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ASSAP History: 'Changing emphasis'
by Val Hope

History Index


What have we achieved over the years?

A glance through back issues of our publications and the official minutes of the monthly Executive meetings shows the efforts that we have made to get the most out of our members and the available resources. We have also cooperated with other groups: many of the methods used on our investigator training courses have been adopted, at least in part, by other groups. For instance, the Society for Psychical Research sent along observers one year; this resulted in presentations being given at a similar SPR training day by our own Alan Cleaver and Dennis Bury. There have been numerous reciprocal arrangements with the SPR, with cases swapped depending on local investigator coverage. We also agreed to house the SPR’s UFO library. BUFORA, too, made a contribution to our operations, with early guidance on the code of practice for investigators being provided by BUFORA and ASSAP officer Jenny Randles. To show how we meant to go on, the code was published in full in Common Ground, ASSAP’s then (shared) journal of record, as early as August 1981.

We’ve held study days on lucid dreaming, the survival of bodily death, detecting fraud, the mysteries of London, and other days that didn’t really have a theme, or not one that we can remember in the haze of 25 years. In the early days the majority of members were London-based, making it feasible to organize a couple of garden parties in the grounds of David Christie-Murray’s house in south-west London, and later at Lionel Beer’s house in Hampton. We also had annual London Christmas parties, firstly at the Polytechnic of North London in Tufnell Park, but subsequently at a pub near Mornington Crescent, and then at the home of Dennis Bury in Crouch End. Starting in 1993, we organized a series of social events on the Tattershall Castle, a pub on a boat moored off the Embankment in central London. Nowadays we are more geographically scattered, and there currently seems to be a shift in our membership towards the Midlands.

We’re onto our third logo. Logo No. 1 was made up of raised lines and proved difficult to reproduce or run through photocopiers. The second one was designed by graphic artist Phil Nichols in 1987, inspired by the NASA logo. It stood the test of time and photocopier machines. Phil's ASSAP logo also appeared on the first version of our famed T-shirts, discreetly on the front, but in a glorious pyramid of letters on the back based on an idea from Clive Seymour. In the new millennium we felt the logo needed freshening up, and Wendy Milner, our regular Anomaly cover artist, produced a version with graduated shading.

Changes in emphasis

The focus of our activities over the years has shifted. Comments made by Lionel Beer at the 1991 AGM prompted the Executive to shake up its ideas. Lionel believed that resources were being spread too thinly, more and more work was being piled on fewer and fewer shoulders, and there was ‘a danger that the creaking organization could collapse with disastrous results’. Lionel’s offer to organize a policy meeting to involve the whole association in planning for the next decade was accepted by Chairman Maurice Townsend.

Many of the ideas put forward at the meeting held the following April were taken up. Top priority went to raising ASSAP’s profile and increasing the number of active members in research and investigations. One of the inevitable results of this concentration of effort was the increased emphasis placed on investigations of ghosts and hauntings. Some of the areas of study that had been intended to contribute to our multidisciplinary approach therefore subsequently suffered from relative neglect. An attempt to correct the imbalance was made in 1999 when Chairman Phil Walton ran a survey to consult the general membership. One third of the members responded, giving us valuable information on likes and dislikes, subjects they wanted to see covered, and so on. Over 80% of respondents were interested in hauntings, and just over 60% in legends. Areas such as anomalous photos and altered states of consciousness polled rather lower scores, with cryptozoology coming out the worst at less than 20%. Other facts were already known from the membership data held, including the astonishing proportion of men in the membership: at that stage it was 273 men and just 92 women.

In 1999 Phil also introduced a group of specialist subject coordinators who were there to ensure that ASSAP did not lose sight of fields such as legends, cryptozoology, dowsing and the more mystical side of our subject. Every issue of ASSAP News was to include articles by two of these coordinators to update the membership on developments in that particular field. The first contributions were by Darren Francis on crop circles and Liz Gale on healing and religion. This cycle was repeated a couple of times over the following two years but, as coordinators gradually dropped out, Phil often found himself writing up the yearly reports. Space on the fledgling ASSAP website was also dedicated to these 12 areas, but many contributions remained static after a promising start. After the 2004 AGM the specialist subject coordinators were brought into closer contact with the research side of ASSAP to form the Specialist Panel and no longer had the pressure of lone responsibility for individual areas.
© Valerie Hope 2007