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Elloe Deaneries Branch AGM - 1st February 2014

St. Mary's, Long Sutton

It was a very pleasant but rather blustery afternoon when I arrived at St. Mary, Long Sutton. I made my way to the tower, which is almost entirely detached from the church. It is joined to the church at one corner, but there is no way through from the tower to the church. Philip Green was running the ringing, which ranged from Rounds to Cambridge Surprise Major.

Ringing at St. Mary's, Long Sutton
Ringing at St. Mary's, Long Sutton

Shortly before 4:30pm I made my way through to the church for the service. This was led by the President of the Elloe Deaneries Branch, the Revd. Jonathan Sibley. The overwhelming feeling of the service was one of great loss. The Elloe Deaneries have suffered a lot in the last year, having had 3 prominent members pass away within a very short space of time. It was therefore only fitting that instead of an address, 3 members of the Elloe Deaneries paid tribute to each of the members who had died, these being Jonathan Pratt (Vice Chair), Ros Knight (Treasurer) and Roy Withyman (Tower Captain at Pinchbeck). May they rest in peace.

As is usual for the Elloe Deaneries AGM service, the Revd Sibley integrated a celebration of Candlemas into the standard Guild service, with each member having a candle to be lit at the end of the service. The organ was played by Les Townsend who played the March from Scipio by Handel after the service.

The members assemble for the service

A short walk from the church took us to the "Market House", where a buffet had been prepared along with much tea and coffee. After the members had been refreshed, the Revd Sibley opened the meeting by welcoming the members to the "Market House". The Revd Sibley then gave a short history of the "Market House" from its construction in 1856 to its renovation into its present form in the late 1990's.

The Apologies for Absence were taken and then the Minutes of the previous AGM (which had been circulated previously) were approved by the members.

The buffet

Matters Arising

The committee were going to try and appoint a Guild Fundraising Representative and a Guild Branch Representative, but nobody was co-opted to those positions, so they are still vacant.

The Revd Sibley formally recorded the condolences and appreciative thanks for the 3 members who had passed away, Jonathan Pratt, Ros Knight and Roy Withyman.

Secretary's Report

This is the 4th report that the present Secretary has made. It has been a busy year spent on many tasks including rationalising and increasing the membership e-mail contacts, including clustering some towers together. Being Secretary has been something of a roller-coaster ride, with many ups and downs, highs and lows and the odd steep learning curve. The Elloe ringing events have been reasonably well attended with highlights being the young ringer's event, Fish and Chip supper, 3 church ringing and the BBQ to name but some.

However the last part of the year has been very tragic with the deaths of Treasurer Ros Knight, Vice Chairman John Pratt and Pinchbeck Tower Captain Roy Withyman. Ros's death sent shock wave through the ringing world. She was not just Branch Treasurer, bellringing teacher or a ringing colleague, but a loyal friend with a wonderful sense of humour and she will be greatly missing at Deeping St. Nicholas. John's tragic death left many of the members reeling with shock and disbelief. In his short life he gave so much to so many and touched many lives both here and at the Ffestiniog Railway, which he talked about so enthusiastically. Roy Withyman's death, after his long illness was just as strongly felt. Roy always made people feel welcome in his tower and his patience and teaching skills, conversation and company are missed by all who ring at Pinchbeck tower.

In 2013 the number of in house branch events was increased. This included the 3 towers ringing, the open tower ringing at Surfleet in November followed by a hot lunch and the Fish and Chip ringing. Many thanks to Pauline, Sally, Annette and all the others who have made it possible. It is hoped that the learner ringers event and the BBQ will become regular annual events.

For 2014 it is anticipated that an improved e-mail network will yield more positive responses and attendances at branch events. It is hoped to have a festival ringing session at St. Margaret's Quadring in early December, followed by either a Carol service or a Christingle service.

Barbara completed her report by thanking all the members who has supported her over the past difficult year and also thanked everyone for coming out to support the AGM.

Treasurer's report

Barbara has taken on the role of Treasurer temporarily and thanked Sally Clifton for inspecting the accounts. A balance sheet had been circulated around the members for inspection. Annual subscriptions remained unchanged in 2013 at £10 for adults and £3 for children and those in full time education. The 2014 subscription remains the same. Membership numbers have remained pretty much unchanged. There may have been a small increase under normal circumstances, because Ros used to chase up any stragglers who hadn't paid. Barbara hasn't had time to do this though. There have been no applications for grants from the BRF and no outstanding transactions to be made. There is still plenty of rope and wood for stays available.

The accounts were approved by the members.

Ringing Masters report

It has been a difficult year. 14 people attended the young ringers half term event 6 of which were learners. 14 people attended the event at Gosberton and Quadring in March. A disappointing number of people attended at Bicker and later it would be good to discuss where we could go with ringing at Bicker. Maybe have food instead of just tea and cakes. Food tends to attract more people. We tried a new event in June, a BBQ and some ringing. The ringing was at Crowland and the BBQ was at Deeping, St. Nicolas. 17 people attended from various towers. 2 of the young ringers attended the National Youth Contest in York. 16 ringers attended the 3 towers ringing in October. In November more than 20 ringers attended the open ringing session at Surfleet and the hot supper. Also the Ridgman Trophy was hosted by Elloe Deaneries in 2013 and was held at Surfleet. It was a fantastic day, the weather was almost perfect. Philip's highlight of the day was when all 12 bells were rung down in peal absolutely without fault and it was so nice to be a part of it.

Guild Committee Report

There is no Guild Committee Rep, but since Barbara is already a committee member she is able to report on Guild Committee news. In 2012 working groups were set up for the Guild strategic review and this has generated the white papers which have been circulated to the members back in January. Feedback on the white papers is required by the 5th of February. There are some proposed options for changing the format of the Guild AGM and this is to be discussed later in Any Other Business. The committee also discussed a wide range of issues including Guild finances, safeguarding, the new membership forms and Guild Events, such as the striking competitions and the Ridgman Trophy. Also discussed was the format and content of the Guild Annual Report. Barbara finished the report by pointing out that the position of Guild Committee Rep is an important one. They only have to attend 3 meetings in Lincoln during the year and report back to the guild members. It is hoped that the position can be filled later in the meeting.

The Revd Sibley paused at this point to thank all the members for their dedication to the art of bellringing. Also welcome to the visitors, which included the Guild Master, Alan Payne and members from other Branches. Also thanks to Les Townsend for playing the organ at the service.

Election of Officers

The post of Vice Chairman has been abolished largely because none of the other branches have a Vice (Lay) Chairman. In all the other branches the President chairs the meeting and Elloe has plenty of Vice Presidents. Elloe have a unique approach to Vice Presidents in that all the incumbents at churches with bells are invited to be Vice Presidents, with most accepting the position. This means that if the President is not available, a Vice President can almost certainly be found. Failing that the Ringing Master will chair the meeting.

Carrie Staley was willing to take on the post of Treasurer. She had become a member at a tower election in July at Gosberton, but this membership had not yet been ratified by the members. It was ratified at this point in the meeting, so that she could stand as Treasurer.

Left to Right - Barbara Webster (Secretary)
Revd Jonathan Sibley (President) & Philip Green (Ringing Master)

Roy Norman stepped down as Fund Raising Rep. last year. The position has been vacant since then. Sue Faull of the West Lindsey Branch spoke about the Bell Repair Fund (BRF). Roy also led the Guild Fundraising Team for 6 years. He did a fantastic job. Since he stepped down last year, the team have been a bit leaderless, but they have forged ahead and thanks to the efforts of Elloe Ringing Master, Philip Green the Guild have been able to sell Guild Calendars and Guild Christmas Cards last year, which helped to raise over £1100. This along with the Prize Draw and the Eastern Branch Race night means that in the region of £1800 has been raised for the BRF.

The Guild BRF could do with an Elloe Branch Rep. The Guild Fundraising Team generally keep in touch by phone or e-mail. They are not big on meetings, but they do need someone in the Branch to sell the Prize Draw tickets and the Christmas cards and generally coordinate the fund raising efforts. Carrie Staley also agreed to be Fund Raising Rep. Barbara agreed to continue as Guild Rep, until such time as someone else could be co-opted.

The list of officers after the elections was as follows:

President: Revd. Jonathan Sibley
Vice Presidents: Various
Ringing Master: Philip Green
Secretary: Barbara Webster
Treasurer: Carrie Staley
Account Checker: Sally Clifton
Guild Rep: Barbara Webster
Ringing World Correspondence: Sally Clifton
Fund Raising Rep: Carrie Staley

Election of New Members

9 new members were elected. Carrie Staley has already been elected earlier in the meeting under Gosberton tower. As well as this there were 2 from Deeping, St. Nicolas, 3 from Spalding, 2 from Sutton, St. James and a couple of lapsed members seeking re-election, one from Holbeach and one from Gedney.

Someone asked a question about electing new members. There are proposers and seconders on the forms. Does it need a proposer and seconder at the AGM. Alan Payne (Guild Master) stated that it just needs ratification at any business meeting of the Branch. It does not necessarily have to be ratified at the Branch AGM. This happened last year when some young ringers were elected members and the membership was ratified at a branch meeting held at the BBQ.

Programme of Events

To see the Programme of Events, click here.

There are a lot of question marks in the programme. Elloe have been having some half term week ringing in February. It is proposed that this happen again this year. The proposed date is Wednesday 19th February, starting with tea at Sheddy's Fish & Chip Shop followed by ringing at St. Mary & St. Nicholas, Spalding. Ringing at Gosberton and Quadring in March is confirmed. Detail of the AGM will go on the website.

The event at Bicker does not attract very many people. It is possible that changing the timings or the eating arrangements would make the event more attractive. They can't use the church at Bicker and have to rent the Village Hall at quite a high rate. This may also be a factor as it would need quite a number of people to go to make it financially viable. It was suggested that if Elloe are hiring the Village Hall, would it be possible to get the sixbel simulator there. Roy Norman pointed out that the sixbel simulator was not an easy piece of equipment to set up. It is used at the Cathedral and it takes a whole morning at least to get it up and running. The onebel rig is more viable for a single day's use and it can be put up in about an hour. Sue Faull pointed out that the sixbel would be required for the Church Schools Festival at the Cathedral the Monday after the event. However the onebel rig would be in Spalding the previous week, and it could go straight from there to Bicker, which would work quite well.

The 3 towers ringing will have to move to the 4th October due to tower availability. The National Youth Contest is in Worcester this year. Alan Payne pointed out that the Guild would be sponsoring any young ringers from the Guild who competed. The BBQ was very successful last year. It is suggested that it is done again. The proposed date is Saturday 21st June and the venues are Crowland and Deeping, St. Nicolas. The Central is hosting the Guild 6 bell and 8 bell competitions. There is no date for the Carol Service at Quadring in December. The 14th of December was eventually decided upon. The venue for the 2015 AGM needs to be decided. Whaplode was eventually decided upon.

Guild Review

Hopefully everyone has had the reviews. The reviews are progressing quite well. They have progressed sufficiently far that the guild have issued some proposals in the form of 4 white papers that have been circulated for final review. It is a bit difficult to read them, but please do, because any feedback will be useful. There is a simple one page overview that summarises the 4 papers and members are encouraged to at least read that and if anything in the summary document draws their attention then they can refer to the appropriate white paper for more detail.

The proposals are likely to be re-drafted slightly, because the Guild has already had some replies from other branches. These final proposals will then be presented at the AGM in Lincoln in April where there is expected to be some sort of vote. Largely administrative and operational changes rather than rule changes at this time, but we would like to get a good mandate for the proposed changes and therefore we would like to see as many people as possible at the AGM in April to make this possible. It's about making changes and re-structuring the Guild to try and increase membership and interest in ringing generally. We've got to get more and more bells rung as opposed to what is currently happening, which is less and less. So anything you can do read the reports send in your comments. If you dislike the lot, then say so. There is a problem with apathy in the Guild at the moment.

Guild AGM format

The AGM attendance level has been falling. We've got to try and reverse this trend, especially for the next 2 to 3 years where we will be voting on all these changes. One of the working groups has been tasked with coming up with different options for the format of the Guild AGM that takes place in April. Currently the AGM starts at 9:30am with ringing at the Cathedral and then Communion and then the meeting. It goes in until about 8:30pm which is rather a long time. This group has been asked to review it with the idea of increasing the attendance at the AGM. At the moment if we get 60 members at the AGM we are lucky. 60 members is less than 10% of the membership and it is not a particularly good mandate for the way to go forward. The group has come up with 3 options with the possibility of members to add in their own options or opinions.

Option 1

AGM is held in each Branch in rotation. Branches will be responsible for selecting a venue for the meeting, arranging lunch and organising and running towers.

Option 2

AGM is held in Lincoln, with a Communion Service at the beginning of the day in the Ringersí Chapel at the Cathedral. Lunch is held out of Lincoln in each Branch in rotation (near to Lincoln) organised by the Branch, which would also organise and run ringing at towers in the Branch.

Option 3

AGM continues as up to 2014: Communion Service at the beginning of the day, AGM and lunch in Lincoln. Ringing at Lincoln towers. Ring for Evensong at the Cathedral. Attend Evensong at the Cathedral.

Members unable to choose any of the above three options were asked to comment on what their preferred Guild AGM arrangements would be.

Roy Norman spoke as a member of the working group who produced these options. The question was asked "What is wrong with the AGM". The answer was "It's totally boring, it's not terribly interesting, it's just something that has to be done". The event needs to be made more exciting and more attractive and people need to be aware that this is a key important event for the governance and steering of the Guild. The Guild committee are very keen to get members' views. This is an invitation to respond to ideas.

Another member commented that she attends the AGM every year as a business meeting, but she also looks forward to the ringing in the towers afterwards and the social side of it which is usually great fun.

The members were asked to vote on the 3 options (or suggest there own), by indicating their choice on the papers provide and returning them to the Branch Secretary.

Any Other Business

The subject of people teaching the branch's younger ringers has been discussed before. Elloe were very fortunate to have had John Pratt in this respect and he had been supported by Paul Dodes at Whaplode doing an enormous amount of teaching. Paul feels that he could do with some coaching himself in the art of running a ringing practice and teaching learners. There is a course that meets these objectives held at Hereford. It is suggested that the branch pay a substantial amount towards the expenses of Paul attending this course. Another members spoke up supporting this suggestion as Paul has had to continue to teach learners having been left in some very difficult circumstances. There then followed a brief discussion on whether the "Hereford" course was a Pip Penney course. It turns out that the course is organised by the Moreton family, but one of the lecturers invited to help run the course is Pip Penney. There is also the ITTS course which has generated a lot of interest elsewhere in the Guild. It also turns out that the Spalding PCC is willing to support the training of someone to teach the learners. The cost of the course is £255 including accommodation and meals. Whaplode PCC might also be persuaded to contribute to the costs. It was proposed and seconded that Paul be sent on the Hereford course and this was carried with a show of hands.

There is still a lot of confusion over the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks which replaced the CRB checks. This is largely to do with portability between locations. Alan Payne stated that what has been done from the Guild point of view is made it possible that through the Guild you can get a portable certificate. For any new applications you can put down that it is applicable to any tower in the Lincoln Diocese and that should be acceptable. Where we have been having trouble is that the local administrators in the Parish do not always seem to be aware of this arrangement and do not always allow it to go through.

The Revd Sibley concluded the meeting by thanking the members for their time that evening and for the time they spend ringing at practices and on Sunday morning. They make a very significant contribution to the witness and mission of the church in the community. The meeting ended with the members standing to say "The Grace".

The raffle was then drawn, after which the members helped to clear the hall before returning to St. Mary's for some more ringing.

Jonathan Clark (webmaster)