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Southern Branch AGM, 25th January 2014

I arrived at about 4:00 pm at St. Michael and All Angels, Edenham, about half an hour before the service. I made my way up to the tower and watched some ringing before making my way down to the church for the service. This was led by Canon Andy Hawes, using the Guild Order of Service from the green booklet. Andy preached a stirring sermon about the bells calling the faithful. The organ was played by the Guild Webmaster, Jonathan Clark, who played "How Great Thou Art" after the service.

Ringing at St. Michael and All Angels
Ringing at St. Michael and All Angels

We then made our way to the Village Hall located some distance behind the church. An excellent buffet awaited the members along with assorted cakes and the inevitable Tea and Coffee.

Alan Payne welcomed the members especially the visitors from other branches. The apologies for absence were then taken. The meeting moved on to obituaries of which there were none.

The minutes of the last meeting had been circulate previously and were adopted by the members.

Matters Arising - none

Treasurer's report (Anne Maddison)

Anne thanked Jim Benner for checking accounts. There are 2 grants that have been approved for Silk Willoughby and Witham on the Hill for a total of £224.17 that have yet to be paid from the Bell Repair Fund. Membership has remained static throughout 2013. The accounts were adopted by the members.

Tea in the Village Hall

Election of Officers

Alan Payne is standing down as the Branch President. Judith Rogers was elected as the new President. Barry Jones is not seeking re-election as Ringing Master. Ben Ricketts was voted in as the new Branch Ringing Master. Anne Maddison had been seconded during the year to replace Alistair Donaldson who has moved away. Alistair was also the Guild Committee Rep. Judith Rogers was voted in as the new Guild Committee Rep.

The list of Branch Officers is therefore as follows:

President: Judith Rogers
Ringing Master: Ben Ricketts
Deputy Ringing Master: Shelagh Dunning
Secretary: Melissa Blanchard
Treasurer: Anne Maddison
Guild Committee Rep: Judith Rogers

Appointed Officers Ratified:

Hon. Accounts Examiner: James Benner
Child Safeguarding Representative: Nigel Travis
Branch Website Administrator: Nick Faux

Alan was thanked for all the work he has done in the past years as the Branch President.

The members of the Branch Committee were then ratified by the members

Election of Members

It was proposed that Alistair Donaldson is transferred to a Non Resident Life Members under rule 2c of the Guild rules. This was approved by the members. 3 new members were proposed from Barrowby including 2 junior members and two additional unattached members were also proposed. Membership forms have been submitted for all these members.

One tower has a member who had been proposed verbally earlier in the week, but has no membership form yet, plus another tower has some potential members with proposers and seconders, but also no membership forms. Alan re-iterated the importance of the membership forms to provide proper documentation for the Gift Aid of the subscriptions. Also the membership has to be properly administered for the purposes of the Guild Insurance. Judith Rogers pointed out that members who are standing for election should really be present at the meeting if they are seeking election to the Guild.

It was asked what the criteria were for being a member. Alan Payne stated that there were no criteria as such at present, but it was the subject of the Guild Review and as it stood at the moment it looked like the criteria would be to be able to ring Rounds safely and satisfactorily. Up until now it had been largely at the discretion of the Tower Captain. Members can be elected in a belfry election, but the membership has to be ratified at a full meeting later on.

One member asked if it would be possible to discuss the criteria for membership has she had strong views on the subject. Alan pointed out that nothing had been decided yet. This is what the Guild Review and the white papers were about and if any members wished to express their views they should ideally submit them in writing with reference to the appropriate white paper. Some feedback has already been incorporated.

The Retiring President, Alan Payne,
with Secretary, Melissa Blanchard

Programme for 2014

The Programme of Events has been modified a number of times in the past few weeks. Most of the towers are ones that have not been in use last year apart from Grantham and Market Deeping. The Cathedral Evensong ringing was successful last year because it was held jointly with the Eastern Branch and it provided enough ringers for a reasonable ring. Elloe Deaneries are going to join the Southern and Eastern Branch this year.

The Branch striking competition might be held in the morning, rather than the afternoon. The striking competition is suffering from a lack of interest and this is the subject of another part of the Guild Review. It is looking at the striking competition rules and possible changes to make it easier for people to take part. It will not change for this years events, but it will probably be changed in April for next year's events. Striking competitions are important for improving the standard of ringing. It was decided to vote on whether to have the striking competition in the morning or the afternoon. The vote went exactly 50:50, so Alan Payne had the deciding vote which was to have the Branch striking competition in the morning. It is important to encourage people to take part in the striking competition. Last year there were only 4 teams.

The events on June 21st at Billingborough and July 26th at Greatford are to be swapped over. The current procedure for the monthly practice is to nominate 2 special methods for the members to tackle. These are usually a simply method and a more complex method. This does not exclude ringing any other methods, but gives some focus to the practice. It was generally felt that this situation worked well and should continue.

Tower Contact Information

There are problems, both in the Annual Report and on the Guild Website with the accuracy of tower contact information. Members are asked to check and feedback any changes so that the information can be as accurate as possible. Also individual member contact details need to be accurate otherwise information will not be disseminated effectively to the members.

Guild AGM format

The AGM format options had been circulated for discussion and voting previously. Alan re-iterated the importance of having members attend the Guild AGM in April. There are going to be votes on the changes being proposed in the white papers at the Guild AGM and we need members there to make this process effective. Last year there was less than 10% of the membership at the AGM and that is not much of a mandate for change. Judith Roger's group has been looking at this. They have come up with three options to be voted on at the Branch AGMs.

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.

One of the new members who have not been to a Guild AGM yet asked what the parking situation was in Lincoln for the AGM. Alan said that it was not easy, but if you know where to go you can park for free within 300 to 400 yards of the Cathedral.

One member pointed out that if the AGM was split between Lincoln and another venue (say Grantham) the member could end up being stung for parking twice in one day. Alan pointed out that these are all points that need to be taken into consideration. There are good and bad points for all the options. Another member observed that if the AGM was split between Lincoln and another venue, there would be an awful lot of travelling for some members. We need to do something so that the AGM appeals to the majority. If we carry on as we are there will be no one attending the AGM. The Guild Webmaster pointed out that the form had a space at the bottom of it to make comments or propose another option if desired.

One member complained that at the last AGM he could not hear what anyone was saying even though they were using a microphone. We have tried a number of venues and the Bailgate Methodist Church has proved to be one of the better venues from an acoustic viewpoint. If the microphone level is a bit low, that should be easy to fix. One member asked how the AGM day progressed. Judith pointed out that is started at 9:30am and pretty much finished in the evening with some ringing, making it an all-day event. Alan pointed out that we start off with a reasonable number in the morning, but by the evening the attendance has really dropped off to the point where it becomes difficult to ring the 12 at the Cathedral. The pivot point appears to be the Cathedral Evensong service.

The numbers at the AGM is about 50 to 60 members out of a membership of about 640. Out of the 640 members of the Guild, not everyone is an active member. Not everyone wishes to be involved at this sort of level. Basically the people in the room are the active membership. The active membership is going down. A straw poll indicated that maybe a dozen members have been to the Guild AGM in the last 2 years. It's the same faces every year and as time goes on the numbers are dwindling. The members then voted on the proposed options and the papers handed in to the Secretary.

Guild White Papers

Alan Payne drew attention to the 4 white papers. In the next week or two we need all the feedback on the white papers to the Guild Committee. In February the Committee will formalise the white papers into proposals for the AGM. There is another chance to comment of the proposals at the AGM in April. There is a one page summary if the members do not want to wade through all 4 of the white papers. There are likely to be another 4 or 5 of these white papers in the future. A lot of the changes will be administrative or to the way we operate but there will be a lot of rule changes as well.

One member asked if you were not a member of the Guild then would you be covered by the Guild Insurance. Alan stated that they would not be covered. Clarification was then sought about trainees who were being taught, but who had not yet met the criteria to become members. Alan said that trainees were explicitly covered if they were under the tutelage of a Guild member. This is in the documentation and is also stated on the Guild website under the section on Guild Insurance.

There is an age cut off for the Guild Insurance but no one is sure exactly what age that is. It is believed to be 70 years of age. The payout for personal injury is not very high, but what it does do is cover you for third party liability for ringing anywhere in the country (Great Britain), which is the real benefit of the Insurance.

BRF Applications

There are two outstanding grants to be paid as mentioned earlier in the meeting for Silk Willoughby and Witham on the Hill. The work on Silk Willoughby has not yet started. Silk Willoughby have very popular bells and the Branch may have to find additional ways to help them out. The PCC are not willing to contribute anything towards the cost of repairs. They need in the region of £2500 for repair of bearings. It looks like they will be a long while unringable unless the branch helps them out some more. The branch has had a lot of enjoyment from the Silk Willoughby bells. It may require a special fundraising effort.

National Youth Contest

The Southern Branch fielded quite a lot of members to ring in the two teams in York last year. It was something like 9 members. We were the only Guild association to enter two teams. It was a good day out. This year the contest will be in Worcester. Hopefully we can put in two teams and certainly at least one. The Branch makes a donation of £10 per head to support the youngsters. It is proposed that the Southern branch do the same this year. This was approved by the members. The contest is open to youngsters who are aged 19 or less on the day of the contest.

Any Other Business

One member asked if any arrangements have been made to ring bells throughout the country to commemorate the start of WW1. Alan was unaware of any specific activities that were being organised. Some members were somewhat perturbed that we should commemorate an event that cost so many lives. What has been suggested in the Ringing World is that the time to ring is to commemorate the loss of a member of a tower. Many ringers died in the war and they are remembered on plaques in those towers and ringing to commemorate their lives and sacrifice would be more appropriate. Alan pointed out that there was no "3 line whip" on this and it was up to individual members and towers.

Vote of Thanks

Judith Rogers proposed a vote of thanks to Alan for his work in leading the Branch over the past years. Barry Jones thanked the Assistant Ringing Master, Shelagh Dunning for all her help and support over the years.

Alan made some formal thanks to the vicar Canon Andy Hawes for the Service and the use of the bells. It was a tremendous service and one of the shortest sermons ever. Thanks also to the team that provided the tea. Also thanks to Jonathan Clark for standing in to play the organ for the service, without the aid of any music. Jonathan doesn't read music well enough to be able to play straight from it, but knows a number of hymns that he can play from memory. Thanks to Shelagh for running the raffle and thanks to Dennis for the use of the bells.

The raffle was then drawn. There was a very last bit of Any Other Business where one member stated that with the BRF funds effectively down to about £600 that some fundraising is needed to boost the BRF. Alan asked the members to give some consideration to possible fundraising ideas and put any suggestions to the branch committee.

The meeting was closed and members helped to stack the chairs and tables before going back over to the church for some more ringing.

Jonathan Clark (Webmaster)