UP CLOSE: East Devon Luncheon Club

  Posted: 20.11.20 at 17:55 by Beth Sharp

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Each week Sidmouth Nub News will be featuring a different business, organisation or club in the town to help support our wonderful community.

This week, we speak to Simon Card - the chairman of East Devon Luncheon Club.

Tell us about yourself and your club?

My past career, although varied, has always revolved around people and relationship management.

I have an often used saying - “It is not who you know and it is not what you know… It is what you know about the people you know that matters" - almost without exception there is a back-story to people you meet that is of interest and often not related to the initial relationship you have with that person.

I have only been a member of the club since 2018, initially elected as vice-chairman - a post vacant at the time I joined - and in 2019 was elected chairman as the existing chairman Dr Roy Lurvey MBE had to move to Wales for family reasons at short notice - normally the term of office for officers is three to five years.

The club celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2021 and was founded by Suzanne and Eric Golding as a 'sociable and non-political group', they realised that there was a need for a club with good speakers and a good lunch.

All age groups are welcome although given we hold the lunches on weekdays most of our members are early/semi-retired or retired people.

Our members and guests come from far and wide across the southern part of the count and even include a couple who live in West Dorset.

Over the years the range of Speakers has included a number of diplomats and also diplomats' partners who have a different story to tell.

There have been theatrical people, authors, artists, explorers, a previous Black Rod and a Yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London.

Recently we have enjoyed talks by Hilary Kay, Paul Atterbury and John Benjamin, all experts from the BBC's Antiques Roadshow.

Less well-known people, such as a sheep farmer from Derbyshire, who braved the snow to reach Sidmouth and a lady who runs a local B&B, have given most entertaining talks.

Our programme runs from October to March and the club has become a real social hub which is why it is such a shame that we have had to close this season.

A number of our members are widows and widowers and they can come along and find good company and good food to enjoy in such a wonderful setting as the Victoria Hotel with its splendid panoramic views across the bay.

The staff at the hotel are splendid and make us feel very welcome.

What is your best memory of your time at the club?

The most important memory and continuing key element of the club is the people… The members, their friends and guests along with the wide range of speakers.

Seeing our members chatting away enjoying themselves is a great delight and continues to be the most memorable part of my role as chairman.

You just sit back for a moment during one of the lunches and listen to the babble and hum of conversation… It is very satisfying.

Our luncheon secretary does a splendid job in allocating places so that every member gets an opportunity to meet other club members during the season.

Can you tell us about one of the most interesting speakers you have had?
That is such a difficult question to answer as we have had so many excellent speakers in the relatively short time that I have been with the club but one that stood out for me was Barry Johnston, son of the famous cricketing commentary legend Brian Johnston. I have spent many happy hours over many years listening to his father commenting on cricket and cake… as well as so many other topics. To get some background to the man himself and how he almost fell into the role by accident after the war. A fascinating talk for all that are interested in cricket and fun that was had by the commentary team, particularly the well-known incident where Brian lost complete composure, crying with laughter, over a double entendre remark on air.

What achievements are you most proud of?

Personally as I haven’t been chairman for very long it is difficult to quantify any specific achievements as I inherited a well-run and well-oiled organisation, however I have tried to elevate the club in the eyes of the people of East Devon so that they can understand more of what we do.

For example I was asked to do an interview about the club on Radio Ex interview which was the first time we had been able to use this medium to talk about the club.

We have also increased the number of press releases we produce and that has helped us to reach more people and increase our membership.

From a club perspective I believe that one of the greatest achievements is that we have many long-standing members some of whom have been with us from the start 35 years ago, which is remarkable.

What plans do you have for the future?

The future is uncertain for all of us of course but we are very positive that we will remain a force for good for the citizens of East Devon so that they can continue to enjoy a convivial time with friendly people in a fine setting listening to good and often great speaks on a wide range of topics with good food.

Iit is a splendid formula and I would like to thank the founders for their foresight in setting the organisation up 35 years ago.

I am proud to say that we have a really splendid committee who help pull everything together during the winter months as well as the loyal band of supporters who attend and ask interesting questions of our speakers!

We have contacted all of our members during these difficult times and almost without exception they are very positive and supportive about the club going forward - what else could a chairman ask for.

We are always looking to welcome new members and especially encourage members to join the committee as we have several who are standing down after many years of service running the club long before my time.

Why Sidmouth?

Why not Sidmouth?

It is a wonderful place to live with excellent facilities such as the Victoria Hotel where we can hold memorable events for people across the area.

It is also central, easy to get to and free parking at the hotel.

Many of our members from outside the immediate area make a day of it gives them an excuse and go shopping in some of the town’s excellent shops…I am assuming of course that we are in the post-Covid world.

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