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Central Council Representatives

Central Council Representative’s Report 2019

The 122nd Annual General Meeting of the Central Council was held on 7th September 2019 at the UCL Goldsmiths Campus in South East London. I was the only Ely DA rep in attendance. The total number of representatives present was 149 – fewer than previously - possibly as a consequence of the change in date (previously May Bank holiday).

The choice of venue seemed to work well with excellent facilities in terms of meeting room(s) and immediately adjacent spaces for ringing related sideshows and refreshments. The first day (Saturday) started with presentations by different Workgroups to communicate what they had been working on, how matters were progressing and future plans. This was followed by the Ringing World AGM and then the main Central Council AGM was held after lunch, being wrapped up at about 4pm - it is a much slicker affair these days. The second day was effectively a mini Roadshow with plenty of talks about ringing related projects as well as a few mini-rings and dumb-bell simulators to try out and stalls representing different aspects of ringing and ringing merchandise. There was plenty of opportunity on both days for mingling and chatting with other representatives as well as with the Central Council officers.

This was the first time that general ringers as well as representatives were actively encouraged to attend the meeting(s). Apparently 25% of those who signed up to attend were interested people who were not society representatives.

The Workgroup presentations offered a glimpse into their work in terms of an overall perspective, with more detail being given in the printed papers that were given to all attendees.

My overall impression is that the new format of the Council is bedding in, with necessary ongoing business (such as ringing campaigns, safeguarding advice, publications and maintenance of archives) being attended to, as well as plans for future governance and projects.
There are many aspects to what the Central Council does, and most tend to go un-noticed under the radar, perhaps because they are deemed to be mundane and not of significant interest. This is perhaps because we might take for granted what has been put in place and continues to be maintained and developed to ensure that we can undertake ‘the Exercise’ as we know it and are able to do so with relative ease. I cite here examples such as method and peal definitions and records, relationships with other organisations, particularly the Church, legal frameworks, publications, records and stewardship.

I shall list now the different Workgroups and what they are working on, as well as the strategic and operational aspects of the Council and then will highlight a few activities that might be of particular interest...
  • The Executive meet regularly once a month to ensure plans and projects are kept on track.
  • Finances - the Council have under their control total funds of £400k which consist of General Funds, Bell Restoration Fund, the Fred Dukes International Bell Fund, Publications and the Library
  • The Volunteer and Leadership Workgroup are concentrating on youth engagement and the retention of new ringers
  • The Historical and Archive Workgroup are collecting and disseminating statistics and historical items and has overall responsibility for the library.
  • The Stewardship and Management Workgroup are devising training courses and information about tower infrastructure, tower operation, major projects, physical objects, working with ringers and the Church, and raising money.
  • The Technical and Taxonomy Workgroup are working on bringing together disparate resources concerning methods, compositions and the Dove database by designing and managing information technology and databases, making them available through the internet.
  • The Communications and Marketing Workgroup are working on the CC website development, producing an ‘Event in a box’ ready-made resource for societies to use at local level events, and plans for celebrating VE75, the anniversary of VE day, and looking at how best to engage with different (non-bellringing) groups.
The Council’s forward plan for 2020 is about asking and listening, and being both efficient and effective. Developing the Council’s mission and building partnerships (internal and external), gathering data, working on a Direct Membership scheme, to help with redundant bells and churches and most importantly the recruitment and retention of ringers by developing workshops and introducing a new Ringing Course.

So - what has the Council been doing which might be of particular interest?
  • The Central Council website, which is quite possibly the first port of call for anyone who wants to know more about what goes on in the bellringing community, is still a work in progress and is continually being developed both in terms of operation (look and feel) and in content. Some debate took place on what was in and what has been left out thus far - it is still far from perfect but it is in continual development.
  • The Bells on Sunday resources and communication with the BBC has for the time being been taken over by Alex Fishburn but he now needs to pass this on to someone else to manage.
  • Safeguarding advice seems now to becoming better understood and there is plenty of advice available on the website as well as being available on request for any out of the ordinary situations.
  • The new framework for methods has been finalised and published (available on the website). This has been widely consulted on during its development and should now hopefully be better accepted with its more permissive ethos and content.
  • The Ringing Remembers campaign has come to an end - it was ably co-ordinated by Vicki Chapman who is now the Central Council’s Public Relations Officer. Whilst the campaign had a certain amount of criticism (I cite the poster, as well as its long term legacy, or perceived lack thereof) it has been a successful project led by the Central Council with over 3000 new recruits.
  • The Roll of Honour remembrance ringing project is now almost complete. This has been led by Alan Regin, in his role as Steward of the Central Council’s Rolls of Honour.
  • There is a new President of the Central Council. The previous President, Christopher O’Mahony, has very ably overseen the transition of the Council to its new format over the past three years with his own brand of tact and diplomacy - which was a good set of attributes for this transitional period. What is needed now is a firebrand to ensure that everything comes to fruition, that the forward plan is rapidly put in place and that the future of ringing comes to the fore and is adequately addressed. Simon Linford was elected at this AGM as the new President of the Central Council - he has the requisite qualities of drive and vision, someone who will not take ‘no’ or ‘perhaps maybe’ as an answer and he commands respect at many levels. His track record is impressive and I for one am both delighted and encouraged that he has taken the helm.
I was able to attend several of the Seminars and Workgroup Reports held over the 2 days, but as there were 3 or 4 taking place at the same time I had to choose which I attended, and chose largely where my interests lie. Had more EDA reps attended we could have covered more seminars and workgroup reports. I did feel that there were too many seminars -if you attended during all the time slots then there was no time to look round the various stalls or for networking. This is not a compulsory part of the CC meeting but it is useful.

A bit of history - previously the Council consisted of affiliated societies, each having a number of representatives based on the number of members of that society. These representatives were able to vote on procedural matters arising and were also expected to perform roles within the Committees which did various tasks within the Council.

With the current format of Workgroups and their task-based sub-groups being led by a Workgroup leader who then appoints people to fulfill various tasks, those people are now sourced from whoever might be good at the particular task, with suitable relevant skills, and they do not necessarily have to be society representatives. The idea here is that ‘suitable’ volunteers with requisite skills help perform tasks rather than well intentioned, though perhaps not well-suited, volunteers. The role therefore, in this respect, of society representatives is changing.

Society representatives still have a crucial role to play in scrutinising the activities of the Central Council and to vote on important matters arising, including appointing the Executives who run the Council. Representatives are also able to represent their society members in raising any issues with the Council which are of concern or are considered important.

This then raises the question ‘do we still need the same number of Representatives?’. The answer to that is not currently clear and depends a lot on how far the Central Council reforms go in subsequent years, and is particularly reliant on whether or not the mooted ‘Direct Membership’ scheme becomes a reality. That particular aspect of the reconstituted CC currently seems a long way off, though is potentially next on the agenda in the reform process. In the meantime, by legacy, we still have a number of representatives based on the size of our society.

Q. What are the benefits to the guild of being affiliated to the Central Council in its new format?
A. I think that position has not changed with the reconstituted Council - we all benefit from the top-level organisation that assures continuity of thought on important matters that ensure we are all able to enjoy ‘The Exercise’ in a consistent and well-managed fashion.

Q. What are the benefits for the Guild of attendance of the Guild Representatives at the Central Council meeting?
A. The Representatives are able to scrutinise the work of the Council, to ensure that the Guild and its members benefit from, and are not disadvantaged by, actions of the Council. They are also able to report back to the Guild on what is occuring at Council level and on any related matters. The AGM is also a good opportunity to mix with and meet others from other societies to share thoughts and exchange views.

Q. With the new format Executive and Workgroups, what is the role of the representatives at the meeting?
A. The role of the representatives is to scrutinise the Councils work and to potentially influence its work by lobbying the Executive and the Workgroup Leaders. The Council seeks to always be open to this scrutiny so that it can best represent the affiliated societies and their members. There is a certain element of debate during the AGM but the best way reps are able to influence the Council is by getting to know, and to converse with other reps and the Council leaders, which usually happens during the AGM weekend but outside of the meeting itself. The meeting itself has become a lot slicker and focussed of late, which makes for more time for the truly influential informal discussions that take place outside of the meeting. This of course depends on how pro-active your reps are during the occasion - as well as at other times during the year.

In my opinion, what the Central Council does is generally good and we do benefit from their work. We therefore ought to continue to support the Council and to work with it as best we can. The Council has changed to try and be more relevant to the needs of the ringing community by being open and transparent but also flexible and more permissive in its actions and decisions. It is also trying to engage better with the wider ringing community by inviting all comers to get involved. It is of course run by volunteers and more are always needed. Do you have any special skills which might be of benefit to the Central Council Workgroups and are therefore able to help better serve the wider ringing community?
Sue Marsden

Central Council Report 2016

The 119th CC meeting held on 30th May at the Best Western Royal Beach Hotel, Portsmouth

The Association's representatives; Phil Bailey, George Bonham, Sue Marsden and Paul Seaman were in attendance. The total number of representatives was 169 (significantly lower than last year). The meeting started promptly at 9:30am. Early business saw the unanimous approval for the election of John Barnes as a Life Member for his outstanding contributions to the CC and his expertise in fund raising for numerous restorations and new rings throughout the world. The proposal for two additional members, Stella Bianco and Robert Cooles was then put to the meeting. Stella withdrew her nomination and Robert Cooles was elected unanimously.

There were eight motions in front of the Council, some administrative and others were potentially contentious. The President called for calm and reflective decision making.
  • Motion A was to wind up the Ringing Foundation Limited and passed. 
  • Motion B was designed to speed up council protocol by electing committees in advance and was passed unanimously. 
  • Motion C was again administrative and changed the terms of reference for Redundant Bells and passed. 
  • Motion D was withdrawn (Voting by proxy) to allow for more reflection. 
  • Motions E and F were presented by John Harrison (Oxford DG) in an effort to make the Council more relevant and appropriate for the 21st century as many ringers throughout the country question the validity and need of the Council for most activities. A working party is to be set up and report to the 2017 meeting. After some considerable time both motions were passed with slight amendments. 
  • Motions G and H were passed which allow more flexibility in method construction and how peals may conform to the rules of the Council. For example, there is no limit on the number of places an internal bell can make in a plain course, a relaxation on allowing partial extents in a peal of doubles, minor and triples (i.e. a peal of 5100 doubles will now be approved if it has 42 full extents and 60 changes), handbell peals of minimus will be allowed (however, if one ringer rings all 4 bells then an umpire must be present) and the naming of methods in lower stages require only a quarter peal for triples.
The reports of various committees were then discussed and accepted. Most of these were approved without contention, however, the Ringing Trends committee had lost its Chair and IT consultant mid way through the year due to criticism of their work in an open letter to the Ringing World from a prominent ringer. The entire committee felt quite aggrieved by this attack and resigned en mass. No delegate was prepared to stand on the committee as an act of solidarity and although the committee technically exists, has no members. 
Following lunch, the RW AGM was held (despite an effort to postpone since the requisite notice had not been given). Members present voted to go ahead with the AGM. The Board of Directors was more settled and all members stayed in post. The Ringing World chairman, Nigel Orchard, was pleased to announce that the RW had made a profit last year, primarily due to donations, and the need for raising the subscription rates and the compulsory charging of printing peals and quarters was deferred. The RW can stay in its present form until at least July 2017 and the Board are considering a different printing process which may be suitable for a low circulation of 2,600 copies. The Board are seriously considering a fortnightly publication as the recent survey seemed to find favour with this option. Again, a plea was made to increase circulation and members were encouraged to ask towers to take a copy for their ringers at their home Churches. 
The meeting closed at 5:30pm and the 120th meeting will be held in Edinburgh next year.
Paul S Seaman

Central Council Report 2015

The 118th CC meeting held on 25th May at the Mercure Hotel, Hull.

The Association's representatives; Phil Bailey, George Bonham, Sue Marsden and Paul Seaman were in attendance. The total number of representatives was 191. The meeting started promptly at 9:30am. Early business saw the election of Robert Lewis (Editor, RW) and Jane Wilkinson elected as Additional Members and Kate Flavell (immediate past President) elected as PR Officer.

There were two motions in front of the Council. Firstly, to widen the scope of the Biographies committee, which, after little discussion was approved. Secondly, changing future dates of meetings, following a proposal by the Admin committee from the traditional Bank Holiday Whitsun weekend to the first weekend in September, was narrowly defeated. It was felt that not enough detail was given to the membership to form an opinion and there were added complications regarding dates of school holidays, etc.

The Admin committee had also put forward a suggestion to alter the ways that committees are nominated at these meetings, which themselves take up valuable meeting time, and will be addressed during the next Admin committee. This was passed unanimously.

The reports of various committees were then accepted. This included the ‘under-fire’ Methods committee, which had come under scrutiny in recent months following the furore last year. The well publicised attack in the RW by Phil Earis and others, following the call from the Vice President to accept the status quo, came to nothing as the Methods Committee feel they need more time and expertise to provide a structure suitable for all. The meeting accepted this approach, due to the fact that last year, many felt that the information was too complex for most members to vote decisively.

In a unique approach, the meeting then adjourned to allow break-out sessions. All East Anglian reps (including Ely and CUG) were convened in an ante-room to discuss the future of ringing following Elva Ainsworth’s document on recruitment, training and retention. We were able to discuss openly the good and not-so-good aspects in and around our Associations. We thank Brian Hullah, Michael White, Jez Bottley, Jonathan Shanklin, Dianne Cernak and Laurice Suess for their contributions. The other Associations were intrigued and impressed by the Cambridge District’s Gipson Trophy as a method of bringing ringers together. The advent of the ITTS and RATS were well received and the Ridgman Trophy accepted as a focus for good ten bell striking. The point was made from Herts that many monthly meetings do not meet the demands of modern ringing practices and they were actively reviewing these to use this time more effectively. Essex had already revamped their monthly meetings to concentrate on training. We were encouraged to use web links from the surrounding Associations in an effort to bring better communication to the whole area rather than district levels. Generally, it was felt that top-down edicts would be fruitless in the long run and ringing in the future will require strong leadership in the tower at grass roots level to progress. Recruitment is not as problematic as retention.

Following lunch, the RW AGM was held and the perilous state of the RW regarding its finances was highlighted. In the present state of affairs, the RW could survive for a further 15 months before becoming insolvent. The mood of the meeting was that the RW should survive in its present format but the Board of Directors were actively researching charging for quarters and peals, looking to produce a fortnightly or monthly publication, higher subscription rates and looking for more volunteers to assist editing. The Board, which had suffered 4 resignations in the past 12 months, asked for the membership to restrain from issuing edicts at this stage to allow them to be pro-active in their decision making to ensure the future success of the journal. Any constructive comments to the Board would be gratefully accepted.
The meeting then reconvened to accept the remainder of committee reports. Very little discussion was made regarding these reports.
The meeting closed at 5:00pm and the 119th meeting will be held in Portsmouth next year.
Paul S Seaman