Director-General Annette Prandzioch outlines the exciting anniversaries ROSL will celebrate in 2022 and plans to reaffirm our global footprint

Director-General Annette Prandzioch outlines the exciting anniversaries ROSL will celebrate in 2022 and plans to reaffirm our global footprint

Director-General Annette Prandzioch outlines the exciting anniversaries ROSL will celebrate in 2022 and plans to reaffirm our global footprint

The Royal Over-Seas League has always been a progressive institution, not afraid of change or being a bit different. It’s wonderful to remember that women were admitted alongside men in 1910 when ROSL was founded by Evelyn Wrench. I often show visitors the grand portrait of the formidable Lady Willingdon; our first female Chair, who was in post during the Second World War, after which the Drawing Room takes its name. On the other side of the room a family portrait with HM The Queen, our Patron, who had mused on her last visit to ROSL of the excellent likeness to her father. While in November we enjoyed a visit from our Vice Patron Princess Alexandra. As we move into the New Year, we will continue to celebrate these progressive traditions at the heart of the club.

Next year, we will be celebrating 100 years of our being granted the Royal Charter, (right, the first issue of Overseas celebrating the charter) a good moment to pause and reflect on what’s to come in the next 100 years. We are fortunate to have a broad mandate of international friendship in the Commonwealth and beyond. Our membership and activities reflect that mandate, and we have plans to do even more in 2022.

High Commissioners are, of course, Honorary members of ROSL, and it has been a pleasure to receive many of them in the clubhouse over the last few months. I have been delighted to hear how many have known ROSL over the years. We recently hosted one Commonwealth Head of Government here, and hope to continue to convene such leaders. With some 19 Commonwealth countries in Africa, we are establishing an Africa discussion group as many members have a connection with the continent.

The Royal Over-Seas League has always been a progressive institution, not afraid of change or being a bit different. It’s wonderful to remember that women were admitted alongside men in 1910 when ROSL was founded by Evelyn Wrench. I often show visitors the grand portrait of the formidable Lady Willingdon; our first female Chair, who was in post during the Second World War, after which the Drawing Room takes its name. On the other side of the room a family portrait with HM The Queen, our Patron, who had mused on her last visit to ROSL of the excellent likeness to her father. While in November we enjoyed a visit from our Vice Patron Princess Alexandra. As we move into the New Year, we will continue to celebrate these progressive traditions at the heart of the club.

Next year, we will be celebrating 100 years of our being granted the Royal Charter, (below, the first issue of Overseas celebrating the charter) a good moment to pause and reflect on what’s to come in the next 100 years. We are fortunate to have a broad mandate of international friendship in the Commonwealth and beyond. Our membership and activities reflect that mandate, and we have plans to do even more in 2022.

High Commissioners are, of course, Honorary members of ROSL, and it has been a pleasure to receive many of them in the clubhouse over the last few months. I have been delighted to hear how many have known ROSL over the years. We recently hosted one Commonwealth Head of Government here, and hope to continue to convene such leaders. With some 19 Commonwealth countries in Africa, we are establishing an Africa discussion group as many members have a connection with the continent.

International friendship in countries ‘beyond’ the Commonwealth is important to us too, as we have many members in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. The world is inter-connected and global issues transcend borders, as we have been reminded with COP26. All of our speakers in the new ROSL Public Affairs series this past year – such as James Landale, Julia Gillard, Karan Bilimoria, Chris Patten – share a global perspective.

A second discussion group to be launched will cover some of ‘beyond’ with a focus on transatlantic and European affairs. I very much hope all these events will stimulate debate and make ROSL known as a ‘place of ideas’. One of the positives of the last couple of years has been the increased use of Zoom and Teams and using technology to connect us better, something that ROSL will continue with livestreaming concerts and talks.

Another significant anniversary we will celebrate together next year is 70 years of the Annual Music Competition – truly a jewel in the ROSL crown. Previous winners include international stars such as cellist Jacqueline du Pré and pianist Piers Lane. It’s been a privilege to attend concerts, most definitely a perk of my job! Of course, ROSL Arts also includes the visual arts, and we very much look forward to being able to restart our Artists in Residence programme, so we can continue to support both young artists and musicians. Artistic Director Geoff Parkin will discuss this and more in his article.

Since taking catering back in house, many of you have already enjoyed the new food and drink on offer – and I hope, in time, with international travel restrictions easing up – we will see many of our overseas members back in the clubhouse soon. We enjoyed a good season of al fresco dining and plan to introduce winter events in the garden so we can enjoy our outdoor space for even longer under our new heated parasols. The ROSL Wine Club is, as I predicted, proving extremely popular with members. Director of Food and Beverage Serge Pradier is planning more exciting tastings and wine dinners for next year. You may be interested to learn that we have recently also facilitated access for members to a gym nearby in St. James’s, should you feel the need for a workout after the food and drink indulgences!

Preserving the heritage of our two Grade-I listed buildings continues to be a challenge. 2021 saw some major works to upgrade the fabric of the building, including to the main flue or chimney, and car park. Increased rainfall challenges the older roof structure, which will need tackling, and our historic gates and Brabourne staircase are scheduled for return early next year. We will also continue to upgrade our beautiful interiors with sensitivity to their heritage, the next focus being the wonderfully glamorous Art Deco dining room, where, during the course of 2022, we will offer a fine dining option to members once again. A preview of our plans will feature in General Manager Warren Miller’s contribution. The newly rebranded ROSL Foundation will be well placed to assist in supporting the preservation of our heritage, which in turn of course supports the music and arts programme. I, and the ROSL Team, are extremely grateful for all the generous donations from many members over the years, which have sustained the Foundation and the amazing ROSL Arts. It would not have been possible without you!

A final word of thanks goes to the ROSL Team, including an outstanding Senior Leadership Team, who have shown loyalty and dedication to ROSL throughout a uniquely challenging period. A dedicated Central Council have also brought fresh strategic thinking and networks to this respected institution at a time of most need. Together we have used enforced lockdown periods to facilitate much-needed changes to put ROSL in the optimal position moving forward, and on a steady course for many more anniversaries in the future.

LADY WILLINGDON
Our first female Chair, holding the office during the Second World War

WINTER WARMERS
Outdoor food events under the heated parasols are a new innovation this year

LORD PATTEN
The speaker at October’s Annual Lecture, discussed China and a new world order

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