Ray Larsen, Matt Leeks, Bob Markham, Leslie Miller, David Murton, Avtar Nagra, Mike Nicholls, Mike Norris, Mike O’Mahony, Leon Politowicz, Peter Richards, Nicky Richards, Jen Richmond-Hardy, Martin Richmond-Hardy, Neil Short, Alex Sinclair and his son, Alan Smith, Joe Startin, Jeremy Startup, Nicole Airy Swengley, John Wainwright, Joe Walsh, Andy Willshere, Mike Whybray, Paul Whiting, Jennie Wood.
The Committee of OASI wishes to express heartfelt thanks to all speakers, traders, visitors and members of OASI who supported the event, and to the University of Suffolk for use of the Waterfront Building.
The first of our 40th anniversary events was the OASI-BAA Back to Basics Workshop, held at the Methodist Church Halls in Ipswich town centre on Saturday 20th January 2007. Although a disappointingly low number of visitors attended the event, those who did so judged it to be a great success.
For OASI the event really began on the preceding evening, when a small group of volunteers transformed the church and side rooms into a credible conference and exhibition venue in the space of a couple of hours. One particularly astronomical touch was to arrange the hymn number boards on either side of the altar to display well-known four figure NGC numbers rather than the familiar numbers of the hymnal; the gesture was successful, as at least one visitor commented on the seemingly large number of hymns that must be contained within the Methodist hymn book!
On the morning of the event, we acheved a small publicity coup when OASI Chairman Ken Goward was invited to speak live on BBC Radio Suffolk during the Rachael Sloane Saturday Show. Each week Rachael invites listeners to phone in and enter a draw for which the prize is attendance at a mystery activity or event - the prize on this occasion being two places at the Workshop followed by a meal at the Shepherd & Dog Carvery, courtesy of OASI, and thereafter an evening visit to Orwell Park Observatory to view the night sky. Rachael selected the winner at random, and Ken revealed the prize to her. She expressed great delight on air at her good fortune. However, shortly after the broadcast it transpired that she had a dinner party planned for the evening and therefore wasn't able to accept the prize. A few quick telephone calls by staff at BBC Suffolk and the prize was awarded to the next-in-line contestant, "Colin of Mendlesham". Colin and his partner thoroughly enjoyed the day and the evening visit to Orwell Park as was evident from the fulsome praise that he heaped upon OASI when interviewed by Rachael about his experience on the following week's show.
By the time Ken returned from the offices of Radio Suffolk to the Methodist Halls, things were in full swing: traders were preparing their stalls, BAA speakers were arriving and a small group of OASI volunteers under the instructions of Dee McLeavey was preparing a splendid buffet luncheon for the speakers and exhibitors, whilst Pete Richards and Nikky Gillard were preparing the first brew of tea and coffee refreshments that they would serve the whole day through. In the main lecture hall Paul Whiting was preparing a very interesting display promoting OASI and its activities, alongside displays by the BAA Radio Astronomy Group and the Society for the History of Astronomy.
At 10:20am, Dr Richard Miles, BAA President, officially opened the day. The programme was as follows.
Each speaker gave a most interesting and informative presentation, reflecting the long tradition of excellence of the BAA. Members of the audience, whatever their level of experience and knowledge, gained much useful information. At lunchtime, even the Sun cooperated and many people enjoyed good views of the solar disk through instruments set out in the car park. The instruments included the Hydrogen-alpha telescope belonging to OASI member Bill Barton, which revealed a solar prominence.
During his closing address the President of the BAA, Dr Richard Miles, thanked OASI for our efforts and presented Ken Goward by way of thanks with a book for the OASI library. Thereafter several members of the BAA and OASI enjoyed a meal at the Shepherd & Dog Carvery before going to Orwell Park Observatory for a session with the Tomline Refractor on a crystal clear evening (to make a welcome change!) Those present enjoyed good views of several deep sky objects. Several members of OASI undertook the Orion star count with "eagle eyed" Martin Cook managing to count 29 or 30 stars with the naked eye, when fully dark adapted, within the rectangle formed by Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph. (The BAA organised the Orion star count as a project to estimate the effect of light pollution on the limiting magnitude visible to the naked eye.)
The event was a great success, and it provided the best possible start for our 40th anniversary year. (To top it all, during Saturday afternoon Ipswich Town FC even won a match at Portman Road, the reverberating full time cheer raising the spirits of all within earshot!) Finally, thanks are of course due to the wonderful support and efforts of our volunteer helpers and of the BAA, without whom the event could not have been staged. Special mention must also be made at this juncture of Dee - who certainly has a bright future in the catering trade!
After the event, Hazel Collett, Meeting Secretary of the BAA and Event Organiser, wrote a letter of thanks to OASI Chairman, Ken Goward as follows:
I am writing to thank you and all the members of Orwell AS for all the help both before and during the event on Saturday which made our Back to Basics workshop go so well. I am fully aware of the amount of work that this entailed so I much appreciate this.
We had 53 participants in total and they were all impressed with the venue and the refreshments, but more importantly there were numerous comments about how friendly and helpful all the Orwell folk were during the day and especially during the practical sessions.
I hope the book we presented to you will be a reminder of a wonderful day and mark the start of your 40th Year celebrations.
Thank you again for providing all the refreshments for the delegates as well as the wonderful lunch for the speakers and organisers.
Please can you also pass on my thanks to those folk providing the AV support and for bringing the back-up equipment.
Finally, will you please express our sincere thanks to Roy for bringing the telescopes along even though Bob Marriott did not actually use them on the day.
Thank you once again for helping to make Saturday a great success.
Ken Goward, FRAS
Our 1988 Open Day was held on Saturday 16 July to mark the 21st anniversary of the founding of OASI.
Arrangements were finalised on the preceding Friday, when several members began the long task of moving numerous items of equipment from the Observatory or from home into a classroom next to the school gym hall for overnight storage. The gym was to be used as the main venue for the Open Day and we originally intended to assemble all the displays in there on the Friday afternoon; however this proved not possible as it was in use in the evening for a barbecue - three whole pigs cooked on spits outside all day and in the evening some 300 guests attended! In the evening, we cleaned and arranged seating in another classroom which was to be used for the lectures and put up road signs to help visitors find the event.
The Open Day was scheduled to begin at 10.30am, so this left only a few hours in the morning to make the gym fully ready. At 7.00am, first to arrive to effect the transformation was Alan Smith and family. They were met by a mess on the floor that can only be imagined, left by the 300 guests on the previous evening! The first task was to clean the floor and for this every available vacuum cleaner was pressed into service. David Payne had drawn up a floor plan for the day, and this facilitated the arranging of tables for the refreshments, trade stands, displays and games. The task of transforming the gym took approximately three hours and was complete by approximately 10.00am.
By the time the gym was ready, the traders had all arrived and set up their stands and displays. Clacton, Eastbourne and Haringey astronomical societies were also in attendance. Only the visitors were missing! Unfortunately, the Open Day clashed with several other local events but it did benefit from favourable publicity in Friday's Evening Star. Members of OASI began attending to man the displays, and worries that there would be too few soon proved unfounded. Members of the public started arriving too, but initially only in small numbers. The final estimate of visitors attending was circa 150 - 200. Many visitors said how impressed they were with the organisation of the event.
Our lecture programme was as follows: