British Moroccan Society – AGM The Travellers Club, Pall Mall, London

Posted on October 14, 2011


Yesterday evening was significant in the calendar of the British Moroccan Society. The annual AMG was held at the prestigious Travellers Club, 106 Pall Mall, London.

The Travellers Club, 106 Pall Mall, London photo: Simon Hawkesley

The turnout was the best in the Societies history; not an empty seat, indeed, standing room required.

 Attendees included Honorary Presidents; Lord Newell DL and Joe Gaggero CBE alongside our Chairman; Anthony Layden CMG, Vice Chairman;  Dr Ali Bahaijoub, Treasurer; Mr Hansdav Patel, Honorary Secretary; Benedicte Clarkson, Events Manager; Ms Samira Melloul and Mr Ali El Kasmi  Director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office.

Presentations made, by the Senior Management Team, on remarkable progresses during the preceding 12 months with monies raised and methods of dispatch to causes chosen. 

LtoR Samira Melloul, Benedicte Clarkson and Anthony Layden listening to the persentations. Photo: Simon Hawkesley

LtoR Samira Melloul, Benedicte Clarkson and Anthony Layden listening to the persentations. Photo: Simon Hawkesley

A turn of events during the presentation, to my mind, galvanised the AGM more than any other. Anthony Layden announced that his term as “Chair” was coming to an end and considerations need to be made for his replacement during the course of 2012. This struck an emotional chord and was immediately followed by Ali Bahaijoub’s presentation, highlighting individual children who’s medical needs were met by British Moroccan Society funding. These included a 13 year old girl requiring a heart operation and saving the sight of another child. Joe Gaggero felt so strongly about this good work and funds raised that he demanded the BMS write an overview of what has been achieved to the Foreign Office and HH Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui (Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Court of St James). It was agreed.

Joe Gaggero comments "broadens the view" to Anthony Layden and Ali Bahaijoub’s presentation. Photo: Simon Hawkesley

Joe Gaggero’s insistence; followed by a wave of murmurings in the room was truly refreshing to observe. A strong demonstration of passion shared that, quite rightly felt, the need for more recognition. What galvanized the AGM was Anthony Layden’s response. He reminded the room that the BMS funding amounts to typically £15,000 per/annum. “We are not a multi-million pound, save the children, organization. Moreover, we do not want to be, we represent ourselves as Friends-of-Morocco lending a friendly hand were we can. We are a tiny niche that can make a difference to individuals in distress or small and isolated communities, which are so remote that they would simply fall off the radar by larger organizations. Our efforts are tangible and financially achievable with the funds that we have available. We can also guarantee that every £1.00 raised is a £1.00 spent directly making a difference”.      

Ali Bahaijoub interjected by describing a past initiative where money was sent to a Carpenter in a village, so remote that it took 4 hours by donkey to finish the journey, who had set up a workshop to teach his trade to the children of his community so his skills to continue beyond his lifetime. Re-enforcing Anthony Layden’s comment regarding the ability to assist fringes of society that would otherwise be ignored and  skills lost forever.

Joe Gaggero then asked “How many members have we currently got”? Samira Melloul responded with “200 Members”.

The British Moroccan Society AGM 2011 was very positive. Especially the interaction between passionate members. Anthony Layden was right to imply that the amount raised by the BMS, in comparison  to big international charities, could seem insignificant if one was to use the financial statement as a vehicle for self-promotion. Joe Gaggero was equally right to remind us all that if that level of funding is achieved year-in-year-out with a membership resource of just 200 people then that is truly a remarkable achievement. This society feels special, passionate, well organised, committed and enthusiastic. My next stage is to raise awareness in my own little way and see what revenue streams this can produce. The British Moroccan Society certainly has my fullest backing. Simon Hawkesley. Editor. 

Mr. Ali Kasmi Photo: Simon Hawkesley


Harrods: Mr Ali El Kasmi Director of the Moroccan National Tourist Office announced that after two and half years of negotiation; Harrods has been commissioned to receive a Moroccan theme throughout, including a medina style souk area and an entire Riad!. The famous Egyptian escalator area, food halls, window displays and dedicated areas within Harrods. The screen throughout Harrods will also display Morocco Tourism trailers at regular slots throughout the day.  This exhibition of all that is Moroccan will commence from October 20th for 2 months. Well done to all of those involved.

Shore-to-Shore: The evening was concluded by entertainment supplied by Diana Lazenby and her Shore-to-Shore company of entertainers offering a Tudor English/Moroccan cooperation of music, song, narrative and indeed Tudor snacks.

 (I apologise unreservedly for the amount that I, my daughter Hannah and Francis Lord Newell scoffed in the background…. Absolutely delicious).

After the performance Members got chance to catch up with old friends and be introduced to new ones. The general comments appeared to revolve around the “Gala Dinner” next venue on the BMS calendar.

Benedicte Clarkson introduces Hannah, Editors Daughter, to Nabil Elouahabi (Tariq from Eastenders !) Photo: Simon Hawkesley

(Thanks Nabil for escorting Hannah and I to Soho)

The Travellers Club is a gentlemen’s club standing at 106 Pall Mall, London. It is the oldest of the surviving Pall Mall clubs, having been established in 1819, and was recently described by the Los Angeles Times as “the quintessential English gentleman’s club.” Visits are possible by invitation only.

The members of the club’s first Committee included the Earl of Aberdeen (later Prime Minister), Lord Auckland (after whom Auckland, New Zealand is named), the Marquess of Lansdowne (who had already served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and later refused office as Prime Minister) and Viscount Palmerston (later Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister).

Salim bin Ghabaisha by Sir Wilfred Thesiger takes pride of place at Riad Laksiba

Subsequent members included statesmen and travellers such as Prime Minister George Canning, the Duke of Wellington,  Lord John Russell, Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home, Francis Beaufort (creator of the Beaufort scale), Robert FitzRoy of HMS Beagle, Sir William Edward Parry (explorer of the Northwest Passage), Sir Roderick Murchison (after whom the Murchison crater on the Moon is named) and Sir Wilfred Thesiger. Novelist Anthony Powell was a member and the club is featured in various guises in the work of Graham Greene, Jules Verne and William Makepeace Thackeray.

The club’s honorary members include members of the British and foreign royal families, the British Foreign Secretary whilst in office, and various ambassadors to London, but there is also a special category of membership for particularly distinguished travellers, explorers and travel writers, who presently include Colonel John Blashford-Snell, Tahir Shah, Sandy Gall, Tim Severin, Sir Mark Tully, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, John Simpson, Nicholas Crane.

Other well known current members include Field Marshal Lord Bramall, Terry Waite, Sir Christopher Ondaatje (Overseas Member), Douglas Hurd, Bruce Anderson and Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Membership is still gentlemen only, although many other prestigious clubs have now allowed women to join.

Hannah Hawkesley: The Travellers Club. Pall Mall. London Oct/2011