Published: 28 April 2023

Members and colleagues at the 2023 AGM

Members and colleagues at the 2023 AGM

The tributes were paid at the Society’s Annual General Meeting, by Mike Crawshaw, Head of Culture and Heritage for Darlington Borough Council, and Theatre Hullabaloo chief executive, Ben Dickenson.

The AGM, held this year at Theatre Hullabaloo, had a railway heritage theme to tie in with preparations for the 200th anniversary of the world’s first passenger railway in 2025.

Mr Crawshaw highlighted the fact that the Society was the first partner to get on board for a £35m railway heritage project, celebrating the bicentennial of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.

Steaming ahead

The Society is headline sponsorship of a state-of-the-art Exhibition Hall, which will be a key feature of the Darlington Rail Heritage Quarter. Mr Crawshaw told the AGM: “The bicentennial is a momentous opportunity for our town, and Darlington Building Society has been behind it from the outset. “The values of the Society chime so much with the heritage of this town, and it’s a pleasure to be in partnership with an organisation that so obviously values its community. The Society was the first to come on board – it led the way – and that set the tone as a very important alignment.”

Mr Crawshaw gave members an update on the bicentennial plans, which will put the local area in the global spotlight, and Society members, who attended the AGM, were given the first tickets for “hard hat tours” of the development site for the Railway Heritage Quarter.

Partnership on track

Meanwhile, Mr Dickenson described Darlington Building Society as “one of our most trusted partners”, thanking the organisation for a £50,000 investment in the nationally acclaimed children’s theatre, along with “invaluable support” from Society staff who have volunteered at the venue.

“We are on a shared journey to improve the quality of people’s lives,” he said. “That kind of financial support is a huge boon to this organisation and plays a fundamental role in what we are aiming to do. The impact is phenomenal.”

Thanks to the Society, 2,500 tickets for a dance theatre show, called When The Birds Sang, are being made freely available to children in deprived areas. The Society is also sponsoring the Dragonfly Stage at the ‘Hullabaloo in the Park’ festival, in South Park, Darlington, in July.

“Without the partnership with Darlington Building Society, a lot of the things we do would not be possible, and together we will make Hullabaloo the National Children’s Centre for Creativity,” added Mr Dickenson.

Strong performance

Chairman Jack Cullen told the meeting that the Society had delivered “some fantastic achievements and an exceptionally strong” financial performance in 2022, with a record Profit Before Tax of £5m and highest ever total assets of £833m.

That financial strength had enabled the Society to continue to invest in the business and its people, while consistently paying savers higher than average rates, and protecting borrowers by delaying passing on increases in the Bank Base Rate to mortgage customers.

Chief Executive Andrew Craddock spoke of his pride that £268,000 had been shared by 53 good causes through the Society’s annual pledge to donate 5% of its profits to charities and community groups.

Answering a member’s question about banks closing a growing number of town centre branches, Mr Craddock vowed: “We won’t be following that trend. We have no plans to close any of our nine branches, and our programme of investing in the branch network, with refurbishments or relocations, will continue this year.”

Historian and journalist, Chris Lloyd, gave an amusing talk on Darlington’s railway heritage, and performances were given by cast members from Darlington Operatic Society’s current production of Grease.

To view the results of this year’s AGM, and all supporting documents click here.

For more information on the railway heritage project click here.