Report of The Central Council AGM

SATURDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER 2020

The meeting should have taken place at Nottingham University but of course that was prevented due to Covid 19. Instead it was held by ZOOM and Annie and I metaphorically walked into unknown territory! However we need not have feared, we were led every step of the way by brilliant organisation and Techno skill.

We had both been asked to register some weeks before the actual meeting and had received the ‘secret link’ for login on the day. Although we could have logged on in our own homes we decided to meet and socially distance in my house so that we could debate controversial issues together: after all, we vote on your behalf, not on our own behalf, and therefore must look to your needs and what is best for The Guild.

We were asked to login between 10.15 and 10.25 and once logged in we were able to see, and join in the live chat, and Annie sent The Coventry Guild’s greetings to all the attendees. When the meeting began at 10.30 134 attendees had signed in and another 44 were following the proceedings on YouTube – perhaps potential delegates for the future.

So, how did it all work? Only 4 faces appeared on the screen – The President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer, although all our mug shots could be seen by the behind-the -scene Techno. He also had the power to keep us mute until we were asked to speak, (when you would appear in a small box at the bottom of the screen.) Oh if only we had that power at some meetings!!

A word of caution here- if you wanted to speak you had to put your hand up – so sudden movements could have added you to the list of questioners: a bit like inadvertently bidding for something at an auction!

Voting for motions was easy too: Proposing and seconding a motion was on a ‘first past the post to hit the button’ basis, then the motion popped up on your screen, you hit the appropriate box, and submitted it. Within a few seconds when voting closed the result came up on the screen. In many ways this was a better way because it was always a secret ballot and therefore, probably, more realistically reflected people’s feelings.

The other advantage of using this method was that you could hear everything the leaders and participants said unlike the ‘real meeting’ when microphones are rushed around the auditorium to the speaker, by which time you’ve probably missed half of what is being said.

  • The Business followed the usual Agenda with the report of 66 Societies now being affiliated. It was recorded that 14 Present and Past members of the Council had died over the last twelve months and there was a minute’s silence of respect.
  • The most contentious issue in the first part of the meeting was the application by the Clerical Guild to be affiliated. There were strong reasons given on both sides, but with the debate about small societies in the offing, the on-going possibility of individual membership, Annie and I felt this was not the time to support this application, despite the fact that we both agreed that we believe ringing should still have a religious connection, not purely secular. The motion did gain its 75% support and was carried.
  • The most long-winded session was the updates from the individual workgroups, although it was agreed that the work done in COVID 19 Risk Assessment and guidance on how to (or how not to) manage the return to ringing had been ‘ahead of the game’. To some this was seen as ‘Nannying’ but to others it gave them a reassurance that basically we were all in the same boat.

(Full Workshop reports can be found on the CCCBR website: Council Papers P16-P37)

Two new Workgroups have been instituted over the year:

  1. “The Senior Stakeholder Liaison” Workgroup
    This group has been tasked with making links between the Church of England, the Government, Amenity Groups and Major Fund holders with the aim to ‘put ringing on the cultural map’ and to strengthen the links with Church Authorities.
    Currently there are 42 Diocese which will undergo restructuring and we will be asked to send letters to our Bishops to ask two questions: How do they believe we contribute to the cultural landscape of their Diocese, and how will Guilds be affected by the re-structuring? It was pointed out that both these questions are a bit ‘woolly’ and we were advised that the group would be putting out more specific guidelines and questions for people to ask.
    Watch this space!
  2. The Young Ringers, Schools, Youth Group Liaison Workshop.
    This group had been tasked with making contact with groups such as Guides and Scouts, Boys and Girls Brigades and schools with a view to recruitment, possibly via badges, or voluntary work options. A link with lessons, and handbells was suggested for schools.
    We felt this was ‘re-inventing the wheel’ and Annie pointed out to the meeting that a lot of this work had been done by ART and also CDG had already got their lesson plans from time spent at Warwick School, which she was willing to share.

Simon Linford then outlined what the aims were for the future which would involve several of the groups.

a. Covid 19: these would continue to be put out as guidance, updated on Fridays, but should be looked at with local assessments of the pandemic.

b. He asked -Would it be useful for Individual Guilds to build strategies with their own Bishops?

c. Direct Membership still to be addressed

d. Reduction of size of Council reps still to be addressed

e. Mobile Belfry Construction: plans in progress for first one: easily transported, can be erected in an hour, can be borrowed by any Guild. Taylors have already offered the first bells and framework. Hopefully more than one will eventually be available and each stored in a different part of the country.

f. New Residential Courses: the hope is to encourage local Guild to organise their own with Guidance and materials from the Council. The initial main focus (when permitted) will be in the NW.

This provoked a lot of discussion from the ‘been there, done that’ brigade, most of which could have been avoided.

g. Strategic Priorities: being explored – see RW articles from Simon Linford.

  • Financial reports and acceptance went through without a problem, Officers were elected as had been notified and reminders made of the Governance Review that would have to take place in 2022.
  • Then we came to Item 17 – the motion to allow smaller ringing societies to join the Council as Registered Small Societies. What a can of worms this opened! The long-winded debate that has raged through the RW in recent weeks continued here – to such an extent that the whole meeting had to be adjourned because the CC Meeting was now encroaching on the RW AGM which many of us had booked into. Time now 2.15pm!

Apart from a small 10 minute ‘comfort break’ earlier there had been no breaks at all, so coffees and lunches had to be taken ’on the hoof’ whilst still attending the meeting! However, the lunch was much better than we normally get at CC Meetings and it wasn’t the usual ‘bun-fight’!

Unfortunately the RW AGM also ran into difficulties and overran its time! – see separate report.

  • The Meeting Resumed at about 4pm and the debate on item 17 continued, not without a lot of hot air, harsh criticisms, and massive concerns over the ‘Safeguarding’ issues. If only Simon Linford had ‘kangarooed’ the debate we would have finished a whole load earlier! However at the final vote the motion was approved.
  • Future Meeting venues:
    2021 Nottingham, based at St Mary’s
    2022 No Offer
    2023 Suffolk
    2024 Devonshire Guild

The meeting finally closed at 5.30pm

There will no doubt be criticism over the length of the meetings but overall this was one of the better meetings I have attended due to the organised way it was conducted