The first meeting each year of the Guild’s Executive Committee is arguably the most important. The Committee consists of the District and Guild officers, the Central Council representatives and a few other co-opted members who fill specific posts, so it is a big committee with over 20 members. The newly-elected District Officers were welcomed to the committee. It is good to see fresh faces offering their time and energy for the good of the Guild. Sadly, a number of stalwart guild members had passed away since the last meeting, and the committee stood for a few moments in respect.
There were 24 items on the agenda, many needing careful discussion and thought: even after two and a quarter hours of discussion, important items had to be deferred.
After checking through actions agreed by the previous meeting, the meeting kicked off with the accounts for last year and the budget for the coming year, ably prepared by Chris Rogers. There was nothing contentious and it was good to report that the year ended with a modest surplus, so the committee did not need to consider any increase in subscriptions.
Next came a discussion of Bell Restoration activities. The committee agreed to make a grant of several thousand pounds towards a major overhaul at Aldershot and were also informed of other projects in the pipeline. The Bridget Gordon Legacy continues to challenge the committee – applications for awards are progressing but as always the applicants have a lot of work to do in getting approvals, faculties and raising the rest of the funds. Nevertheless, it is possible that the first grants could be made this year.
For some time, the committee has been considering the future of the Library, which is housed in the crypt and tower of the Cathedral. The library committee works continually to look after the books and journals, which form an impressive and important collection. It also contains a full archive of the Guild’s records. By its nature, the books have to be protected and so are only open when a member of the Library Committee is present, usually by arrangement. The committee continues to consider whether this is the best way to house the library and make its content available. The acquisitions policy is also under review. The discussion included the use of digital storage and access. We were told that the Cathedral (which is glad to hold our library) was considering similar issues for its own library and that we might be able to benefit from their work, so the issue is somewhat in abeyance until we know more.
The website was discussed next: it had outgrown its previous hosting platform and had to be moved to a new one, which took our webmaster a lot of time, but functionality is now restored. Communication with members and the wider world were the main discussions under Public Relations. The Guild is doing a number of interesting things – perhaps the most significant are the Young Ringers’ Group and a South-Eastern Young Ringers’ Striking Competition. The PRO was asked to draft articles that could be of wider interest and to get them published.
After hearing about various training and recruitment initiatives, there was a serious discussion about Safeguarding. The Church of England has upped its requirements for all trainers and those dealing with young people and vulnerable adults in ringing to have DBS certificates. This will be handled by individual towers and such certificates are then understood to apply throughout the Diocese.
The nomination of Guild Officers and Central Council Representatives and appointment of Officers and Sub-Committee Members was the next business and it was pleasing to note that we have nominations for almost all posts.
The next item was undoubtedly the most difficult: we have one vacancy for the post of Vice President and the Rules require the Executive Committee to nominate someone to fill the vacancy, to be approved by the AGM. But two equally deserving nominations have been received. The committee is split, with the result that the nomination has been deferred for a second time and cannot be made for another 12 months.
After dealing with some administrative matters concerning the Guild Report, it was agreed to defer important discussions on the provision of resources and services by the Guild, and of the Health and Safety Policy. A lot of work has been done on these and time is needed to study the discussion papers and agree the best way forward.
We then heard from the District Masters about their activities since the last meeting and their plans for the coming year. This is an opportunity to share ideas and experiences.
Next was an up-beat report on the Young Ringers Group Practices, which are going from strength to strength. The enthusiasm is palpable and bodes well for the future of the Guild. We were warned to expect a very serious challenge at the 6-bell striking competition on the AGM day! After hearing about the other major Guild events, including the dinner, Holy Week training and the 8 and 10 bell striking competitions, the formal meeting closed, although some were deprived of a quick visit to the pub by the need for various sub-groups to discuss the issues that had been generated.
How do you, the ordinary member, benefit from this huge amount of effort– or is it a waste of time? I suggest you should ask yourself what would your ringing be like without the Guild? Quite likely your bells would be in less good repair, and you would find it harder to get the expertise or raise the money to have them fixed. You would probably find that you had very few new ringers coming through. Towers could become silent. You would find it even harder to deal with the rules on health and safety and safeguarding. You may need to organise all your own practices, quarter peals and peals: ringing would become more anarchic and you would sorely miss the fellowship, mutual help and support. In fact, you would have to set up a Guild!