Leicester Secular Society


Open Day

Here are some photos taken during the course of the Open Day held on 10th September 2006. It was a very hot sunny day more like midsummer than autumn. Allan Hayes writes: "Open Day on 10 Sept was a great success: 136 signatures in the visitors' book. The place was buzzing with with tours of the building, the BBC educational video, "Secular Believers", live music, and people talking to one another and looking at the exhibits. This degree of interest in the Hall and, as was evident from conversations, in the Society, is very encouraging. We look forward to an increase in membership, more awareness of the Society and its aims, and to support for its programmes. We can all be very proud of this event - there will be another one next year!"

Added below the photos is the "First Person" column in the Leicester Mercury that advertised the Open Day.

First two external views. The first shows the Welcome banner (provided by English Heritage), and put up with some difficulty by Keith Baker and Chris Williams. The second photo is of John Catt and family, who cycled all the way from Loughborough.
Welcome banner, photo by G.P.Jelliss, copyright 2006 John Catt and family, photo by G.P.Jelliss, copyright 2006

The first of these cropped photos shows the Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra in performance.
In the second, Keith Baker explains the plans for development of the Hall.
The pictures on the wall are works by our member Bob Hall.
Note the small bust of Charles Bradlaugh on the window sill.
Ceilidh orchestra, photo by G.P.Jelliss, copyright 2006 Keith Baker in the library, photo by G.P.Jelliss, copyright 2006

Finally two rather dark photos. A view of the ballroom, showing the stained glass back window, and minstrels' gallery, with Allan Hayes extolling the architecture.
Allan Hayes in the ballroom, photo by G.P.Jelliss, copyright 2006 Chris Wakeling lecture, photo by G.P.Jelliss, copyright 2006
And a photo from the evening lecture, about the architect Larner Sugden, with the speaker Chris Wakeling on the right.


5 September 2006

Allan Hayes, member of Leicester Secular Society, says the group has earned its keep.

This year is the 155th anniversary of a Leicester organisation that has done perhaps more than any other in the city to create a society in which all can live together as full members without discrimination by race, belief or social status. Without its work and that of similar groups across the country, we would today be a less tolerant society, less welcoming of newcomers and less able to live together as equals.

When Leicester Secular Society was founded in 1851, few men - and no women - had the vote. Those who did not belong to the established church suffered serious discrimination, people were sent to prison for criticising Christianity, elected MPs could not take their seats without swearing a religious oath, tithes still had to be paid to the church and contraception was not openly available [people were still being sent to prison for writing about birth control].

The Society fought to address these inequities, and, on the whole, succeeded. People are now much more accepted, and participate more as fellow human beings whatever their social status or beliefs, and the open debate essential to a democratic society is less impaired.

In 1881, the Society completed its present home, the Secular Hall, in Humberstone Gate. This is now a recognised national heritage asset, a grade II listed building and home of the oldest secular society in the world (a Leicester first). It is a lively community asset, providing for a dance school, martial arts academy and bookshop, and is a central meeting place for numerous organisations.

The principles of the Society are as important now as in 1851. It promotes them with debates and lectures by leading local and national figures on a wide range of topics, by the work of individual members in youth activities, religious education, conflict resolution and other areas, and by providing non-religious ceremonies for weddings, births and funerals. A recent first in the country has been the appointment of one of our members to the Hospital Chaplaincy team.

Social responsibility, dialogue and robust argument have always characterised the society's activities. Currently, we are engaged in opposing faith schools and creationism at the same time as organising a series of meetings with a Christian group, and developing contacts with other faiths.

The Society is working hard to bring the Hall's facilities up to modern standards. A study has estimated that this will cost about 2 million. We are seeking financial support and have been greatly encouraged by the appreciation shown of the importance of the building and the Society.

You can see for yourself by coming to our Open Day at 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester, LE1 1WB this Sunday, from 10am to 6pm, followed at 6.30pm by a talk about the building's architect.

* Allan Hayes is a member of the Secular Society.