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West Lindsey Branch AGM, 18th January 2014

It was a sunny but cold afternoon when I arrived at St. Botolph's, Saxilby for the West Lindsey Branch AGM.

I made my way up to the ringing chamber where I rang some Rounds and Call Changes and some Plain Bob Doubles. The ringing chamber started to fill up as more people arrived, so having had a ring I went down into the church. Les Townsend was playing "Fight the Good Fight" on the organ and I hoped it wasn't some sort of omen for the forthcoming meeting.

Ringing at St. Botolphs
Ringing at St. Botolphs

At about 4:10pm members began assembling in the church for the service. This was led by the Reverends Stephanie and Rhys Prosser. Stephanie conducted the service and Rhys read the lesson and delivered an amusing sermon likening the church to a football club (Rhys is keen Cardiff supporter). Not everyone can get to the stadium to support their team in the same way that not everyone can get to the church, but the bells remind the people in the vicinity that God is present.

After the service Les Townsend treated us to a rendition of "Glory Alleluia" on the organ after which we made our way over to the Church Hall for tea. Tea consisted of vegetable soup to start, with a buffet afterwards and assorted desserts and tea and coffee to finish.

Melvyn Rose called the meeting to order and started by remembering West Lindsey Branch members who has passed way during the last year, these being Michael Whiting (Messingham) and Harold Morwood (Kirton Lindsey). There was a minutes silence as a mark of respect.

John Nicholson from Saxilby was congratulated on his 70 years of ringing. After the apologies for absence, the minutes of the previous meeting (which had been circulated in advance) were approved as a true record by the members. There we no matters arising.

Ringing Masters report (Janet Clarke)

The meetings over the past year have been well attended. Attendance is generally up on that seen in the previous year. There is a core of regular members but recently some more new faces have been seen. Ringing has ranged from rounds up to spliced surprise. There was a good outing to the Melton Mowbray area arranged by Alison Elwess. It was good to ring Springthorpe bells again in May after repairs to the frame.

In July the work on Epworth church was completed along with a new gallery to ring the bells from. The Evensong ringing at Lincoln Cathedral was successful. Some members had never rung on 12 before and did very well and the more experienced ringers managed a course of Stedman Cinques. The Branch (6 bell) striking competition was very successful with 7 teams entering including some young ringers and also less experienced ringers taking part. Messingham and Scotter went forward to compete in the Guild final. The 8 bell competition was held at Kirton in Lindsey and was won this year by the West Lindsey Branch.

The young ringers remain active, the numbers swelled by several young ringers from Belton. Three of the young ringers (Ellie, Mellissa and James) went to York last year to compete in the National Youth Contest. They did very well and Ellie also won a prize from the Ringing World for her report on the day's events. 2 ringers rang their first quarter peal last year and 4 people rang their first peal.

There has been ringing for special occasions such as the Royal Christening plus assorted significant birthdays and anniversaries of Branch members. Many members reached significant ringing milestones amongst them Chris Turner and Robin Heppenstall. Things have a more positive feel at the moment. There are several new ringers being taught, especially in the Isle of Axeholme. Attendance is up, different faces are appearing and there is notable progress. There seems to be more enthusiasm in general and the challenge is to build on that in the coming year.

The members assemble for the Service
The members settle down for the Tea

Treasurer's Report (Mary Brown)

Mary outlined a healthy balance sheet. Subscriptions are up but junior subscriptions have gone down a bit mainly because one the juniors has grown up and become a full member. The Junior Ringers pot is the project of Ellie who has been making cards for all occasions and selling them to make money for the Junior Ringers pot. Collections from the Belfry Repair Fund Fish (this is a piggy bank in the shape of a fish that gets passed around at meetings - webmaster) have been going up over the last 3 years. Mary thanked to Richard Hall for checking the accounts and finished her report by announcing that the 2014 subs are now due.

Guild Committee Report (Ian Till)

There have been 3 meetings of the Guild Committee over the year. Ian was able to attend two of the meetings. However the West Lindsey Branch is well represented by other members who occupy other positions on the Committee. The key things that have come out of the meetings are as follows. At the first meeting Ian was able to report that the small amount of work that had been needed at the Scunthorpe 20-21 centre had been completed.

Safeguarding gets a regular mention at the meetings. Anyone who applies for DBS clearance can now register the certificate online, but it has to be done within 2 weeks of receiving it. It will be recommended at the 2014 AGM that the subscriptions for 2015 are to stay the same, but the split will be slightly different. It will be proposed that there is a 5% increase to General Account with a 5% reduction to the Belfry Repair Fund. One question that was asked is "Are the branches retaining enough from the subscriptions to do what they need to do?" Dot Mason is retiring as Administrator of the Bell Repair Fund, so the Guild Committee are looking either for another BRF administrator or to put the BRF into the pot and have the Treasurer look after it.

The Guild Membership joining form is now in use after a bit of tweaking. It has not been universally adopted across the entire Guild yet, but it is being applied quite well in the West Lindsey Branch. On Communications, Jonathan Clark keeps the Guild website well maintained. The Guild Newssheet that Sue Faull produces is very well received and it is very informative. The Guild Committee supported the youths who competed in the National Youth Contest in York. Three of those youngsters were from the West Lindsey Branch. It had been a good day out in York supporting the youngsters.

In the Ridgman Trophy we also did very well by coming second. We have come second once before. Robin Heppenstall has kept the Committee up to date with progress with the Ringing Foundation and similarly Sue Faull has kept the Committee up to date with news from the ITTS. There has been a space saving suggestion for the Guild Report of not putting the full peal compositions in, as these take up quite a bit of space.

The Guild AGM format is being discussed as part of the Guild Review. The 2014 format will broadly be the same as last year, but with no ringing in the evening. The Guild 6 bell will be held in the Central Branch on the 13th September. No final decision on the venue, but probably in the Nettleham, Scothern & Dunholme area. The rules for the 6 bell competition are to be confirmed after the February Guild Committee meeting.

The 8 bell competition will be held on the 11th October also in the Central Branch at Washingborough and the test piece will be Grandsire Triples. On the Guild Review, the questionnaire has been analysed and this has led to drafts of some white papers which are now out for consultation by the members.

The meeting progresses

The meeting then turned to the Election of officers. There were no changes to the officers, with the situation remaining as indicated below.

President: Melvyn Rose
Secretary: Tracey Black
Ringing Master: Janet Clarke
Asst. Ringing Master: Alison Elwess
Treasurer: Mary Brown
Junior Member Rep: Ellie Sargeant
Guild Committee Rep: Ian Till
Fund Raising Rep: Susan Faull
Committee members: Pam Cooke, Joy Till & Ted Steel
Auditor: Richard Hall

The meeting turned to the Election of new members. 4 new members were proposed from towers at Upton, Saxilby, Hibaldstow and Springthorpe. It is expected that a few more proposals for new members will come in from the Isle of Axeholme as the year progresses.

The Diary of Events for 2014 was put forward It was pointed out that when the West Lindsey Branch ring at the Cathedral, they always seem to get the Sunday before the Bank Holiday Monday. It is possible to swap with another branch? The branch will probably have to liaise with the Cathedral. It will be investigated.

Clarification was sought on what exactly the "20-21" is. Ian Till pointed out that it is the ex St. John's Church in Scunthorpe. It is now an Arts Centre. "20-21" refers to moving forward from the 20th to the 21st Century. The Christmas event requires a venue. The members were invited to give the matter some consideration. Also some fund raising event is required. It was suggested that perhaps we have a Branch Open Day or the old Guild Festival that we used to have on the last Saturday in June.

The next event in the diary is the 8 bell workshop at Epworth. This is to introduce members to ringing on 8 bells. It will concentrate on Rounds, Plain Hunt and Plain Bob. The intention is to start at 2:30pm and finish at 4:30pm, possibly 5:00pm and have something to eat, perhaps a bar meal. An indication of numbers would be helpful in planning the event.

Grant Applications

Gainsborough has made an application to both the Branch and the Guild BRFs for some funds towards re-hanging the bells. Melvyn Rose proposed a grant of £1000 from the chair, which was approved by the members. Someone asked what the money in the General Fund was for? Why not transfer some of it into the BRF? The answer was that it was there to meet the anticipated needs of a training budget, possibly a weekend school. Robin Heppenstall thanked the committee for the generous donation towards the Gainsborough re-hanging.

Guild Strategic Review

The meeting now turned to the Guild Strategic Review. As part of the Lincoln Diocesan Guild review, one of the working groups has been considering arrangements for the Guild AGM. Attendance at the main decision making forum for the Guild has declined considerably over the last 10 years and a change in format is suggested in order to make the day more attractive and include more members. Members were asked to select one of the options below by ballot at their Branch AGMs held at the beginning of 2014. The intention is that the change of format will be effective from April 2015.

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.

Dicussions followed during which it was made known that option 3 would be a DIY lunch, either bring your own or find somewhere to eat in Lincoln. Option 2 is believed to be a rolling lunch, similar to that at the striking competitions. Also if Option 2 was adopted, it would be necessary to use towers at a reasonably central location, like Stow and Saxilby in the case of West Lindsey Branch. Locations such as Epworth would not be practical for access by other branches.

Someone asked if coming out of Lincoln, but not very far out of Lincoln would actually achieve anything? Concern was expressed that adopting some of these options would run the risk of loosing contact (as a Guild) with the Cathedral. The AGM is one of the few events that brings members to the Cathedral and we would risk withdrawing from that and also loosing contact with our president who is of course the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral. The Cathedral does reinforce the identity of the Guild within the diocese.

Robin Heppenstall pointed out that Lincoln is the most central point for members and the easiest to reach in terms of access. It is the obvious venue. The day should consist of the annual meeting, a corporate act of worship and some ringing and anything else is incidental. Another member spoke supporting Robin. To go to the Cathedral and go to the service in the Ringers Chapel is quite something and it should be extra special to us all.

Ian Till pointed out that if attendance at Branch AGMs is poor (the estimate is that 200 people will attend the 6 branch AGMs overall) then it is not realistic to expect large numbers at the Guild AGM. After all, the people who attend the Guild AGM are going to have come from the groups of people who attend their own branch AGMs. What it needs is more activities at the branch level to feed into the activities at the Guild level. Without increased activity at the branch level, it just isn't going to happen.

Melvyn Rose chipped in with the fact that a lot of people don't go to the AGM because AGM's are boring, but they are pretty much what they are and you can't do an awful lot to brighten them up. This is pretty much true of any organisation.

Alan Payne added that getting more numbers at the AGM was pretty much what the ballot was attempting to achieve. We are trying to find out which is the best format and which is the best venue to encourage people to come to the AGM. The attendance at the Guild AGM is falling. We are down to about 50 to 60 people at the moment and this is low especially as we are coming up to some significant changes that will require voting upon at the Guild AGM.

60 people represents less that 10% of the Guild membership, so if we are not careful, less than 10% of the membership is going to be making decisions that affect the other 90%. We need to get more people to the AGM to ensure that the changes being proposed are reasonably mandated. This is not just for the 2014 AGM. Important changes will be taking place for the next 2 years or more.

The members then proceeded to vote or comment on the options available. After the ballot was collect the meeting moved onto the second part of the Guild Strategic Review. The Guild Master (Alan Payne) once again took the floor to tell members about the 4 draft white papers that we currently being circulated amongst the members for review.

He asked members to at least read the one page summary sheet if the actual 4 white papers seemed a bit daunting. These 4 papers are likely to come out as proposals at this year's AGM. Some proposals are operational some are administrative. They have all been taken out of the feedback that was obtained from the questionnaire last year. It is a chance for members to have a final say.

These proposals will probably go forward in their present form to the AGM this year, unless members come back and request further changes. That is what this review period is about. It is important that members read the papers and if they have any concerns to make them known either to their Branch Secretary or direct to Alan himself. The more views we get for more likely we are to please the majority.

Alan was pleased to hear the West Lindsey Branch reports of increasing attendance and membership. The West Lindsey Branch is on its own in this respect. The Guild as a whole is declining in membership and has been for a year or two. This is what the review is about. We are trying to reverse this trend and there will have to be some changes if we are going to achieve this.

There are other Guilds in the UK doing a similar thing. We are a bit behind the leaders, but well ahead of a lot of the others.

Any Other Business

There is an ITTS course in February for module 2 and there are some spaces available. Module 1 concerns bell handling Module 2 takes it further towards call changes and method ringing. The course is a Barrow and is being run by Heather Peachey.

Philip Green has got some ash for stays if anyone needs any.

The West Lindsey Branch website is defunct, but there is still a link to it from the Guild website. The Guild webmaster will break the link from the Guild website.

Chris Turner told the members that there is the possibility of a ringing centre at Stow. This depends on the work going on in the church, as it needs some rooms downstairs. If successful the work will take 2 years, so a feasible ringing centre may be available in 3 year's time.

Barbara Rand has 3 T-shirts for sale at £2 each.

Barbara Rand then proposed a Vote of Thanks to the Ladies for the tea, Stephanie and Rhys Prosser for taking the service and for the use of the bells, Les Townsend for playing the organ and the members for turning out.

More ringing at St. Botolphs

Melvyn Rose then declared the meeting closed. After the chairs had been stacked away, members procedded back to the church to ring a variety of methods, including Bracebridge Heath Doubles (a method I have never rung before! - webmaster) and especially for the webmaster a course of Primrose Surprise Minor.

Jonathan Clark (webmaster)