SoFA’s 50th Anniversary celebration

John and Marion

SoFA members celebrated the Association’s 50th Anniversary in April.  The Bliss Hotel, Southport was the venue chosen for the Covid-delayed event originally planned for 2021.  Over 60 members and National Trust guests enjoyed a delightful lunch.  The panoramic views across the gardens, sea and marine lake in the dining area together with bright sunshine added to the warm and friendly atmosphere of the occasion.

Carol and John + magician

During the meal, the diners enjoyed the added experience of ‘table magic’ with the skills of the magician Pete Turner who moved around the tables providing a fascinating display of magic tricks despite the close-up, determined scrutiny of his audience!

SoFA’s vice-chair Edwina Alcock reflected on the development of the group, some significant office holders and activities.  National Trust funding records cover only the last 35 years of the Association’s history but the funding total is in excess of £60,000.

50th Anniversary meal SoFA

To mark SoFA’s 50th Anniversary, the Association made its largest ever single donation to The National Trust as reported in the Southport Champion Newspaper. Edwina, who liaises with Formby National Trust on behalf of SoFA presented a cheque for £5000 to Vicky Blane, the portfolio manager and Paul Semple, the site co-ordinator. The donation will kick start funding for the important restoration work to be done at Wicks Lake on the Trust site.

Chair, Frank Hyland circulated a letter of congratulations and thanks from Hilary McGrady, the National Trust Director General. Eleanor Underhill, Director of Operations and a guest at the luncheon, thanked members for the special donation and the support given to the wider National Trust. 

Jean and Ian 50th Anniversary

A vaccine-driven strategy is now allowing the group to return to a normal programme of activities in 2022.  Members can look forward to organised outings, holidays and talks as we begin the next 50 years of SoFA’s history.

If you are not a member but would like to attend any of our events or are interested in joining our Association, please complete our Contact Form.

Article provided by Frank Hyland.
Photographs by Michael Rofe.



On 12 April the SoFA AGM was held at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport. This was the first SoFA AGM since 2019, with the 2020 and 2021 AGMs having to be postponed due to Covid.

There was a good turnout from Members. The voting was unanimous for the election of the SoFA Officers and Committee. Thanks was given to Norma, who had stood down from the Committee after over 20years. She was thanked her for her loyal service to SoFA and was presented with a bunch of flowers.

Frank, SoFA’s Chair, reminded the members that our outings are restarting in June and there is an outing each month until the end of September. Full details of the outings are listed in SoFA’s Spring 2022 magazine and will be advertised on this website.

Following the AGM we were pleased to introduce Chris Hunter, Lead Ranger at Formby National Trust provided those present with an update regarding what goes on at the site on a daily basis. They now have a new ‘Tuesday Group’ who will carry out controlled tree management.

Chris reported that there are currently around 200 red squirrels within their Formby boundary. This survey was carried out by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. Chris asked that anyone who sees either a red or grey squirrel in their garden that they report the sighting on the Lancashire Wildlife Trust website.

Between April and August a survey of the Natterjack toads is going to be carried out, unfortunately, the breeding season in 2020 and 2021 were unsuccessful.

Chris also thanked the SoFA group for their generous donation which will kick-start funding for the important restoration work to be done at Wicks Lake on the Trust site.

If you are interested in joining SoFA please contact us using our Contact Form.

Speaker Meeting – Wayfarers Chorus

Wayfarers Chorus
Wayfarers Chorus

Our first Speaker meeting of 2022 on 08 March was well attended by our members, where we were entertained by a local acapella Chorus – The Wayfarers Chorus.

The acoustics in the meeting room were really good which showed off the chorus’ harmonies very well.

About 20 of the chorus members came to entertain us with a variety of songs, which included the following:

  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  • Mary Lou
  • Under the Boardwalk
  • When I’m 64
  • Sweet Gypsy Rose
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • Irish Blessing
  • Georgia
  • In My Life

Please see the Wayfarers website for more information about them.


If you would like to attend one of our Speaker Meetings or any other event that we have arranged, please complete the Contact Form

Speaker Meeting – Brad Ashton

Job of a Laughtime

The Job of a Laughtime

Brad Ashton
Brad Ashton

Our members had to experience the disappointment of missing out on our January and February events at the Royal Clifton due to the impact of Covid.  However, our Speaker Secretary responded by arranging a talk on Zoom by Brad Ashton, a renowned comedy writer, entitled ‘The Job of a Laughtime’.

Brad, has spent decades writing for some of the most well-known comedians in the 20th and 21st centuries.  He wanted to be an entertainer himself, but wisely followed advice to write rather than deliver his jokes.  This resulted in writing sketches and whole series for comedians in the UK and in other countries including the USA. 

In his career, Brad has worked with a galaxy of comedy legends including Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper, Mike and Bernie Winters and Morecambe and Wise.  He has a formidable credit list of entertainers and shows in comedy theatres, radio and TV.  He was able to provide his audience with a unique insight into the personalities behind the public images including the highs and lows in their careers.

We learned that Les Dawson could speak five languages and had the genius to realise that by playing every fourth or fifth note incorrectly on the piano, he avoided paying performance copywrite on well- known tunes.  Also, there’s no such thing as ad-libbing by comedians! Everything is carefully crafted by script writers.

He informed us that he has written three books about comedy and was very thrilled to learn that John Cleese had a copy of one of his books.

Members enjoyed spending time together at the Zoom meeting while being entertained by Brad’s truly unique insight into the world of comedy. 

Brad offered for his talk to be recorded and shared for those who were unable to join us.  He didn’t like the idea that people would miss out on this. A link will be emailed to members in due course.

If you would like to become of member of our Association, please complete our contact form. For more information about the National Trust click here

René Olivieri, National Trust’s new Chair

René Olivieri

Danielle Albracht, Supporter Involvement Lead, National Trust has been in touch with news about the new National Trust Chair. This is what she has sent us:

Before Christmas Hilary McGrady shared the news that the National Trust’s Council had appointed René Olivieri as our new Chair. In her email at the time, Hilary noted that René was passionate about using his time in role to preserve and promote culture heritage while tackling climate change and nature loss. This week he officially joined the Trust, and I have been asked to share his message to staff and volunteers with our Supporter Groups as well.

Dear Colleagues,

Today I am joining you officially as the Senior Volunteer, also known as the Chair, of the National Trust.

Photography credit: Clive Nicholls

Over the last month I’ve had meetings with all the trustees, nearly all Council members, a few volunteers, and quite few members of staff. As this is my first official day, however, I thought I’d write formally to introduce myself. Now, whenever I’m asked to say something about myself I’m reminded of that scene in the spoof film from the seventies, Airplane, in which the lead character literally bores his fellow passengers to death with his life story. I will do my best not to try your patience.

My five siblings and I were raised on a farm in the foothills of Mount Hood in the US state of Oregon. I can’t say I love farm work, but I adored the wild and domestic animals and appreciated the beauty and diversity that can be found in that border region, where forest gives way to desert. At the age of 17, I had my view of the world changed forever by spending a year living with a Catholic family in Flanders. With the wonderfully preserved city of Bruges on my doorstep, I became fascinated with medieval history and early ecclesiastical architecture.

I had further chances to study abroad, in Germany and Italy, as a university student, and took every opportunity to explore their histories, heritages and hinterlands. After graduate school I entered academic publishing, crossing the Atlantic to join the firm of Blackwells in 1980 where I became the publisher for economics and philosophy. I published one of the first environmental textbooks, with Sir Partha Dasgupta, author of the recent Dasgupta Review on Biodiversity, and founded the journal of Bioethics with Peter Singer. As it happens, I also published a book with the National Trust, ‘A History of Country House Visiting’ by Adrian Tinniswood. Later, as chief executive of Blackwell Publishing, I became much more involved with the physical and biological sciences and learned to appreciate the power of experimentation, observation and evidence.

Photography credit: Clive Nicholls

When one of the Blackwell family members died tragically, he left his entire fortune to a newly founded charity, Tubney, and when I left the firm a few years later, I became Tubney’s chair. We chose to become a ‘spend out’ charity and focused on nature conservation and animal welfare. I subsequently wrote a short book about what we’d learned (and the mistakes we made!) as trustees, but for me the key lesson was that funders would achieve more long term by supporting visionary and successful organisations rather than individual projects.

I then became Chair of the Wildlife Trusts for six years. The Wildlife Trusts are a federated charity and here I recognised how important it was for each trust to be embedded in its local community while at the same time sharing expertise and resources across the entire movement.

During the pandemic I served as chair at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and I also served on the Arts Council’s Culture Recovery Board, where I could see how important it is to recognize that nature and heritage be joined up across the country. I was also able to see the National Trust at work from up close: The Future Parks Accelerator, which is part-funded by the Heritage Fund, was considered a landmark success by all involved.

My love of all things animal reasserted itself when I became chair of the RSPCA. Here I learned just how important it is for an organisation to get the right governance, financial controls and organisational structure in place before it tries to do anything else.

About 15 years ago now my wife and I lovingly restored our Grade 2 house in Worcestershire and began creating a new garden which is now open to the public for six months of the year. Income from visitors goes to our local theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company.

I love the National Trust’s vision – for everyone, for ever – and admire our determination to get things done today while still planning far into the future. With my broad experience and education – in different countries, in different disciplines, in both the for-profit and the not-for-profit sectors, I hope I can use my knowledge and networks to make a great organisation even more ambitious and effective.

I subscribe to the effective altruism movement inspired by Peter Singer which argues that we have a duty not just to do good but to do the most good we can do. And what I have found most wonderful about my initial conversations with my new colleagues is their modesty and lack of complacency, the ardent desire to do more and do it better.

And I am in no doubt that what we do is of the utmost importance. In connecting to the past and looking to the future we are safeguarding much of what gives meaning and context to all our lives and will enrich the lives of those who come after us. The way I see it I am not so much the senior volunteer as the senior cheerleader for a winning team whose greatest challenges lie just ahead.  

Best wishes,

René Olivieri


© National Trust. The National Trust is an independent registered charity, number 205846.

For more information about the National Trust, please click here. If you would like to join our SoFA Group, please completed our contact form.

SoFA Christmas Lunch

Christmas Meal 2021

Around 60 members came together at the Bliss Hotel in Southport to enjoy our annual Christmas lunch in early December 2021.  Maggie Moss liaised with the hotel throughout the Covid restrictions and her hard work and organisation delivered a successful traditional end of year event. 

SoFA Christmas Lunch 2021

Members experienced the new restaurant setting which provided, as a backdrop, a panoramic view of the Marine Lake, gardens and the coastline with the sea beyond. 

There was something atmospheric about dining in Covid-secure surroundings while watching the sea react to the wind and rain!

The hotel responded well to our feedback and thanks to Maggie provided an enjoyable menu selection which was well prepared and served.  This popular event was once again a welcome opportunity to meet and exchange news with other members around the table and made a good start to the festive season.

SoFA Christmas Lunch 2021, table setting

If you are not a member, but would like to attend our next Christmas meal, any of our events or interested in joining our Association, please complete our Contact Form.