Sunday was the more relaxed day, not least because of the hangovers that a number of us were nursing. We started with the UK premier of ‘The Ledge’ which Dan Palmer of the Southampton Atheists had magically managed to aquire, a film which centres around an Atheist and a fundamentalist Christian. I’m not going to say anything more about it, as a much better review has been written by Tulpesh Patel of the Aston Humanists here: [mild spoilers]
Throughout the afternoon there were a number of workshops to attend, so Kathy and I split up in an attempt to cover them all. Kathy first went to a workshop on Fresher’s Fairs, while I attended a ‘Dealing with Apathy and Leadership’ workshop, so I daresay we’ll see how well that pays off next year. Apparently we should try and be friendly and sociable to members, or something. See if you catch me doing that… Though, in all seriousness, it was quite a helpful brainstorming session with the pooled and exceptionally varied experience of atheists nationwide.
After this, Andrew Copson of the BHA ran a debating workshop, and as his debating skills are rather legendary, this was a hotly anticipated and slightly feared event. He assumed the position of a staunch Christian and debated with various people on issues such as morality, the existence of God, and basically as many of the standard topics as we had time for. I have to say, he was frighteningly convincing, and almost made the position seem tenable… but not quite.
And now, here (metaphorically) to tell you all about her favourite workshop, KATHY DRAXLBAUER *cue applause*.
One of the workshops on offer was the ever-popular BHA Choir choral workshop. Conductor Chloë Clifford-Frith, along with BHA Choir members Emma Bell and Stew Dean, taught a small group of us two song from their repertoire. The electronic piano that was in the room didn’t work, but this didn’t hinder Chloë one jot as everything was to be taught and performed a cappela anyway.
The first song they taught us was called “Origins”, a heart-warming round that was written by ex-BHA composer William Morris for the ‘Ancestor’s Trail’ themed walk which took place earlier this year. Kudos to Chloë for teaching it to is in a scant 20 minutes!
The second song we were taught (albeit skipping a few verses due to time constraints) was “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs”, a funny song first performed by actor Steve Martin in 2010. It was a fun and surprisingly harmonic rendition, and we proudly sang it afterwards for the rest of the AGM delegates :) Seeing as I am chronically unable to avoid proffered limelight, I even managed to wangle my way into a few solo lines. Yes, I am totally the embarrassing parent of our UB:ASH family.
I have always enjoyed watching BHA Choir performances, and was very pleased to have the chance to sing with them. Excitingly, Chloë has said that they are only too happy to come up to Birmingham to give a performance or hold a workshop if there is interest amongst our members. Something to consider for 2011/2012!
Now back to Benjamin..
After the workshops, there was just enough time to claim travel expenses before the closing talk on the importance of Secularism from Dr. Evan Harris, ex Lib-Dem MP, a Vice President of both the BHA and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, and has been involved in furthering the cause of science in Parliament. The talk was interesting enough, and while there were a few areas of disagreement from the audience, for the most part he was preaching to the converted. The talk revolved around the NSS’s ‘Secular Charter’. The main discussions arose as a result of Dr Harris’ assertion that discrimination laws do not and should not apply to the issue of female priests in churches. Although the concept of allowing religions to discriminate based on gender did not sit well with many in the audience, Dr Harris’ point was that stronger legislation would interfere with individuals’ right to practice their religion freely, a concept which is encapsulated in the Secular Charter itself (“5. The state shall not have the right to amend religious doctrine nor interfere in religious hierarchies”). Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time by the end to discuss the talk, as we all had to rush off to catch trains.
So that’s it for the write-up of the AGM, sorry that it took so long to write, but motivation is not my strong suit. Hopefully this has given people an insight into the AHS and the things that happen there, though I haven’t even attempted to describe the insanities that took place, as words simply do not suffice :)
~ Benjamin Mee