Starting a new Branch

Organising and running an HA branch

Published: 1st June 2020

The Historical Association and its branches

Branches have been an essential part of the Historical Association since it began. They exist in all parts of the United Kingdom and take a variety of forms.

A branch provides a local forum to bring together all those with an interest in history: teachers, students, those engaged in research and the many people who have an interest in the past that is independent of their profession or occupation.

A branch typically organises a programme of lectures and may well add some or all of visits, workshops, courses, tours, social events and publications. Being a part of the Historical Association adds status and credibility when approaching potential speakers or the directors, curators or owners of museums, archives or houses that the branch may want to visit.

As part of the Historical Association a branch receives a number of rights, privileges and protections and in return has some important responsibilities and obligations. These are detailed below.

Starting or reviving a branch of the Historical Association

Members who hope to start or revive a local branch of the HA should contact the HA’s Kennington office. If their objectives are consistent with those of the HA and there is evidence of sufficient local interest and commitment the HA will give support in a number of ways. It will appoint a member of staff or a trustee or a member of the HA’s Branches and Members Committee to advise and assess progress and viability. This person may visit the proposed branch. The HA will arrange contact with a nearby successful branch, provide a start-up fund of up to £500 when appropriate, organise a mailshot to all national HA members in the area of the proposed branch, help with printing and circulating programmes and supply stationery.

Organisers 

It would be a daunting task for one individual to undertake alone to start or revive a local branch. The initial organising group should consist, ideally, of 2-6 people. If the initiative begins with one person they will need to identify one or (better) more friends or colleagues to share the task. In time a committee of 6-10 people would need to be established to widen ideas about what the branch should do, take on a variety of tasks and ensure the continuation of the branch when key individuals leave.

People who were formerly involved with the organisation of a now-dormant branch may be helpful for locating potential colleagues, though any suggestion that ‘people just aren’t interested’ should be treated with scepticism.

National and local members 

The HA will provide a list of national members in the area of the proposed branch. Some are likely to be very busy teachers who read Teaching History or Primary History and value the access to teaching resources and professional development that membership of the HA provides but lack the time to attend lectures and other branch events or to help organise a branch. There are, of course, some teachers who do engage actively with their local branch. Some national members are likely to be history graduates and others with a keen interest in history, some in employment, some retired, who want to keep in touch with current research and ideas. The recently-retired are a rich pool of potential organisers and volunteers.

Some people who love history decide that national membership of the HA would not provide them with value for money. They do not want to read a magazine or go to the HA Conference or even be paying supporters of the national ‘voice for history’, but they do want to attend lectures and visit places and socialise with others with similar interests. They may become local rather than national members. What they pay in membership subscriptions is kept by the branch. In many successful HA branches local members are vital providers of funding.

Getting started

The organising group needs to devise a programme of activities, perhaps just a few lectures to begin with. It will need to identify and invite speakers, hire a suitable venue and publicise what it hopes to do. Speakers’ expenses are normally paid, and there are likely to be financial implications in hiring a room and creating publicity. The start-up fund, referred to above, will help in this initial phase. In time the branch’s own resources will be used to fund all of its activities. 

Next steps

  • Check the HA’s Speakers List

What every branch needs

Branches vary in size and composition and in the activities they choose to undertake. But every branch needs:

  • a name
  • a constitution – A model branch constitution is available in the full support pack.
  • somewhere to meet – It should be affordable, accessible and comfortable and incorporate facilities necessary for the purposes of the meeting.
  • a programme of events – This may be only lectures or it may include visits, walks, workshops, seminars, social events or other activities.
  • a committee, including a chair, a secretary and a treasurer – Most committees that function well have about 6-10 members. They may include members who take responsibility for membership, publicity, liaison with local schools and universities or social events.
  • members

What branches can expect from the Historical Association

A properly-constituted branch of the Historical Association is entitled to receive a range of rights, privileges, opportunities and support.

Status  

A branch may use the name, logo and charity number of the HA in connection with its activities.

Practical support

This may include a supply of headed notepaper and other stationery (eg address labels), printing (eg programmes and posters), publicity material for use in the branch as well as publication of its activities on the HA website and in HA News, support materials such as a model constitution or advice about the General Data Protection Regulations. All branches are covered by the HA’s public liability insurance.

Finance

Branches that have submitted their annual report, accounts and programme are entitled to an annual grant (currently based on the number of national members). A branch that has a legitimate need for additional funding may submit a request to the HA’s Executive Committee for a grant from the HA Development Fund.

Branches’ obligations to the Historical Association

In return for its right to use the name, logo and charity number of the Historical Association and to enjoy the associated status and advantages a branch must conduct itself at all times in ways that are consistent with the Articles of Association, codes of practice and principles of the HA. The HA recognises diversity and aims to be inclusive. A branch should include and encourage all who subscribe to the HA’s aims and vision. It should seek to promote the Historical Association. Any jointly-arranged event should be undertaken only with a fit and appropriate partner or partners.

In law a branch is a constituent part of the Historical Association. Its properly-undertaken activities are insured by the HA. It must comply with all the legal requirements incumbent upon the HA, e.g. those relating to the General Data Protection Regulations.

A branch must keep account in a form approved by the HA office of all its income, expenditure and reserves and submit this annually as required. It must also submit an annual report of its activities in the format specified by the HA and details of its programme for the following year.

A branch must inform the HA office of any challenges or problems that it faces, particularly if they threaten its continued existence.

Partnership between the Historical Association and its branches

The Historical Association would be a poorer and more fragile organisation without its network of active branches. Branches would have fewer resources to draw on (e.g. speakers, finance, insurance, reputation and status) without the HA. The partnership between the HA and its branches has existed for more than a century. As with any partnership it will continue to develop and thrive if each partner supports the other and the two work closely together.