Thursday 8 May 2008

Warminster Countryside Club AGM 2008


The AGM of the Warminster Countryside Club was held at the Athenaeum, Warminster, yesterday evening (Wednesday 7 May 2008), commencing at 7.30 p.m.

There were 18 people present. Chairman Eve Banks, opening the meeting, said this was the biggest turn-out she could remember and she thought it quite encouraging.

Apologies were taken. Pippa Rosen (had gone to Winchester to see her new grandchild), and Elizabeth and Harry Harvey hadn’t arrived.

The minutes of last year’s AGM, held at the Beckford Centre, Warminster, on Wednesday 16 May 2007, were circulated and members were given a few minutes to read them before agreeing, with a proposer and seconder, that they were a true account. Jim Banks said he was glad they were agreed, as the minutes were a combination of notes taken by three different people!

There were no matters arising from those minutes.

Eve Banks then gave her Chairman’s Report:

She thanked everyone for their support. She said she could name her favourite speakers from last year’s programme: Danny Howell talking about local history, and Paul Sturgess who showed slides of Dorset. She said she was sorry she had been prevented by illness from taking part in the club visit to see Great Bustards on Salisbury Plain. It was wondered whether a second trip to see the Bustards could be made, giving an opportunity to members who had missed out. Biddy Shephard politely interrupted Eve to say that Eve’s talk to the club had been very good too. Eve continued by saying that since the club had moved its meeting place from the Beckford Centre to the Athenaeum they had witnessed more members and visitors which was encouraging. She said this was possibly due to advertising and a notice in the Athenaeum.

Eve gave her personal thanks to her husband Jim for arranging the programme and thanks were also given to Dorothy Yale and her helpers for purchasing the foodstuffs and serving the suppers. David Wiltshire and Sidney Blackmore were thanked for stepping in at the last minute at the Christmas Social, which had been very successful.

Eve, looking to the future, said the Committee would welcome ideas from members with regard speakers and outings. Eve concluded her report by announcing that Di Potter had devised a postal quiz, for members to sell to friends and neighbours, to raise funds for the club.

Margaret Broughton then gave her report as treasurer after a copy of the accounts for the years 2007 and 2008 had been circulated. Margaret said the accounts were fairly straightforward. Income from suppers had increased for the last two years but the proceeds from raffles was down for the same period. Cash in the bank was now £948.57, much the same as last year’s figure of £947.66. There were one or two less members but the club subscription had been raised. There were now 21 paid-up members. Speakers are now charging a bit more than previously.

From the floor, Margaret was asked what the rent was for using the Athenaeum. She replied "£13.75 per meeting, compared to £19 at the Beckford Centre." Geoff Hall, from the floor, commented that the rent might be cheaper but the proximity of parking was a problem.

Margaret, having concluded her report, invited questions.

Pip Potter commented: "We had two members, David and Jean Thornton, but we appear to have lost them." Jim Banks said he had received a letter from the Thorntons which said they didn’t go out much in the evenings now. It was also asked whether Harry and Elizabeth Harvey were still members? Geoff Hall said "I spoke to them and they said they would be coming tonight but they’re not here. They definitely want to stay with the club, they told me that." Jim Banks said he would phone them.

Pip Potter then asked: "Visitors. Are we charging them?" A short discussion followed and it was agreed that regular visitors should become members. Jim thanked David Wiltshire for the advertising he had done. Pip also mentioned the club membership cards. "We have never had them before."

Next on the agenda was item six: the election of club officers and committee. Jim Banks asked whether last year’s officers and committee members wished to serve again. He also asked whether there were any nominations or desires from the floor but none were forthcoming. Jim suggested that the officers and committee from last year be re-elected en-bloc. This was proposed and seconded. Thus: Chairman - Eve Banks; Vice Chairman - Pip Potter; Secretary - Jim Banks; Treasurer - Margaret Broughton; Committee Members - Dorothy Yale (suppers), Geoff Hall (raffle), and Di Potter (fund raising).

The next item on the agenda was ‘Visitors - cost of admission.’ Jim Banks stated that at the last committee meeting it had been decided unanimously to increase the charge for visitors to £2 per meeting. Pip Potter said "Speakers are not going to get any cheaper, and we need to more than cover the cost." Jim Banks said "We are not paying less than £30 to speakers unless they specifically say so." It was stated that Paul Sturgess charges £50 but this was thought only fair as he has to travel up from Dorset and back. A short discussion on speakers’ fees followed. Margaret Price said "People would pay anything to hear Danny Howell." It was stated that a couple of new members, Pam Lawson and Edie Coward, would be joining in September because they had come to the club to hear Danny’s talk. Pauline Charlesworth would probably be joining too.

Biddy Shephard asked: "As well as the yearly membership, could we not charge members a fee at meetings?" Pip Potter replied: "I suggested that a long time ago but it is no longer necessary. I’m not going to resurrect that idea." Jim said: "£10 a year and £2 each monthly meeting?" Pip, raising his voice slightly, said: "No. Good thinking but not really appropriate at this moment." Eve brought the matter to a close by saying: "If we all buy raffle tickets and pay for suppers we are alright."

Item 8 on the agenda was "Matters for discussion introduced by members - time allowed 10 minutes each please." These commenced with "The Future of the Club," which was introduced by Pip Potter. Jim said "I was given a note by Pip, some time ago, in which he was concerned about the state of the club, membership-wise and financial-wise, although our accounts now show the situation is not as bad as it was in the past." Pip started by saying: "I will speak in simple terminology. Phase one. We must consider the club’s viability with regard to sustainable or unsustainable membership. It is becoming a worry. An increase in membership would be healthy." He then went on to say: "Two. We must address the legal disposal of the club’s assets, if it should come to a close. There is nothing in the constitution."

Jim Banks casually announced: "At no time has this club had any rules or a constitution." It was suggested that if the club met its demise an extraordinary meeting would have to be held to dispose of any assets. Jim Banks said: "We shall have to formalise some options at the start of the next season."

Pip Potter then continued with what he was saying: "We must verify the status of payment of subscriptions. We have no idea who has paid and who hasn’t." Margaret Broughton, the treasurer, said she knew who had paid and who hadn’t and stated: "Anyone is welcome to inspect the accounts at any time." She added that there were now 21 members, compared to 18 before. It was announced that there had been more interest shown in the club since the move to the Athenaeum, but organising the programme was a lot of work.

Margaret Broughton enquired whether there should be a committee officer with regard speakers and outings? Pip replied with an adamant "No! If you have an officer for that it will go wrong. They will over-stretch themselves and that will be the end of it."

Danny Howell stuck his hand up and asked Jim: "Did I hear you say this club has no constitution, and what is the status of this club? Is it a registered charity or an unregistered charity?" Jim replied: "The club has no constitution and it is not registered." Danny thought it a matter of importance that the club has a constitution, as it would not only solve the matter of what would have to be done with any assets if the club was dissolved, but would also clarify many other matters. He went on to mention liabilities, insurance and other issues.

Biddy Shephard, also speaking from the floor, said "I think it amazing that this club has survived perfectly well for 21 years without rules." Jim Banks said: "I take on board what Danny is saying and I will put a constitution into action."

Matters for discussion continued with ‘The Venue of the Club," which had been introduced by Alf Lilley, who is disabled. Members agreed that the club’s former meeting place, the Beckford Centre, had been good for parking, the access was okay, it was on the flat, and the room used had been more spacious and more comfortable than that now being used at the Athenaeum. Jim explained the move to the Athenaeum. He said "We had to look elsewhere because the future plans for the Beckford Centre were dragging on. We were ‘in a spot’ to find somewhere else. The committee felt the best option was to come here to the Athenaeum. Eventually the other clubs who meet at Beckford would all be looking for new accommodation and we had to act quickly or be caught up with them. The developers of the Beckford site had promised a new meeting room but we had no knowledge of what that would have meant or what the room would be like."

Alf Lilley then spoke: "It is difficult here [the Athenaeum] for buggies [meaning mobility scooters], but I realise here is proving attractive for new members. There are other places but maybe they are expensive. There is a place [The Red Cross Hall] near the Railway Station, with ample parking [the Lidl supermarket car park] nearby."

Jim Banks responded: "The Athenaeum is a draw for new members. We have new members coming in September. But of course we are sympathetic to the users of mobility transport." It was explained that disabled persons can get into the Athenaeum, using the ramp to the entrance, and although wheelchairs can be navigated through doorways inside, it was not possible for mobility buggies or scooters to negotiate round corners and turning through doorways.

Ann Thomas, who works part-time at the Athenaeum, said: "The Athenaeum are looking for ways to improve this situation but it’s a question of money. They made a bid for lottery funding but the bid failed." Jim Banks said there was another drawback to the Athenaeum. He said "There is parking in the car park [the Western Car Park] behind Woolworths, but having to walk through the alley beside Woolworths in the winter is not good."

Biddy Shephard asked: "Can we find out about the cost of hiring the Red Cross Hut. There are tea-making facilities there and as we have said, there is car parking opposite, at Lidl’s." Danny Howell knew the hire fee for the Red Cross Hall and stated it. Ann Thomas said "We must remember that the Lidl car park is a private car park, for their customers, and there would be an issue if we were parking our cars there while we were in the Red Cross Hall."

Alf Lilley then suggested the possibility of using the small hall at the Assembly Rooms. Danny Howell quoted the hiring charge for that - too expensive for the Countryside Club - and he said there were rules about not taking your own drinks into the Assembly Rooms.

Jim Banks said: "Personally I am not opposed to us meeting here at the Athenaeum but you, the members, must say what you think and make your decision." David Wltshire said: "If you keep changing venues you end up in an awkward position." Pip Potter said; "If we go elsewhere, will we still be able to meet on a Wednesday?" Danny Howell said: "The small hall at the Assembly Rooms is currently being used on Wednesday evenings for bingo." Jim Banks said: "We have to meet on Wednesdays, we don’t want to start changing the days for meetings."

Margaret Broughton, returning to the matter of access at the Athenaeum, asked: "Can they not get grants from the Council to improve disabled access?" Ann Thomas replied: "No, they’ve had all the funding they’re going to get. There are problems because the Athenaeum is a listed building. I’ve spoken to Kim Nicklin and she says the ramp outside is on Council land and not on land belonging to the Athenaeum." Jim Banks said: "Places like the Athenaeum are obliged to provide access for the disabled." Ann Thomas said: "I think they [the authorities] will say the ramp outside is more than adequate."

The penultimate item on the agenda was ‘The Programme.’ Jim Banks stated: "It is a nightmare to get a balance of speakers and subjects, and a bigger nightmare to catch hold of speakers. For example, Warminster Maltings and a proposed visit there. Phone calls and e-mails have been going back and forwards. The trouble is Chris Garrett is no longer wholly in charge. His ‘boss-man,’ Robin, lives in Waltham Chase in Hampshire and travels to and fro. Arranging a time is proving difficult." Jim read out a letter he had written to Robin, which mentioned "the Scarlet Pimpernel, they seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him everywhere." Hopefully the club will visit the Warminster Maltings on 2 July.

Jim was pleased to announce that he has definitely arranged some outings for the summer: The June meeting would be at Beggar’s Knoll, near Newtown, Westbury, and not quite in the shadow of the hillside of the White Horse. Here was a Chinese-influenced garden with pagodas and a large vegetable patch. The club would meet there at 6.30 p.m., admission was £3 per person, and Jim will circulate details, with a map nearer the time.

With regards an August meeting, Jim said he and Eve had ‘argued’ whether an August meeting was possible or wanted, as many members went away on holiday in August. He said he and Eve were going to Sidmouth, to play at the annual Folk Festival, and he knew other members would be away too. He had, however, a contingency for those who wanted an August outing. It was possible to visit Arundell’s, the late Edward Heath’s house and gardens, in the Cathedral Close at Salisbury. It is open on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, with half-hour tours between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Eight people per tour, at £5 per person. There is wheelchair access. Did any one want to go? Eight people expressed a yes. Jim said he would arrange it for Tuesday 5 August, at 2 p.m. If others wanted to go, even if they numbered less than eight, they could join up with other visitors on the day.

With regard speakers for meetings, Jim said he had arranged the October to December meetings. On 3 September, Dr. Cardy and his wife, from Atworth, will talk about the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for nature. On 1 October Nigel Lewis will talk about owls. "Where does he come from?" enquired Pip Potter. "Sherrington," replied Danny Howell. "He puts up all the barn owl nesting boxes on Salisbury Plain," said David Wiltshire, "And he shows wonderful photographs." On 5 November Romy Wyeth will talk on ‘The Village at War.’ Pip enquired once more: "What village?" "Codford," came the reply. "Who is she?" was the next question. "She’s the village policeman’s wife," said David Wiltshire, "Danny knows her." "She’s a tour guide on the Stonehenge bus," said Danny.

In December the club hopes to hold a Christmas Social at Valerie Dale’s farmhouse at Hill Deverill. Geoff Hall said he had spoken to Valerie and the likely date will be Wednesday 10 December, subject to confirmation. Jim said nothing was, as yet arranged for January, February, March or April, but he was confident this would soon be rectified. Geoff Hall said: "Paul Sturgess has promised to come back with a new set of Dorset slides." Members agreed that "everyone wants him back." Geoff suggested that any members with an interest or hobby could give a talk to the club. Biddy Shephard said: "My husband could give a talk on Green Awareness." "We had that subject last year," piped up someone. "No, this would be different," said Biddy. "It would be more spiritual." "I would welcome an explanation on global warming from an expert," said Geoff, but this appeared to fall on deaf ears. Biddy then said "Could Danny Howell come back and talk again. He’s always very good." Danny shook his head and said he was reducing his public speaking commitments.

And to the last item on the agenda: Any Other Business. Margaret Broughton, the treasurer, said: "The money we have in the bank, what shall we do with it? Shall we spend it on outings and things or shall we bank it in a high-interest account?" The response was that the club is not doing anything with the money at the moment, so it might as well bank it, in the Co-op bank or another of the ethical banks, or in a bank that simply pays the highest interest. Pip said: "Investing it is the best option."
Biddy Shephard had an alternative suggestion: "Can’t we give a donation to some tragedy in the world?" Pip loudly voiced a resounding "No! Well not without a discussion at length. What tragedy are you going to give it to? There are so many." Burma and Zimbadwee were two suggestions. "To the people who lost out on the 10p tax rate being abolished," quipped someone else. Jim Banks said: "We won’t agree who to give a donation to." Pip said: "In the past we made donations but the money came from a whip-round of members, not from club funds."

Finally, Di got up and handed out copies of her postal quiz for members to sell to raise funds for the club. One hundred have been photocopied and more can be done if necessary. The quizzes sell for £1 each and the completed entries have to be returned by 3 September. There are 40 general knowledge questions including "Who rode a horse called Foxhunter?" and "What was the name of the frog in the Beatrix Potter stories?"

The business of the AGM terminated at 9 p.m., leaving time for an eight-prize raffle and a chance to partake of some supper.