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The Origins of A.A. in the East Midlands

Derby Evening Telegraph Article, 1958

Capt. TPK 'Keith' Oakey was born in Nuneaton on the 24th June 1915. Before WW2 Keith was a sporting man and played cricket for Warwickshire. During the war he was a captain in the 1st battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment, and took part in the D-day landings. Keith is mentioned in the book 'Thank God and the Infantry', and is said to be one of the finest people to meet. In 1952 in the AA News it is reported that Keith O is planning to start AA in Leicester, and in 1953 the first meeting took place at his home in Wolvery.

In 1954 George Jones, an alcoholic from Nottingham got sober by attending the meeting in Leicester. George was a small man, who didn't mince his words and carried the AA message with a passion. In 1955 George brought Alcoholics Anonymous to Nottingham by holding the first meeting at his home, above his ironmongers shop on Aspley Lane. In 1956 the Nottingham first group found its first public meeting place, the YMCA on Shakespeare Street.

Derby's start in AA was not as straight forward as Nottingham and Leicester. The first report of an AA meeting was in a 1958 copy of AA News, saying that W 'Bill' Simkin was holding a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at his house in Hartshorne, Derbyshire. In the May 1958 AA news is says "The functions of AA, have received excellent publicity in the Derby Evening Telegraph, the group has been reorganized and now meet every Monday 7.30 at YMCA, St Peters, Church Yard Derby". This meeting is only listed until 1959 when it than goes back to just giving Bill's phone number. And in 1961 there are no meeting in Derby at all. In 1962 there is a contact number for Audrey, and in 1963 there is a meeting, every other Sunday, in St Mary Gate, Derby, and Audrey is the contact for that group. This meeting was to last until 1966 when it closed. There were no meetings then in Derby until 1974 when a meeting started by Archie, at the Friendship House, Chatsworth Road, Chesterfield. Since this meeting there has always been an AA presence in Derby.

Where To Find was not published until 1960, so it is difficult to be certain when some meetings were started, but in the 1960 issue there is a meeting held at a member's house in Uppingham Road, Leicester. This meeting is not listed in 1961 but there is a meeting on Tuesday, 7.30 Friends Meeting House, Queens road, Leicester. This is the same meeting that is still going today, and in doing the research I have found a link to Keith O. In 1967 an open meeting of the fellowship took place at H.M. Prison, Leicester, sponsored by Prison Intergroup. The meeting was the first of its kind in the Midlands and was attended by 166 men and about 15 members of staff. There is anecdotal evidence that a prison group started in Leicester in 1968.

In 1962 the Nottingham second group started on Monday 7.30 at Friends Meeting House, Clarendon Street, Nottingham. This meeting was short lived and was not on the 1963 meeting list, but in the same year the Nottingham first group moved from YMCA to Friends Meeting House on Wednesday at 8.00. Apart from a break in about 2007 this is the same meeting that is going today. In the latter part of 1969 the first meeting took place in Newark. Up until 1972 Nottinghamsire had just one meeting in Nottingham and one in Newark, but along with Leicester, people were starting to gather for the next phase of our fellowship's survival.

In the latter part of 1972 and early 1973 the fellowship in the East Midlands, although well established was still thinly spread. In 1973 there was two meetings in Nottingham, one meeting in Lincoln, two in Northamptonshire, four in Leicester and practically nothing in Derbyshire.

Embryonic groups were beginning to emerge in Nottingham with the knowledge that if they were to survive, they badly needed to share with AA members of more established sobriety. To this end, invitations were sent to sober members all over the country. This sharing enabled these new groups to survive and grow. It made their members very much aware of the Legacy of Unity, and of the wide-spread nature of the Fellowship.

In late 1973, a number of members began to think in terms of extending this sharing by the formation of a local intergroup. A meeting was called in Lincoln, attended by members from Lincoln, Leicester and Nottingham, and as a result the East Midlands Intergroup was formed.

By early 1974, a number of Northampton members and some members from South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, had decided to join in. To encourage as many members as possible to get involved, it was decided that the Intergroup meetings should take place in the various cities represented in turn, and for about a two year period meetings rotated from Lincoln, to Nottingham, Loughborough, Northampton and Corby.

From these early meetings formal communication was established with institutions and members of the professional community in the EMIG. Meetings were already being held in psychiatric hospitals in Leicester and Nottingham and a group was started in St. Crispins Hospital in Northampton. There was a meeting in Leicester Prison and with the emergence of the Intergroup, It was possible to lend further support to prisons at Gartree, Ashwell, Nottingham and Ranby.

To provide a focal point for the Intergroup, a series of annual mini-conventions was organized in Leicester for March, the first one being in 1974. The Intergroup was extremely conscious from the start of its responsibility to act as a link between the group members and the annual General Service Conference, and much of its development has been influenced by carrying out this commitment. In 1975 Nottingham members were able to take advantage of the national Conference experience, to start a limited telephone service, which has run successfully since November of that year.

In 1975 two other significant changes took place. Intergroup found a permanent home at Towers Hospital, Leicester. And prompted by suggestions from Conference, initial discussions were set up with the neighbouring East Anglia and Lea Valley Intergroups, out of which grew the present Eastern Region of AA in 1980. In July 1977, Eric and Mary were elected to represent intergroup at conference. By 1980, Intergroup was much of how it is today, with Public Information, Alcoholism in Industry, (forerunner to Employment Liaison), Where to Find coordinator, and Hospital Liaison Officer.

In 1987, Northampton broke away to form its own Intergroup, and in 1991, Lincoln followed suit. On the 4th January 2003 an East Midland Intergroup meeting took place at the Methodist Church Hall, Ripley to discuss the formation of the Derbyshire Intergroup. On the agenda for discussion was what the function of Intergroup is, the name and identity of the intergroup and the service positions. A further East Midlands meeting took place, and on the 5th April 2003 the first Derbyshire Intergroup meeting was held.

Submitted by Dean, Intergroup Archivist