The Tyneside Group of the North East Humanists (NEH) was founded on 17 September 1957, although organised secularism in North East England had been active from the 1860s. The group adopted the name North East Humanists in 1997, after merging with the Teesside Humanist group.
NEH is a registered charity, consisting of over 200 members, and is the largest regional Humanist group in the United Kingdom. The group is involved in a wide range of activities including Humanist presentations to schools, campaigns and a varied selection of social events for members.
In common with the basic principles of Humanism, the NEH is concerned with values and moral issues from a non-religious viewpoint and with the achievement of a more open, just and caring society.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the NEH, the group held a joint lecture with Newcastle University. On 4 October 2007 A. C. Grayling gave a lecture on 'Reason and the Good', in which he explored the view (rooted in Aristotelian thinking) that reflection and choice, both expressions of the exercise of reason, are essential to the good life, underlying both the meaning we give to it and the value we find in it.
The first meeting of the Tyneside Humanist Group, later to become NEH, was attended by ten people and was held on 17 September 1957 in Kirkstone Gardens, Newcastle upon Tyne. Mr F. R. Griffin addressed the meeting about his attendance at the Second Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in London, and he moved that the ten people present constitute the Tyneside Humanist Group. This motion was seconded by Mr J.W. Alexander and carried unanimously.
On 22 October 1957, the first of a series of ten fortnightly lectures began at Cowan House in the University of Durham, with a lecture by Mr G. Leith on Philosophy. In April 1958 it was decided to arrange a programme of speakers which would include group members. An annual membership fee of 2 shillings and 6 pence was decided upon, with regular members contributing 1 shilling a week, and a fee for visitors.
In October 1958, Mr F. R. Griffin began a series of twelve fortnightly lectures at the British Legion Social Club on the Great North Road in Newcastle upon Tyne, where meetings were held until 16 December of that year. The first annual general meeting of the group was held here in May 1959, by which point there were 21 paid up members. In November 1959 the group agreed to send a £1 affiliation fee to the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The group began to organise various social events including theatre visits, and social evenings with games, films, prizes and gramophone record recitals.
BY 1970 the Tyneside Humanist Society were holding meetings at The Friends’ Meeting House in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. Neil Jenkins was President of the group with Alfred Hobson as Chairman, and both went on to author the book ''Modern Humanism'' in 1989.
During 1993, membership of the group had increased dramatically, and now stood at 60. At the annual general meeting of 1993, it was suggested that the group assume the title of North East Regional Humanist Association, continuing to operate as the Tyneside Group but prepared to act also as the Regional Association if requested.
In the spring of 1995 the first North-East Humanist Newsletter was published. In the summer of 1995 a Teesside Humanist Group was formed as branch of the Tyneside Group. In Autumn 1995 a motion was carried to change the group name to North East Humanists, incorporating both the Tyneside Humanist Group and the Teesside Humanist Group. Humanism in the North East continued to expand, with the paid up membership of the group at 114 by the beginning of 1996. By the summer of 1998, membership exceeded 150.
The first NEH regional conference was held on 12 May 2000 at Durham Castle, with Prof. David Cooper of the Durham University Philosophy Department as the keynote speaker. The group also launched a website this year.
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