THE WOODHOUSE PLAYERS
At the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of THE WOODHOUSE PLAYERS held at the WELSH CHURCH HALL on WEDNESDAY 5TH MAY 2004 at 7.45pm
Alastair Agnew, Steve Balchin, Robert Bettelheim, Liz Braithwaite, Khadija Cheetham-Slade, Oliver Clement, James Conlon, James Goodman, Clive Goodwin, Vicky Harris, Ita Hill, Nicola Holland, Steve Lawrence, Phillippe Lenoble, Carla MacLean, Matt Mitchell,
Natasha Patterson, Chris Pethers, Jan Prendergast, Pete Raggett, Salley Rear, Thos Ribbits, Tim Saward, Sacha Walker, Sarah Webber
- WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Tim Saward, the Acting Chairman of the Woodhouse Players, opened the meeting by welcoming those present to the proceedings. He then went on to explain how the meeting would progress and the issues that were to be considered in accordance with the constitution and the agenda.
- CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
Tim Saward gave his report on the events of the group over the last year. He reminded those present that he had been made Acting Chairman in January after the resignation of the previous postholder, Ian Halverson. He then highlighted the various successes of the whole year, including the eighteen debut performances from members, the many awards won at various drama festivals, the increased number of productions, and the success of these. He also drew attention to the high number of productions written by members of the group. He concluded by paying tribute to all members who had contributed to the Woodhouse Players over the last twelve months and looked to another successful year, building on everyone’s achievements.
- TREASURER’S REPORT
James Goodman, Treasurer, provided a written report to those present who wished to see a copy. He then reported on the improvement in the group’s financial position over the last year, noting that in addition to the income generated by the October production of Dracula - the Vampire Strikes Back, an additional production to usual, all productions had been more profitable than those in the previous year of 2002/3.
He then explained that the balance at 1st April 2003 was £2816.71 and at 31st March 2004 was £5077.65, an increase of £2260.94.
- SECRETARY’S REPORT
Ita Hill, Secretary, presented her report to those present in which she explained the role of the Committee and some of its work during the course of the last year in respect of both productions and infrastructure.
- PUBLICITY OFFICER’S REPORT
Khadija Cheetham-Slade, Publicity Officer, reported the publicity work which had taken place over the last year and having noted the successes, identified areas in which improvements needed to be made, including the website. She proposed that some thought be given to how to publicise the group and its productions in the year to come.
- AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
Tim Saward explained that the proposed revisions to the constitution were being commended by the outgoing Committee, having been previously considered by it. There followed a short debate on some of the changes. It was noted that the revised version of the constitution was available at http://www.saward.info/agm04
It was noted that the reference to paragraphs 18-20 in clause 14 of the proposed constitution should actually refer to paragraphs 25-27, and, if approved, the revised constitution should incorporate this change.
There was concern from some members that they had not had a chance to look at the proposed amendments to the constitution prior to the meeting. Therefore, it was proposed that the proposed amendments to the constitution be put to the vote and if agreed, Members would have the right to comment on them for a period, with the Committee considering any further changes resulting from such comments.
It being put to the vote on this basis, there were 21 votes in favour, one abstention and no objections.
it was therefore
That the amendments to the constitution be agreed and any comments from Members on the changes be considered by the Committee.
- ELECTION OF A NEW COMMITTEE
It was noted that as the revised constitution had now been approved, the election of members to the Committee would follow the requirements of the new version.
There being uncontested elections for some posts on the Committee, the candidates for those positions were declared duly elected and so Tim Saward and James Goodman were appointed Chairman and Treasurer respectively for the next year.
There being three nominations for the position of Secretary, the Chairman invited each candidate to address members of the group for two minutes to explain why they were seeking election. The issue being put to the vote, there were two votes for Ita Hill, two votes for Matt Mitchell and 18 for Thos Ribbits, and so Thos Ribbits was declared elected as Secretary for the next year.
There being eight nominations for the four ordinary member positions on the Committee, the Chairman invited each candidate to address those present for two minutes to explain their reasons for seeking election. The issue being put to the vote, the results were as follows:
- 19 votes for Steve Balchin
- 6 votes for Robert Bettelheim
- 18 votes for Liz Braithwaite
- 14 votes for Khadija Cheetham-Slade
- 5 votes for Vicky Harris
- 2 votes for Ita Hil
- 13 votes Carla Maclean
- 7 votes for Matt Mitchell
And so Steve Balchin, Liz Braithwaite, Khadija Cheetham-Slade and Carla Maclean were declared elected as ordinary members of the Committee for the next year.
Those present then gave a vote of thanks to Ita Hill, Vicky Harris and Matt Mitchell as outgoing Committee members.
- SHORT TERM OPERATIONAL CHANGES
There were none proposed.
- GENERAL DISCUSSION: THE FUTURE OF THE WOODHOUSE PLAYERS
Tim Saward then opened a general discussion on the future of the Woodhouse Players based on a discussion paper entitled Woodhouse Players: Where Do We Go From Here? which had previously been debated by the outgoing Committee and had been made available for all members to consider at http://www.saward.info/agm04
During the discussion the following points were made and agreed.
What Is The Group’s Overall Purpose? Where Do We Want To Be In Five Years?
- The group should scale up and to be known locally for something in particular: the group should build on its strengths and develop a local identity, eg for being a group promoting and producing new writing, being an open group, etc.
- The group should be an open one: New members stated how open, friendly and supportive of new ideas and talent the group was and those present wished to see this continue.
- There should be a wider base of knowledge: The group should share its areas of expertise with each other, including lighting and technical aspects of productions as well as acting.
- There should be improvements to the infrastructure: There was a wide agreement that there was a need to avoid crisis purchasing by having an infrastructure regeneration programme with an appropriate specific allocated budget.
- There should be increased future planning: There should be a move from operating on a production by production basis with more long term planning in all areas (including technical, publicity and acting)
- There should be workshopping: This would develop new skills (in both acting and technical matters) and could also prove a form of revenue generation. In addition, writing workshops could also work as a feedback mechanism for plays in progress.
- There should be an active outreach programme to bring in new skills.
- There should be increased productions/events: other “one off” events, in addition to the set programmed productions, as a way of fundraising, keeping members involved and bringing in new talent. These could take the form of performances such as radio plays, rehearsed readings, mystery evenings and the like - but could also be non-theatrical events such as quiz evenings, etc.
- There should be diversification of venues: The group should consider using different venues as well as the Welsh Church Hall - as this would also allow members to experience working on and with bigger stages and different (and better) facilities
- The Welsh Church Hall should remain the base of the organisation for the foreseeable future: It was acknowledged that the Welsh Church Hall facilities were limited (and constrained to a degree by other Hall users) but it proved a valuable and useful resource which could not be easily found elsewhere.
The discussion then went on to look at specific issues and the following points were made:
- It was agreed that in order to retain members, there should be more productions and events.
- It was noted that the recent historical precedent of four productions a year with a triple bill in Spring, a pre 1945 play in the summer, a more modern play in the Autumn and a pantomime in December/January, could be expanded to allow for a fifth “fully fledged” production during the year, perhaps in Summer, and other “one off” events such as rehearsed readings, etc., being interspersed throughout. It was also agreed that this was a good model but should not “be set in stone”.
- There was a debate on whether there should be increased planning for productions. There was a view held by some that there should be a rolling year of production programming to allow for planning and to reduce the sometimes rushed pre-production work on plays. Others held that the current arrangement of planning a play as the previous production ended was the best method to allow maximum flexibility. However, on a show of hands, the consensus was that there should be increased planning with the summer and winter productions being planned more thoroughly and in advance with the spring and autumn productions being left until later for finalisation.
- However, it was agreed that dates for productions should be planned in advance on a rolling annual basis.
- There was strong support for the retention of the triple bill in the Woodhouse Players annual programme, and that in addition the group should continue to enter local festivals.
- There was a suggestion that there should be more performances of each production.
- It was noted that the current membership was forty five in number but it was generally agreed that the group should look to expand where possible, but in a sustainable way - ie there should be things for all members, whether new or old, to do.
- It was considered that new members helped drive the group forward.
- The group should not just involve members through bigger cast productions at the expense of more thoughtful small pieces, but increase the variety of opportunity.
- There might be benefit from monitoring why people joined the group and if possible why they left.
- There was consensus that outreach should be focused on particular groups, particularly technical people and those with interests and skills in costume design and creation, props and marketing.
- It was suggested that specific events should be held that might attract technical people or people who wanted to learn technical things, such as a workshop on lighting. This should be aimed at both those already in the group and those outside it.
- It was suggested that people learning these skills at educational establishments should be contacted and invited to join the group as a way of allowing them to practice their skills whilst teaching others in the process.
- It was suggested that there be a working party to develop proactive outreach in these fields.
- Programmes could advertise the need for technical people not just actors.
- It was noted that in respect of choosing productions, there had been a move to opening the decisions up to include the wider membership of the group. The Chairman expressed his view that in such matters everyone had an equal voice.
- The practice of advertising Committee meetings to all members should be reintroduced via email - and minutes should be made available by email or online, or in hard copy for those who specifically request it.
- In respect of “inward” contact with the Committee, it was suggested that there be a message board on the website (though this would require monitoring) and, in addition, members should feel free to contact the Committee with suggestions, items for Committee meeting agenda, etc.
- There was agreement that effective public relations were important and that the group would benefit from some branding although not to a restrictive degree (eg posters could have some standard feature identifying it easily as a Woodhouse Production poster, but freedom be retained beyond that).
- There was agreement that there should be a logo for the group
- Nicola Holland explained that she worked for a design and print organisation and offered her assistance in this field.
- The website needed improvement and Robert Bettelheim, Khadija Cheetham-Slade and Clive Goodwin offered to help organise this.
- The group should not be averse to organising specific fundraising events, (which need not be “theatrical” in nature) and Chris Pethers volunteered to assist in this, as he had some professional expertise in this area.
- It was noted that there was a small infrastructure regeneration budget of about £500 but it was acknowledged by the Treasurer that the group had been operating on a “hand to mouth” basis in the past as there had been very little surplus moneys available, which was no longer the case. There was consensus that as infrastructure improvement was important this area would need to be looked at closely.
Practical Issues To Raise
- Tim Saward asked if the group should look to upgrade the Welsh Church Hall facilities or use it merely to raise money to allow for the hiring of other venues. The Group accepted that the Welsh Church Hall was reasonably priced and proved a useful base for meetings and rehearsals as well as productions, and that it could be used every week if need be.
- Audience comfort was an issue that needed looking at - though the recent purchase of uncovered foam chair cushions was widely commended.
- There was a need to purchase sufficient blacking cloths for window and wall covering to create a better theatrical atmosphere in the Welsh Church Hall, as had been proved during a recnet production when there had been complete coverage.
- Other infrastructure issues in the Welsh Church Hall that needed addressing were seating, rostra, sound issues, lighting, stage curtains, and lavatory facilities.
- James Goodman suggested that the group should continue to be based at the Welsh Church Hall (as it was ideal for rehearsals, etc.) but also venture into other venues, getting grants where possible. He added that it made good financial sense to stay based in the Welsh Church Hall and upgrade it whilst also using more expensive outside venues as appropriate. There was a general consensus that this was a good approach.
- Caution was expressed by some as there were other amateur dramatics groups who had suffered long term financial problems as a result of using professional venues and it was suggested that the group should budget for an external venue perhaps every two years, and that risk assessment and management should play a part in decisions to book such venues.
- On a show of hands, everyone was in support of looking to use external venues as appropriate and it was therefore suggested that there be a working party investigating how the group might use external venues.
- It was suggested that a mechanism for allowing people to pay for tickets at the point of ordering rather than on the door as this would overcome loss of potential income from those who did not turn up.
- The group should buy a sewing machine.
- Play readings should be held during evenings rather than on Sundays as this has resulted in a higher turnout of people.
- It was noted that the group was weak not just in technical people but in equipment, and that which it had was poorly organised. The group has traditionally done well when it has been ambitious (eg in pantomimes).
- It was suggested that the actors in the group should also develop some technical support as a form of understudying process to help in areas in which the group was weak.
- The group noted the existence of a nearby facility that offered workshops on recycling materials which might be of benefit. It was suggested that a relationship be developed and that the operators be invited to workshop with the group as a form of training.
- There was a general consensus that productions should have both a director and a producer.
Due to time pressures, it was agreed that there would be further discussion on these matters and others raised in the working document. It was therefore
That that there would be a consultation period of four weeks when everyone would be invited to make comments on any of the issues raised, before the matter was then discussed further, and conclusions implemented.
- ANY OTHER BUSINESS
It was noted that the large scale tidying of the Welsh Church Hall scheduled for Saturday 8th May 2004 in the afternoon would be deferred to a different date to be confirmed and advertised to all members.
It was noted that on Friday 14th May 2004 in the evening, there would be a meeting in the Welsh Church Hall to read through the prospective pantomimes for Christmas 2004 and then decide which should be commissioned.
Members then paid tribute to Tim Saward for his work as Chairman and in return he thanked everyone who had attended the meeting, which had been useful and constructive.
The meeting ended at 10.15 pm.