Garrick club chair says ‘exceptional lady members’ may be fast-tracked

Garrick Club

The leader of the Garrick revealed to its members that the establishment might contemplate permitting "a few exceptional women members" to partake soon. Nevertheless, the conventional waiting periods will still apply for most women.

A confidential message from Christopher Kirker was sent to every member on Wednesday, discussing the landmark decision made on Tuesday to abolish the London institution's policy of only allowing men to join. Kirker referred to it as a significant occurrence and answered inquiries regarding the club's timeline for admitting women.

People who support women's inclusion in the club have recognized that there is a need for a faster way to admit women members, bypassing the club's complicated and lengthy admission process that usually takes at least two years.

A few individuals from Garrick are suggesting elevating Joanna Lumley's membership status in the club as a form of apology. This is due to the actions of a few men ten years ago, who vandalized and destroyed a previous nomination submitted by fellow actor Hugh Bonneville.

The Guardian has accessed an email from Kirker, who stated that everyone will have to wait for the standard amount of time, regardless of gender. However, Kirker also mentioned that they might make exceptions for a few outstanding or accomplished female members, potentially allowing them to join sooner than usual.

Before this week's vote, a lineup of seven probable candidates was compiled. Among the names were scholar Mary Beard, ex-Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Channel 4 news presenter Cathy Newman, and new Labour noble Ayesha Hazarika.

A few of the members are concerned that the club's rules for allowing new candidates may cause the current committee members to reject certain female candidates who are expected to be nominated very soon.

According to Harriet Harman from the Labour party, who played a major part in drafting the Equality Act 2010, the club must revise its admission process. Harman expressed that it's not right for men, who have consistently refused to accept women, to select which women they deem appropriate. Instead, the club should welcome Ayesha, Cathy, and Mary, the female candidates, to develop a formal panel to take responsibility for admissions.

A member of the group recognized that significant modifications to the rules are necessary to prevent having only a handful of women as representatives, which would be a dreadful outcome.

An anonymous individual expressed concern that the club having only six female members in a year would be quite shameful. However, the present system in place requires a lengthy process for new members to be chosen and it could take a couple of years. The individual feels that waiting that long for women to join the club is not acceptable.

One club member mentioned that the management seemed surprised by the new rule alterations. "Earlier this year, many members of the general board thought that including women in the membership would not happen for at least five years," the member added while requesting anonymity.

The issue of allowing women to join the club has not been discussed in detail, nor have there been conversations about expediting the process. Additionally, there has been no talk about updating the club's signature pink and green tie to be more appealing to women. In short, no one has considered these particulars.

A different participant mentioned that becoming a member might take a substantial duration of time, ranging from five to ten years.

To propose someone, you write their name in the book and endorse it. After that, the members sign the book. If the book gets enough signatures, the nominee is presented to the general committee for approval. However, the committee has the power to reject a nominee through blackballing. This usually takes a long time, typically ranging from five to ten years.

Regarding the matter of efficiency, Kirker stated in an email to the members that the inclusion of female candidates in the book will occur shortly. He assured everyone that the standard election procedures and waiting periods would apply to all, regardless of gender. However, they might prioritize a few exceptional or distinguished female members in the process.

In another part of the email, Kirker disclosed that approximately 200 members returned to the clubhouse afterwards to enjoy a friendly and enjoyable dinner.

He wrote that he had conversations with numerous individuals, and the vast majority were either ecstatic about the result or willing to acknowledge and agree to it.

I cannot ignore the fact that many people believed that the path chosen by the majority in the general committee was not the right one to follow.

He said, "I want to motivate all members to voluntarily embrace and greet this modification."

In 2011, Bonneville suggested Lumley as a candidate for membership at the club in an effort to push for a policy change allowing women. However, those against the proposal thwarted his efforts to include her name in the red candidates' book by blocking it.

Some members are now suggesting that the woman be given an honorary membership to make up for the way she was treated when she was first nominated. They believe that this process could be completed quickly. The original nomination was blocked when other members wrote hurtful comments like "who do they think they are?" and "women are not welcome and never will be."

Lucinda Lambton, an art historian, faced comparable mistreatment when her name was enrolled in the membership registry during that period. As a gesture of amends, the members are attempting to expedite her admission.

According to reports, the atmosphere in the club after the vote was pleasant, with only a minority of individuals who were against the inclusion of women displaying frustration about the decision.

During a club meeting, a guy suggested that they should easily exclude any female members. However, it's uncertain if he was serious or joking. Interestingly, Jeremy Paxman, who is a well-known TV personality, was also excluded by the club when he tried to join them for reasons that are still unknown.

According to the regulations, if four members of the committee vote negatively on the proposed candidate, their candidacy will be denied.

We reached out to Lambton, Lumley, and Garrick to obtain their thoughts on the matter.

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