34th AGM 2018 Minutes

Minutes of the 34th Annual General Meeting of U3A, Henley-On-Thames, held at YMCA, Noble Road, Henley on Thames on Wednesday 11 April 2018.

Members present: 45

Committee Members in attendance:

Charles Whittaker, Chairman. Mike Pugsley, Treasurer. Jennifer Peacock, Membership Secretary. Annie Fitton, Secretary. Catherine Notaras, Publicity Co-Ordinator. Penny Evans, Talks Organiser. Gill Le Du, TVN Representative. Pat Planner, Mailing Co-Ordinator.

Apologies for Absence: Colin Hatcher, Denise Keir, Judith Young, Susan Adams, and Ruth Matthews.

Minutes of 12/4/17 AGM: Minutes of this Meeting have now been on the website for the last 12 months, and our Chairman hopes we have been able to access them. Approved by Jennifer Peacock, seconded by Annie Fitton. There were no matters arising.

Chairman’s Introduction: Our Chairman welcomed all present and was especially pleased with the attendance. Charles requested Group Leaders when addressing the audience, to come to the front, rather than speaking to backs of heads. This would facilitate being heard. Jean reminded us that a microphone could be arranged should we need one.

Our Chairman was pleased to report we have had a very successful year. Membership had been declining for a year or two, and we have actually managed to turn that around. Membership is growing well through the 150 mark again and getting very close to 160 presently. In terms of Groups, a couple of years ago, we had 10 - which went to 9. We are now back to 15, which is very encouraging. The Gardening Group has been resurrected in the form of an allotment at Waterman’s Allotments. Those attending seem to enjoy the lunches as well, which is in the true spirit of the U3A. We had a Card Games Group - Canasta and Bridge. Gill Le Du is starting a Science Group. Short Walks is also starting again on a monthly basis, due to the efforts of Jacky Holcombe. Many thanks to Keith Appleby, we have started an Arts History Group. Keith has given 2 Talks already and one pending this Monday 16 April at The Sacred Heart. On 21 May, I shall be talking about Amedeo Modigliani, Italian painter and sculptor, whose works are exhibited at Tate Modern. We have a Spanish Group in the early stages of starting. We are lucky to have a native Spanish speaker. Our Chairman is in the throes of setting up a meeting for that. Dianne Sharp will speak a little later on her thoughts of starting a Wine Appreciation Group. In a month or two, we could be up to 17 Groups. Our Discussion Group, which started a couple of years ago, is full and going well. Philosophy is we need Groups to attract people; we need people to fill the Groups.

Our Chairman confirmed we are experiencing an increase in membership and also an increase in attendance at the various Groups. Adding to that the TVN., Study Days; we have started to get members from Henley attending those. There are many opportunities for ongoing learning. In addition, on the Marketing side, we have been doing a lot of work, thanks to Catherine Notaras. We had a Stand at the May Fair and also the Henley Show. All thanks to the Henley Council for allowing us that space. Due to these events, we are able to advertise our U3A and be heard. We are also getting regular reports in the Henley Standard, on the Clubs section. Our Chairman explained that he is endeavouring to make our Website a little more dynamic, and has put a new page on ‘Current News’ ; what has happened and what is coming up.

With reference to our Coffee Mornings, our Chairman thanked those on the Committee who arrange these, and is very encouraged by how the Committee welcome new members, and the enthusiasm shown.

Our Seasonal Lunch in January held at Badgemore Park Golf Club was a great success, thanks to Sylvia and Mike for organising that.

Sylvia continues to organise trips to Reading for Classical Concerts. We also attend ballet and opera at the Regal and a play at the Kenton “Importance of Being Ernest”, which we have been reading at the Play Reading Group.

Our Chairman emphasises that although there is a great deal going on, there is always room for more members to help. When Charles attended a ‘Town Meeting’ at the Town Hall recently, they all had the same message: ‘more members/more volunteers’. If anyone would like to be more involved with the Committee, or just help with the administrative side of things, this would be a great help. Inevitably programmes filter back to our Chairman, who already does the huge task of being Chairman, but he is also a Group Co-Ordinator, Editor of the Newsletter, and Website Manager.

Our Treasurer, Mike, will tell you about subscriptions. We have held these at £15 per annum and that includes £3.50p which buys us the magazines which are sent from Central Office. It is not an expensive membership. At present, most members are on email; 22 of whom are not. One of the largest expenses we have is the distribution of the hard copy of the Newsletter, Application Forms and Notices in December. It would be very helpful in keeping costs at a minimum, if we could agree that we could pick them up on the Website. If this can be achieved, we may be able to hold on to the £15 per annum, for a year or two.

Our Treasurer will also mention that we are very fortunate to receive a Grant from the Town Council of £300. This is equivalent to £2 per head for the educational work we do. Thanks again to Catherine working in the background to achieve this.

Diana Hex celebrated her 90th birthday recently. Our huge congratulations to Diana. We acknowledged this on her special day with a bouquet.

Our Chairman welcomed new members who were able to attend. Our Chairman took this opportunity to thank his Committee for their hard work, positive attitude and enthusiasm - taking us forward as a Branch. Colin Hatcher was not able to attend, but Charles would like to record his grateful thanks to him for keeping up the Database for 6 years; an example of one of those background administrative tasks of which few are aware, and takes up an inordinate amount of time. The good news is that Our Chairman’s wife, Ros, has agreed to take on this role. If I could also mention Annie, who when Jennifer visited her family in New Zealand for 3 months, Annie took on double duties as Acting Membership Secretary and Secretary. Furthermore, our Chairman would like to thank all our talented Group Leaders who continue to run the Groups with enthusiasm. Some of the work presented here at our AGM today - paintings, poems and short stories which exemplifies their interest, keenness and skill.

Again on the subject of Membership - many new members have joined through your recommendations. Our Chairman emphasised this last year, and members have responded well. Charles knows that there were 30 new applications during the last 12 months, many of whom were from first hand recommendations. This continues to be one of the best ways to attract new members.

Treasurer’s Report: Mike advises that these have been audited and passed by John Cave. He is pleased to report that the 2017 Accounts have settled down to represent a typical picture of expenditure this year. This is largely due to the fact that they are free from distortions caused by advanced payments and payments in arrears, which have plagued previous years. The Accounts show a handsome surplus of £472 which has left us with a very healthy £3,176 bank balance. We expect to spend substantially on our publicity, etc., in 2018 to fully justify the generous £300 Grant donated once again, by the Town Council. This is attributable to Catherine who lobbied for it as our Publicity Co-Ordinator.

Expenditure on Capitation Fees and Direct Mailing of the “Third Age Matters” magazine, totals £1,040 which accounts for nearly 40% of our overall expenditure. The U3A Headquarters provides invaluable Insurance, Legal and other guidance and advisory services- so in essence, we do get something back for it.

Finally, we are indebted to our Auditor, John Cave, who has indicated his willingness to do us the honours again next year. Mike thanked John. Unanimous vote to re-appoint John as Auditor.

Our Chairman advised there is something like 48 Specialist Subject Advisors from U3A Trust, who work for nothing. However, do receive travel expenses.

Mike put the vote forward for acceptance of the Accounts. Proposed by Catherine Notaras and seconded by Gill Le Du.

Our Chairman thanked our Treasurer for all he does. This is an example of another job quietly going on in the background. We are very grateful to Mike for his valuable contribution.

Group Leaders and Conveners: Our Chairman advised that the idea of a Group Leader is one who is knowledgeable and can advise about that particular subject. Other U3As have Conveners - this is a person whose job it is to call people together and send out emails accordingly. In the Discussion Group, for example, different Leaders lead the Groups. So our Chairman has changed it to ‘Group Leaders and Conveners’. Now that we have the enormous number of 17 Groups, our Chairman requested that not only do Speakers come forward to address the audience, but also the Conveners.

Talks Organiser: Penny Evans introduced herself for the benefit of the new members attending. Penny was enthusiastic about the diversity of subjects covered, and the quality of the Speakers she has been able to find through her research. Penny finds Speakers through newspapers, magazines, sites visited and the U3A supplies her with a list. Penny advised those members who attend her Talks at the YMCA, Henley, have grown from 25-35 to at present, in the 40s. This is encouraging and it is a good opportunity also to invite non-members. Talks take place in this building on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, for 8 months, as historically June/July/August and December are not supported as understandably, due to holidays. Talks last approximately one hour, followed by tea and biscuits served by Pat Planner and Angela Leveing. Penny thanked Pat and Angela for their support.

Art Group: Pam Lincoln was excited about how the Art Group is thriving. This has 20 members and a small waiting list. This is because the table set-up can only accommodate 20. Pam explained they meet twice a month - some tutored, by a professional artist, some not tutored. They practice Chinese Brush Work, Ink Work, Pallet Knife, Acrylic, Water Colour - all various mediums except oil painting. At the end of the tutored Workshop, the Tutor will view all the work and make very helpful and constructive comments. Denise Keir, who is one of our members and very talented, has compiled a detailed list of our accomplishments on display today. Pam encouraged everyone to view that and also a sample of their paintings.

Book Group: Stephen Valdez explained this Group meet on 4th Thursday of each month at 4.00pm at the River Rowing Museum. They however, do not meet in December. On deciding the books to read, members produce a long list and vote on it. Three books are chosen. They are usually fiction, but occasionally they have a biography. And occasionally an older book, for example ‘The Great Gatsby’. The procedure is, each member gives their opinion of the book. Finally, Stephen explained that the Group have open suggestions/recommendations of books they have been reading, which could be of interest. The Group still have room for one-two more members should you wish to join.

Art History Group: Keith Appleby indicated to our Chairman that he would be happy to lead the Art History Group. Keith is still in transit from Cornwall to Henley, but once settled in South Oxfordshire, Keith would be prepared to take on more responsibility and to organise this Group on a regular basis.

Day Walks: Our Chairman explained that Jill Kendal, who organises these walks, could not attend today. They cover 8-10 miles, stopping for a pub lunch along the way. This is an enthusiastic Group who hold their own separate Seasonal Lunch. Over 30 members attend this Luncheon, including partners, which is an indication of enthusiastic involvement. This year, Stratford-Upon-Avon was their Annual Trip visiting also the Theatre.

Short Walks: Our Chairman advised that Jacky Holcombe who was part of the Day Walks, has agreed to re-start this Group. Approximately 10-15 members turn up for a 2-3 mile walk.

Discussion Group: Catherine Notaras advised they have about 15 members and approximately 12 attend at one time all of whom contribute to discussions. They meet every 2 months at Christchurch. Gill is going to lead one in the new academic year, and Pat will discuss ‘Belief in the 21st Century’.

Creative Writing Group: Our Chairman explained they are a fairly small Group. At present we have 5-6 members and Charles has set a maximum of 8 members. They meet on the 1st Thursday of the month at 10.00am at the Henley Library. Charles endeavours to take people through various aspects, techniques and skills involved with writing. At the moment, writing memoirs seems to be popular. One member has written a novel of 110,000 words which is inspirational. Our Chairman reiterated that if anyone would like also to write their memoirs, they are very welcome to join the Group.

Poetry Group: Our Chairman mentioned that Clive, the Group’s Convener, who cannot attend today, is attracting 7-8 members every month. A whole variety is considered, from the Victorian Era and Shakespeare, to the Liverpool Poets.

Play Reading: Gill Le Du explained that this Group has been running for 2 years. They meet on the 2nd Monday of the month, 2pm, at Gill’s home. They mainly focus on shorter plays to allow time for discussion and to give as many as possible the opportunity to read. No acting skills are required, and they are a relaxed and supportive Group. At the moment, they are half way through the play ‘The Importance of Being Ernest”, which is very humorous. Gill welcomes anyone who would like to join them.

Music Appreciation: Sylvia Pugsley explained this Group meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 2pm., at The Christchurch Centre, to listen to, and discuss, mainly classical music. This is open to all members, who just turn up; no booking is required. Over the last 2 years Sylvia described in more detail that members have worked their way chronologically through different classical styles. They have nearly finished the Romantic Period, and next month, Sylvia hopes to start the Impressionist Period, 1880-1920. From time to time, Sylvia is inspired to do something that is not chronologically related. On their next meeting, they are going to study a brilliant young British Cellist ‘Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who won the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award, then aged 17 years old.

French Intermediate Group: Jill Vallis pointed out that the sessions commence at 2.30pm, on Friday every 2 weeks, at Jill’s home in Sonning Common. Jill hosts it, but is not the Leader of the Group. They generally commence with a few sentences from each member about their activities/interests, etc. Then a text is read for translation. Louisette Johnson, who has now moved to Abingdon and no longer attends, was an excellent teacher. Jill said that they are lucky to have now a qualified French teacher supporting the Group. Approximately 8 members attend each time, and it is informal. Jill explained they don’t necessarily learn French, but it does encourage everyone attending to keep the language in their heads and to practice to the best of our ability. Progress is made that way.

Gardening Group: Catherine Notaras is very excited about finding an allotment and the future development of it; not just digging, but planning/picking/eating the products. The Chairman of the Allotment Group, is going to demonstrate how to plant potatoes, for example. Catherine went on to let members know that there are opportunities to visit Gardens, go on trips, attend Talks perhaps on Plants, etc. Catherine was pleased to have Dorothy Arlett on board, who has many valuable suggestions on the way forward. They plan to go to Binfield Heath Open Days. Penny has volunteered to help on visits further afield too. They have the Chelsea Fringe coming up, and Tamsin Borlase - flowers for florists, from Marlow. Plant Sale in Falaise Square on 2nd June, and a Boat trip could be organised for the Group. Also the Town Council’s Gardening Competition and the Henley Show are just a few future activities. Catherine made a point of thanking Graham Harris who has been integral and a tower of strength in getting the Gardening Group started. A photograph of our audience was taken to advertise our U3A in the Henley Standard.

Science Group: Gill Le Du explained the 1st Meeting of this new Group is planned for May end. The initial meeting will be at Gill’s home to discuss the way forward, which will be purely scientific. Interest has been noted from new members, which is encouraging. It is not necessary to possess a scientific background. This Group could be a learning curve for some. Gill will be sending out general emails to all those who have expressed an interest. As Gill sits on the TVN Committee, she has learned that they are considering setting up a Network, as there are many U3As like Henley, who are setting up a Science Group, so we can share topics and information..

Wine Appreciation Group: Dianne Sharp introduced this new Group to share our love of wine and learn about it. Within this gathering, Dianne can explain where the different grapes come from and the Regions. Also it is important to match food with wine. If this Group is popular Dianne would love those involved to have supper parties where they can share not only the venue, but the food to complement the wine. The Group would choose the wines to sample then build the culinaries around that. Dianne explained that there is a good chance they could have a meeting room for 2 hours at Phyllis Court, and she is in the process of researching that possibility. Dianne has sent an email to those expressing interest suggesting dates, times and the £10 charge per session which would cover the costs.

Thames Valley Network: Gill Le Du said all these meetings are going well, as are plans for various Events during the year. Gill hopes the Medicine Arts and Science Talk to be held at Benson on 1st November will be well attended, as well as the Polar Exhibition in October.

Administrative Notices: Our Chairman explained two important changes in the Constitution we have to adopt.

Change to Objects Clause: The Third Age Trust has been assured that we continue to get charitable status and therefore tax rebate on our subscriptions. Main point of contention is that it should be for educational purposes and not for social events. Social events will continue but effectively what has happened is that the Third Age Trust is removing specific reference to social activities/events. Our 2nd Objective was provision of facilities for leisure time and recreational activities. Apparently that does not qualify. The Constitution’s Object Clause has been changed to a simpler version, which is as follows:
The advancement of education and, in particular, the education of those retired from full time employment, including associated activities conducive to learning/personal development. The members present voted unanimously in favour.

GDPR - General Data Protection Regulations: This comes into force on 25 May, 2018. It is aimed at large companies keeping our details on their computers and sharing this information with others, so we get pestered with ‘cold calling’, and emails. Our U3A has a list of 155 members showing all our details. This is a necessity so we can inform each member about our activities in this Branch, from our Group Leaders and Committee who distribute the Newsletters, etc., to the Magazine from Central Office which they obviously need the addresses for distribution. So we will have to obtain consent from each of our members - a physical individual signature. Our Chairman declared we have Consent Forms at this AGM, to be signed on site and given to our Membership Secretary, Jennifer, or to be sent to Jennifer, whose address is on the form. Gillian confirmed that this consent is only required once. This consent means that we are allowed to hold your information and communicate with our members as necessary. Our members have the right to request removal of their details/change their details should they wish. Obviously, by removal communication will stop from us.

Finally, our Chairman concluded this Annual General Meeting by the re-election of our existing Committee to stand again. All in favour.