Quasi-AGM March 2021 - Reports from the Chairman and Committee

Bron Stubbington - Winter Dawn Over the Downs

Below is a copy of the documents circulated to Warsash Art Group members by email on 1st March 2021. Normally the Agenda of the Group's Annual General Meeting includes something very similar, but the 2021 AGM has been postponed from the due date 4th March due to the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Reports from Warsash Art Group Committee Members

Let’s deal with this first as the Group’s continuing existence depends on it: the usual AGM Agenda includes the Members attending the meeting in person and electing a new Committee.  Committee Nominations are displayed on the noticeboard at the November and February Thursday evening meetings. In 2020, nine members of the Committee were elected / re-elected. Namely: -

Chris Francis – Chairman

Jane Johnson – Treasurer

Joan Lee – Secretary

Caroline McGrath - Membership Secretary, also a member of the Exhibition Team

Clair Clark - Evening Meetings Programme Organiser

Fi Haughton - Exhibition Organiser (Logistics)

Rachael Brown Exhibition Organiser (Entries Co-ordinator)

Barbara Chambers – Evening meetings catering and member of the Exhibition Team

Mike Ryde – Member of the Exhibition Team and Logistics

Six of them: Chris Francis, Joan Lee, Clair Clark, Caroline McGrath, Barbara Chambers and Mike Ryde have said they can continue until a new Committee can be elected at a face-to-face meeting. Of the other three: the joint Exhibition Organisers are retiring. Rachael Brown had to step down in the latter half of last year; Fi Haughton is standing down now; and Jane Johnson is very seriously considering standing down as Treasurer. They have all found carrying out their roles increasingly more difficult than when they first took on their tasks, due competing demands on their time and energy. Medical issues affecting them or members of their family among them. The Covid situation has only added to that. The most urgent need now is for someone to replace Jane as Treasurer. Mike Ryde has said he can organise exhibitions once they’re able to resume. He has already had one offer of help, from Diane Hardiman. Barbara Chambers has said she can continue to assist him on the team, but he’ll need more people, including a replacement for Rachael as Entries Co-ordinator, handling the admin.

 Off-committee but still essential are the people who normally organise classes and workshops. At the 2020 AGM, John Meads kindly volunteered to replace Chris Madden after his five years organising the Tuesday classes tutored by Kay LePoidevin at St. Mary’s Church Hall. Aniska Ballingall has organised the untutored Wednesday afternoon classes at Sarisbury Green and worked behind the scenes trying to secure a new venue (see Classes). She is now stepping down. Tina Shaw has indicated she can at least assist here but I know she is very active with other art groups in the area.

There are also various other people who help at evening meetings prior to lockdown. Among them: Chris Lewis, Brian Gray, Steve Phelps, Vic Bird, Karen Clements. Even though they haven’t had much / if anything to do for WAG for the past year, most of them had been helping here and more for some time prior to the pandemic. Thank you to them once again.


 Chairman’s Report (Chris Francis)

Belated New Year greetings to one and all, I sincerely hope that you have all kept safe and well over this last year and that any who may have fallen ill are now recovered or are well on the way to doing so.

No doubt like me you were all thinking we would be back to our meetings and classes this New Year but like me have been rudely disappointed. I live in hope that it won’t be too long before we are back to some form of normality.

As a way of taking our first faltering steps in that direction we had an online painting lesson with Cecil Rice. This first event was free to paid-up members. Whether we arrange any more will depend on how well this is received. If support was sufficient for more there may be a small charge in future [Secretary’s update: indications so far are good].

The committee have had several online meetings over the winter and have had some very deep and heart searching discussions, some of these may not be popular but we feel that we are fighting for the survival of the group: strong words you may think but sadly true. We know we have lost some members who joined originally to exhibit only but and offer no other support.  Not ideal but still a source of income. And others who for personal or other reasons have gone in other directions. We do hope that when we are up and running again, they may come back. As an enticement to members to stay with us, all those who paid their subs for 2020 will not have to pay for the 2021 season.  There will be no refunds for those who don’t wish to stay or because we couldn’t have an exhibition last year.

Talking of exhibitions, we must look forwards to this year’s.  Plans are in motion at this moment in time that it will go ahead, but due to the amount of work involved we will have to reach a cut-off date for a decision soon. With all the mixed advice on lockdowns and other restriction it will not be an easy one to make, what is certain though is that members’ wellbeing and safety will be our highest priority, and always has been. Only members who paid their subscriptions by 30th April 2020 will be allowed to enter their work, and we ask that each person entering must without exemption, (unless agreed beforehand by the chairman) carry out at least two hours stewarding.

Next is a plea for help:

For any group or club to be able to run successfully there are certain positions (jobs) that have to be done. Without them the group will founder, and we are reaching that stage now. I know everyone is busy, but that goes equally for the people at present in those positions. We need a Treasurer, desperately, along with someone to shadow the Secretary and Newsletter Editor. If we cannot get volunteers, we would have no option other than to seek professional help to carry out those duties, which in turn would push up membership fees to what could result in loss of membership, and so the spiral commences. Added to this is the need to find new storages premises which again we no doubt would have to pay for as well. The position of show manager has been taken over my Mike Ryde: he also desperately requires an assistant. We are not sure where we stand with the heavy gang at the exhibition. If you are still willing or newly willing please contact Mike or myself. That also raises the problem of transportation of exhibition screens. Again, if you can or know someone who would be willing please contact Mike or myself.

As the old saying goes “the ball is in you court”. The facts must be faced, all we need is for our membership to stay strong and volunteer.

Meantime all stay safe and well and hope all this will be over with soon.

Chris Francis, 25th January 2021

Reports from other Committee members: compiled by Joan Lee on behalf of her fellow Committee members using information they have provided her during the year, to the best of her understanding.

Treasurer’s Report and Accounts (Jane Johnson)

Jane Johnson contacted NatWest to get the Group’s current account fully enabled for online banking. Though more and more of our Members are paying their subscriptions by BACS, it’s not been possible to electronically transfer money out. Once it’s all done, the account will be update and it will save the Treasurer a lot of work and complication.

Normally at AGMs, the Treasurer makes the Group’s Accounts (breakdown of income and outgoings) for Members to view. She is getting the accounts for 2020 audited (electronically) and will publish them as soon as they are available.

With everything cancelled and fees for hall hire refunded from mid-March 2020 onwards, there were no outgoings for classes, evening meetings after March, or exhibitions and there was no income from the related fees Members usually pay. All the income came from subscriptions renewals.

The key outgoings were: -

Annual Subscription to Zoom Pro which enables the virtual Committee meetings and any other virtual meetings the Group hosts to run without the 40 minute time limit which comes with the free version.

Cecil Rice’s fee for his demonstration last month, £150.

Website hosting (£80pa) and technical support (£70) provided by Web Design Hampshire in Gosport.

Christmas gift voucher to Mrs J who has continued to provide free storage of the Group’s exhibition screens, £50

This coming year, we need to allow for free subscriptions for everyone who renewed last year and there being no guarantee that everyone who didn’t will re-join. As always, the Group needs to cover its costs and not deplete funds. That will include any subsequent online demonstrations, where the artists’ fees are typically about the same as for conventional evening meetings. Therefore, we will probably need to charge members individually as for classes and exhibition entry, e.g., a minimum of fifteen people paying £10 each or 30 paying £5 each.

Secretary’s Report, Newsletters and Information (Joan Lee)

Like everyone else, I’ve found this past year very difficult and unsettling. I’ve missed all sorts of things but have come to enjoy working at home. This time last year, I was preparing for the AGM, followed by the usual spring rush of documents which usually go out to Members as the programme for the coming year gets underway. I subsequently became the bearer of bad news as everything had to be cancelled but thought about what we could offer for our Members online.

I have edited the newsletter for six years and have been Secretary for two. Essentially, I do much of the Group’s behind-the-scenes admin and all-things virtual. You may know me as the person who has been putting out all those emails, including this current series.  I manage the Group’s online presence (website and social media). There I’ve been sharing images of Members’ artwork – mainly paintings – created over the past year. Thank you to everyone who has contributed, and please keep them coming. The festive cards and paintings brightened up what was a very gloomy December. If you use Facebook, you’ll find we have a page and a group. I set up the group for the Group to enable other people to share art-related material. On the page and I can only do that myself. The group is easier to manage. Over 40 people have now joined it. If you’re on FB and would like to join, please search for Warsash Art Group and look for the image of trees painted by Jan Milsom (not the WAG logo as that’s the page). Request to join the group and you’ll be approved.  On Instagram, it’s simply a case of searching for @warsash_art-group and choosing to follow it / follow back and look at the pictures.  The technical side and internet hosting of the website is handled by Gethyn Jones at Web Design Hampshire.

I have also been hosting virtual Committee meetings via Zoom. We now have an annual subscription to the paid-for service, enabling meetings to run beyond the normal 40 minute cut-off. That’s available for any other virtual events other members might like to organise – just let me know if there’s something you’d like to set up.

All the above is a continual learning process. The Committee decided to distribute documents electronically in 2019, to the reduce costs and workload involved in preparing and distributing paperwork. Particularly as I’ve been unable to provide printed material during the pandemic to non-emailing Members (around 15 at the last count), I’m aware they might be feeling even more isolated. I know they include some Honorary Members who played an active role in the running of the Group in the past. I hope they’ve all stayed safe, well.

During the lockdowns I’ve enjoyed working from home and intend to continue as Secretary through 2021 and will then review. Though the various secretarial tasks have helped keep me busy during the lockdowns, I need to delegate producing and printing paper documents, including newsletters to others. If you can help with that, please let me know.

Membership (Caroline McGrath)

I’ve been informed of the passing of three of our members in 2020:  Nigel Javan, Ann Man and Professor Joe Hammond. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and close friends.

Caroline says that 122 people renewed their subscriptions in 2020 and there were no more renewals after the end of April. This was well down on previous years, most likely because we had to cancel everything. Pre-2020 most members joined for tutored classes and to show their work in exhibitions.

Joan Lee is now assisting the Membership Secretary by maintaining the electronic versions of the email and membership lists.

As said in the Chairman’s Report, subscriptions are free to everyone who renewed last year, otherwise you will need to pay £20 to re-join if you’d like to continue as a member of this Group. Subscriptions are due on 1st April and the cut of date to be eligible to show work at the Annual Exhibition is now Friday 30th April. If you’re not sure about your membership status, please contact Caroline.  

 Programme Secretary (Clair Clark)

Clair Clark took on this role at the last AGM all ready to run with a full programme of Thursday evening artist demonstrations and talks booked through to February 2021 by her predecessor Jane Moody, beginning with Ronnie Ireland in April 2020. Sadly, it all had to be cancelled but various artists have been offering virtual demonstrations, usually via Zoom. Last month, Clair booked the first one for the Group: though there were technical glitches, Cecil Rice’s Venetian watercolour painting demonstration on 4th February was well received by Members. 21 people watched the demonstration live and Cecil recorded the demonstration for everyone who couldn’t make it on the night or wanted to watch again and paint along. Thank you to everyone who subsequently contacted Clair and Joan with their feedback (all good) and suggestions. We now hope to organise more virtual demonstrations during 2021, probably asking people to pay individually to cover the artist’s fee.  

 Exhibition (Exhibition Team)

The 2020 Annual Exhibition was due to move a week back from previous years to the final weekend of August to better coincide with the Hampshire Open Studies period and hopefully increase footfall, sales. It would also have enabled everyone exhibiting here to be part of HOS and a chance for Members to publicise their own open studio events. At the start of the first lockdown, August still seemed some way off but in late April the Chairman and Exhibition Team took the tough decision to cancel show. By then it was clear that there would be social distancing for some time to come and there was no indication of what would be possible come the late summer. As far as we’re aware, all other art groups in the area had to do the same. Anyone who has organised an exhibition or played a big part in the team will know there is a lot of work involved before, during and after the event. No one would have wanted to put this usual work into planning and admin during the months before August only to find nearer the time, the show couldn’t run. All our venues are shared community spaces, meaning not everything was under our control. Though many museums and galleries were able to open between lockdowns, they were usually the sole users of the space and therefore had more control of social distancing measures they could put in place.

A decision for this August’s show (again booked for the last week of August) will be made soon.

Rachael Brown and Fi Haughton are both stepping down after four years as joint organisers of our Annual Exhibitions at Warsash Victory Hall. We owe them a big thank you for running such a high quality and well organised show. They improved the layout of the displays and the tearoom offering homemade cakes was always very popular and welcoming. Thanks to Rachael for her efficient handling of the related admin. They have also helped previous exhibition organisers as part of their teams. The good news is Mike Ryde has said he can be the overall organiser. Barbara Chambers can continue to be a member of the Exhibition Team. Thank you to Diane Hardiman for her offer of help. Mike will need more people to assist him, including with the admin previously done by Rachael.

 Tuesday Classes (John Meads)

At the last AGM, John Meads kindly offered to organise the Tuesday morning and afternoon classes at St. Mary’s Church Hall, tutored by Kay LePoidevin, replacing Chris Madden. The plan had been for John to shadow Chris and takeover from him in September 2020. When classes had to be cancelled and the hall closed at the beginning of the first lockdown, September still seemed some way off, meaning there was some hope of getting back and running for the autumn term. Sadly, classes remain suspended, with two more lockdowns and constantly changing government guidelines and restrictions in between. The situation for 2021 remains uncertain, but once we can resume, Kay LePoidevin has said she can return as tutor and the space is reserved for us at St. Mary’s Church Hall.

Untutored Wednesday Classes (Aniska Ballingall)

Unfortunately, the Sarisbury Parish Rooms Committee said last autumn, they could no longer offer WAG the space, even though, according to the member who contacted Joan in November, we’d used it several decades. In their place, Aniska Ballingall has been able to provisionally book space at the nearby Sarisbury Green Community Centre, at the usual 2-hour time slot on Wednesday afternoon, 1.45pm – 3.45pm. The fee would be payable per ten week term and would need to increase substantially from that charged at the Parish Rooms in 2019 to cover the cost of the room hire. Other details still need to be confirmed, including how many people the new space will be able to accommodate.  Thank you to Tina Shaw who has indicated she can at least partially replace Aniska who is now standing down, having organised these classes for at least the past six years.

Joan Lee - 1st March 2021


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