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 M E M B E R S  >  A G M   2 0 0 5  M I N U T E S


At the Annual General Meeting of the WOODHOUSE PLAYERS COMMITTEE held on WEDNESDAY 11TH MAY 2005 at 7.30pm in the Welsh Church Hall, Leytonstone.


Steve Balchin, Robert Bettelheim, Vicky Bettelheim, Liz Braithwaite, Phil Braithwaite, Khadija Cheetham-Slade, Oliver Clement, James Conlon, James Goodman, Kate Harper, Ita Hill,. Nicola Holland, Sam Kenny, Carla Maclean, Jenny Moorby, Chris Pethers, Jan Prendergast, Pete Raggett, Salley Rear, Thos Ribbits, Tim Saward (Chair), Sacha Walker, Sonja Wardle, Jackie Withnall


  2. Tim Saward, the Chairman of the Woodhouse Players, opened the meeting by welcoming those present to the proceedings. He 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.


    Tim Saward gave his report on the events of the group over the last year and highlighted the fact that there were twelve productions in total, making it the busiest year yet. He drew attention to the high level of recruitment with thirty new actors but noted that retaining new people was proving a problem. He mentioned the benefits of the move to increased planning and run-in times for productions which had resulted in increased quality of shows. He also mentioned the four awards won by the Group at drama festivals:
    • Best Actor for James Conlon at Havering
    • Best Actress for Liz Braithwaite at Waltham Forest
    • Best New Writing for Jackie Braithwaite at Havering
    • Second Place overall at Havering

    Tim then enumerated the increase in activities which included the programme of workshops, the rehearsed readings, the 24 hour film making, the highly successful cabaret and the various social events. 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.


    James Goodman, Treasurer, provided a written report to those present. He reported on the improvement in the group's financial position over the last year due to strong production profitability, particularly from Jack and the Beanstalk (and with the exception of the Spring Triple Bill of 2004). This allowed for increased infrastructure spending of over £2300 (with a further £750 spent on a follow spot) as well as an increase in financial reserves.

    He explained that the balance at 31st March 2003 was £2816.71, at 31st March 2004 it was £5077.65, and at 31st March 2005 it was £3594.60, an increase of £574.75


    Thos Ribbits, Secretary, presented his report in which he explained the role of the Committee and detailed some of its work during the course of the last year in respect of both productions and infrastructure. He explained how the Committee had supported the scaling up of the group, the drive to develop a local identity, the success of the website, the encouragement of a democratic and open group ethic, the development of skills across the membership, the work of shoring up and improving the current infrastructure (including the long term loft clearing project), the improvement in overall future planning and other 'behind the scenes' work which had helped contribute to the success of the last year.


    Khadija Cheetham-Slade, Publicity Officer, reported the publicity work which had taken place over the last year and the development of publicity guidelines to assist directors and producers. She acknowledged that the Group's audiences were still mostly formed of friends and family of the membership and then gave an analysis of the relative successes of different forms of advertising following several audiences surveys. The clear result was that after the involvement of friends and family, the website, email and targeting publicity were the best methods of ensuring audiences. She supported the Committee's proposals to help distribute responsibility for publicity to small groups of volunteers, centrally and attached to productions.

    She concluded by paying tribute to various colleagues for support over the last year.


    There were no amendments proposed.


    Tim opened the general discussion part of the meeting. A document entitled Woodhouse Players: Challenges and Choices for the forthcoming year 2005-6 was circulated to those present and this formed the basis of the discussion that followed.


    The group noted the need to ensure that new members stayed in the longer term and that equivalent support was given to non-acting functions (technical support, front of house, etc) which was vital to ensure the continued high level of productions. It was agreed that, in particular, greater technical support was required and the following suggestions were made:
    • People who were not successful in winning parts at auditions should be offered another job in the production - this would keep people involved and develop skills. It was important to help people understand that they could still have some role in the production overall even if not selected to act.
    • There was a willingness to learn new roles and assist on the technical side but this needed to be supported when volunteers were inexperienced: not knowing what to do was one of the biggest reasons stopping people offering to help. Shadowing on jobs would also help develop people (eg Stage Managers to also have Assistant Stage Managers)
    • Increased technical workshops (such as the forthcoming lighting workshop) would also assist in overcoming this problem.
    • There could be an increase in the size of production teams which would provide mutual support and free up time for producers/directors. The group should try to move away from having directors only responsible for productions: having producers would help co-ordinate volunteers and free up the director to work on the stage matters. It was noted that this was widely done in other groups, although it was suggested that this should not be mandatory. It was also noted that more than one director could help productions and develop people in a supported way. In addition, team working on productions would also develop a social element to productions which in turn helped keep people involved in the group.
    • There should be a skills audit could be undertaken of Woodhouse Members.
    • There could be a programme of smaller scale productions dovetailing into the gaps between major productions - perhaps with a separate strand of branding (eg Woodhouse Studio) which would allow people to move into technical areas in a smaller scale way which would held development.
    • Considering whether it was better to have a recruitment drive to recruit technical specialists or proactively develop talent and expertise from within the Group, members expressed support for the latter - though that did not rule out welcoming technical specialists into the Woodhouse Players if they were interested in joining.
    • The Group was unanimous is expressing its appreciation to its current technical specialists and in particular Robert Bettelheim and Peter Raggett.
    • It was noted that social involvement was essential for people to remain in the group and as technical volunteers were often not at rehearsals they might feel excluded. It was suggested that production team members should be encouraged to come to rehearsals or to meet to discuss technical matters whilst rehearsals were on so that they and the actors could mix and socialise both during and afterwards.
    • There were some areas where training was harder to develop eg poster design.
    • There were small but essential roles (eg curtain control) that were ideal for people who wanted to start small and develop from there.
    • Engagement in support roles should be assisted by thorough briefings so that people fully understood their roles and felt effective in them. Members were not of the opinion that briefings for and information about non-acting roles had been historically strong, though one of the strengths of the group had been that people were not "put in boxes" and could try their hands at anything.
    • The make up of production teams should not be prescriptive - instead there should be a list of possible backstage jobs for the director/producer to select from. These could be supported with explanatory notes on the website for the benefit of volunteers.
    • The directors guidelines on the website should be increased and improved (eg to include the need for things such as creating a props list, etc)

    Improving Audiences/Publicity

    • It would be good to get increased audiences at events like rehearsed readings.
    • The Group should look to increase its audiences
    • There should be a wider group of volunteers to support publicity both centrally and attached to productions.
    • The model used by Metamorphosis was a useful one to follow.
    • Choosing the Programme Proactively and Making Choices about Individual Projects

    The group then discussed whether the increase in numbers and range of productions over the last year was something that should be continued or scaled back and the following comments were made:
    • The benefit of doing one-offs was that it allowed the group to tackle plays and concepts it was unlikely to do as main productions - and these could be achieved with relatively little organisation (the cabaret being a good example of a popular and successful venture). It also gave another outlet to produce new writing, one of the group's strengths.
    • The workshops were popular and useful.
    • The benefit to the group of its productions should be obvious to the wider membership - things like the 24 hour films had not been formally shown or made available on the website.
    • The current number of productions was impressive, diverse and illustrative of a vibrant and active drama group but it was recognised that any more would be unsustainable. It was agreed that a similar number of events/productions to that of the last year was something the Group should try to do - however, the majority of members did not want to see an increase in the number of main productions over the year, although longer runs were welcome.
    • However some members suggested that there could be a greater number of productions but with smaller casts - as recent plays had tended towards very large casts - and several people supported the Woodhouse Studio suggestion made by Robert Bettelheim.
    • It was noted that one-off productions should succeed or fail in their own right and that it was inappropriate for assistance - particularly at times of difficulty - to be expected from the Committee: certain individuals had had to step in to support events at short notice which was unfair on them. It was important that any assistance required was specified at the beginning of the production process and support for these requirements was needed at that stage - otherwise the production should not proceed.
    • Scheduling needed to be considered to ensure maximum support for events (eg the first cabaret workshop was unfortunately timed and resulted in low turn out). The Committee should look again at its model timetable for the year. It should also avoid running other events in the run up to pantomime as that and the demands of the season made attendance at other events difficult. The same was true in the first couple of months after Christmas - as illustrated by the failure of the original planned date for cabaret in February. However members were of the view that May was a good slot for additional events.
    • The nature of rehearsed readings should perhaps change to make them less like productions and more simply readings but with an element of "exploration" of the play, or they could be included as part of a "voice workshop"
    • Members expressed the following reasons for why more people did not advocate plays:
      • Finding time to read good plays to present
      • People think that advocating a play requires them to volunteer to direct it and there is a fear of the latter
      • People did not have sufficient knowledge of plays to make suggestions
      • People were not aware of licensing arrangements which could affect the choice of plays
      • It did not dawn on people to promote a play.
      • Notice of the play reading sessions was insufficient to allow for people to plan for it.
    • Members expressed the view that the number of play reading sessions per year should be reconsidered to allow both for long term planning and for a closer and more thorough reading of plays.
    • Members discussed if they wanted more direction from the Committee about the kind of plays that the Group might want to produce in some productions slots during the year and agreed that this could be helpful but if nothing appropriate to the Committee's suggestion was made, another play should be produced: Members did not favour there being no production in slots if a play that did matched the Committee's direction was not identified. Members were of the view that they did not want any direction to be skills-based.
    • Members discussed whether the Group should focus on deliberately winning drama festivals. People agreed that whilst winning would be a good result, it was important to choose plays that people wanted to perform rather than on the chance on their winning - nor did they want any play in the triple bill to have "favoured status". The Group was of the view that it wished to win festivals but on its own terms.

    • It was noted that the new Licensing Act 2003 (which comes into force in November 2005) was resulting in such a workload for licensing authorities, that they would be unlikely to be able to deal with new applications until next year.
    • Members were keen to investigate how a public performance licence might be gained and it was noted that a volunteer was needed to investigate how this might be done.
    • The benefits of a licence would be to free up advertising and perhaps increase audience size.


    There being uncontested elections for some posts on the Committee, the candidates for those positions were declared duly elected and so Tim Saward, James Goodman and Thos Ribbits were appointed Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary respectively for the next year.

    There being six 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, namely Steve Balchin, Kate Harper, Ita Hill, Carla Maclean and Sonja Wardle. It was noted that Andy Grant was also a nomination but as he was unable to attend, Tim Saward explained his reasons for standing on his behalf.

    The issue being put to the vote, the following were declared elected as ordinary members of the Committee for the next year:
    • Steve Balchin
    • Kate Harper
    • Carla Maclean
    • Sonja Wardle

    Those present then gave a hearty vote of thanks to Liz Braithwaite and Khadija Cheetham-Slade as outgoing Committee members.

    Tim also thanked the unsuccessful candidates and advised all those present that the new Committee would consider the views expressed at the meeting. He also reminded them that there were many ways in which people could volunteer to help with Woodhouse business if they wished.


    Welsh Church Hall Facilities

    Members noted that had been an increase in the rent payable to the Welsh Church Elders. However, the quality of the facilities had not improved - particularly in relation to the lack of rubbish bins, the expired light bulbs and the continual problem of the low temperature of the hall, particularly in the winter. The Chair agreed that the Committee would approach the Elders with these concerns.

    Loft Access

    It was noted that Robert Bettelheim has produced a plan for easier access to the loft storage area which was to be considered by the Committee in due course.


    It was suggested that there was an opportunity for facilities improvement to be funded by sponsorship.

    There being no other business, the Chair thanked everyone for their contributions and closed the meeting at 10.10 pm.

 A G M   ' 0 5

The '05 AGM was held at the Welsh Church Hall on Wednesday 11th May 2005.

 H E A D L I N E S

Here's what the new committee are doing this year about the issues raised at the AGM:

  • Drawing in more experienced people to cascade their knowledge
  • Expanding the documents/advice available for directors and other team
    members on the website/documentary form. Recording workshops.
  • Pro-active co-ordination of teams on productions; skills audit; consultation with directors to spec the team
  • More workshops about backstage skills
  • Recruit publicity teams for each show
  • Centralising Contacts, Membership Data, Member communications, publicity photos
  • Working more pro-actively with new members
  • Continuing to encourage new writing
  • Developing a base of publicity contacts

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