M E M B E R S >
A G M 2 0 0 5 M I N U T E S
THE WOODHOUSE PLAYERS
At the Annual General Meeting of the WOODHOUSE PLAYERS COMMITTEE
held on WEDNESDAY 11TH MAY 2005 at 7.30pm in the Welsh Church
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
- WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
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
- CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
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
- TREASURER'S REPORT AND STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS<
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
- SECRETARY'S REPORT
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.
- PUBLICITY OFFICER'S REPORT
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
She concluded by paying tribute to various colleagues for support
over the last year.
- AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
There were no amendments proposed.
- GENERAL DISCUSSION:
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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)
- 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
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
- 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.
- ELECTION OF A NEW COMMITTEE
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.
- ANY OTHER BUSINESS
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
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.
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
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,
- Working more pro-actively with new members
- Continuing to encourage new writing
- Developing a base of publicity contacts