Minutes of Guildford Arts Annual General Meeting, 10 July 2017, in the Vanbrugh Room, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
Twenty people were present
- Apologies: Gordon Jackson
- Approval of the Minutes of AGM held on 7 July 2016: approved unanimously.
- Matters Arising: There were none
- Chairman’s Report
The Chairman said that it had been an exciting year for developments in the arts in Guildford. The biggest development had been the arrival of a new opera house and potential arts workshops at West Horsley Place. Guildford Arts had made a tangential contribution because, while opening the YAT Summer Exhibition the previous July, Bamber Gascoigne, the inheritor of West Horsley Place, had bought a significant sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. This sculpture could now be enjoyed by opera-goers as it had been installed in the orchard at West Horsley Place.
Commenting briefly on what was available in the centre of Guildford with its many artistic offerings large and small, the Chairman referred to the other out of town large arts institution. After years of hideous decline, the Watts gallery had risen phoenix-like in the previous decade to become a world class arts space and one which was able to deliver a proper tribute to a major British artist who, with his wife, had made Compton a centre of artistic excellence. In that current year, Guildford Arts had also made a modest contribution to the Watts gallery success story, by contributing to the erection of a new cast of the sculpture of ‘Physical Energy’ to a very visible position beside the A3. This Statue of a magnificent horse would both contribute to wider publicity for the Watts gallery and, perhaps, as with ‘The Angel of the North’ in Gateshead, it would provide a distinctive geographical marker for the Borough of Guildford.
The Chairman suggested that there were some messages from both these developments and some interesting points of comparison. If the development in less than a year of a functioning opera house, with fine acoustics, was a brilliant example of a new birth of a great arts space, then the rescuing of Watts gallery from terminal decline was surely an example of a remarkable resurrection. It had taken over ten million pounds to restore the Watts Gallery and equip it for wider impact. It would take at least that to restore West Horsley Place. The comparisons did not end there. Mary Watts had started a local development of arts and crafts activities on a heroic scale. Bamber Gascoigne’s ambition for West Horsley Place was that it becomes a centre for developing the arts in highly practical ways.
Even though GA’s contribution to both the new opera house and to Watts Gallery had been quite modest, nevertheless these grand developments were indicative of how much was happening and could happen if the will was there to make the arts central to everyone’s cultural experience. This was a message we could give ourselves as a community. Increasingly Guildford could become recognised by both citizens and visitors alike as the South East’s leading cultural centre outside London. With the right ambition and combining this arts excellence with the architecture, facilities and shops of Guildford’s fine town centre, its University, its Cathedral and its beautiful countryside, an already highly favoured location could become utterly outstanding.
However extravagant his comments, The Chairman said that it was against that background that GA’s commitment to promoting the arts took place. Given the size and the scale of both its human and financial resources, GA’s contribution was considerable and he paid tribute to all who worked to deliver that contribution.
- John O’Keefe for not only the introduction and running of the arts organisations’ outstanding new gateway for publicity, ArtsEgg.uk, but also for developing a new Guildford Arts website.
- The curators of GA’s exhibitions; Carol Gallagher and Jan Wilkinson and their team for the Summer Exhibition at the Yvonne Arnaud and Sue Dragon who had stepped into the role of running the Clyde&Co exhibitions so successfully in addition to retaining an administrative role.
- Roy Hogben who, in addition to continuing to organise the mail-outs took up the reins of editing News&Views at short notice and approached the task with the same dedication and passion that he applied to the public art debate in the Borough.
- At the previous year’s AGM, the Chairman had paid particular tribute to Jan Wilkinson’s extensive contribution as Vice Chairman in holding the organisation together. He emphasised that her contribution in the current year had certainly been no less.
- Mike Beckwith had continued to manage the grants process in which GA contributed both to some of the flagship events in the town but also to helping fund new ideas.
- Turning to the GA’s own organisation, Richard Bowman, had taken on a lot of responsibility as treasurer keeping GA’s finances on a steady basis. In the engine room of any significant organisation were its finances and like any engine room if the machine at this point was not kept on a well-functioning basis then nothing could be achieved.
- Richard Norman, who had kindly agreed to take on the role of Independent Examiner of the accounts.
Of the Executive Officers on the Committee, the Chairman said he wanted to pay particular tribute to Hilary Leigh who had been GA’s Membership Secretary for the previous fifteen years. Thus, for many members, Hilary was the public face of Guildford Arts. She had been very effective in making members feel thanked, feel valued and feel that they wanted to continue their membership. This had been and continued to be a vital part of sustaining both a cohesive organisation and generating the necessary revenue to function. After such service, he was delighted to thank Hilary unreservedly for all she had done. On giving up her role, he said he had to admit to some apprehension about what happened next. However, he was glad to say that he was sure Hilary would go on being a strong supporter of Guildford Arts and he was delighted that she had already offered to continue with some very practical assistance.
The Chairman had paid tribute to GA’s major supporters the previous week at the opening of the Summer Exhibition but referred again to Guildford Financial for their third year of sponsorship, to Clyde&Co and Matrix Moving. Because of their need to use more of their office space for their own purposes, regrettably GA had had to end its long-standing exhibition relationship with RSM. Fortunately under Sue Dragon, the partnership with Clyde&Co – now the only Art@Work partner – continued to be very strong. GA’s relationship with Matrix Moving was another area of critical importance with their very generous storing of GA’s equipment between exhibitions. He expressed his gratitude to these and the other organisations which supported Guildford Arts.
The wider involvement of Borough Councillors, the University and the Guildford Institute was of great value in helping GA focus its contribution within a full context of the town as a whole. GA worked so much better than it otherwise would without that involvement.
There was more to do. Like many small organisations, long term success depended on too few people and if there were more, then not only could more be achieved but there would be more security about what was done already. There was a need to do more to publicise ArtsEgg.uk to the wider public and continue to encourage more arts organisations to embrace and publicise the new Egg gateway as their opportunity. An expert in marketing would be invaluable new addition to our team as would more support for the Web sites. The way GA made grants needed to be tightened up so that a better feedback was established of what had been achieved. It would be desirable to find ways of encouraging more individual and arts organisations members. However, with the current team, both immediately and hopefully for the longer term, GA was making a significant contribution to the cultural life of Guildford and the surrounding area.
- Treasurer’s Report (Accounts attached) Richard Bowman introduced the accounts and commented on the increase in revenue which was most significantly due to the introduction of the Life Membership and therefore, all other things being equal, it would reduce the following year. The bottom line increase was mainly attributable to the rise in the stock market. Asked whether Guildford Arts should be distributing more of it funds, the Treasurer said that this was possible and the Chairman added that with the current schemes for grants it was rare for an application for grant to be turned down but it was still important to make provision for the replacement of equipment.
Approval of the accounts were proposed by Tony Rooth and seconded by John O’Keefe and passed unanimously.
- Appointment of the Independent Examiner; The reappointment of Richard Norman was proposed by Christine Ward and Seconded by Jan Wilkinson and approved unanimously.
- Appointment of Banks; The Treasurer proposed that the existing banks etc, CAF, NatWest, PayPal, IZettle, Legal & General and Black Rock UK should be reappointed. It was seconded by Sue Dragon and passed unanimously.
- Appointment of Officers; apart from the retiring membership secretary, Hilary Leigh, all the other officers, Bill Ward, Jan Wilkinson, Richard Bowman, Sue Dragon, John O’Keefe and Roy Hogben were re-elected unopposed.
- Election of Committee Members: The following were re-elected, Gordon Jackson, Mike Beckwith, Pat Grayburn and Carol Gallacher.
- AOB; John O’Keefe reported that the security of both web sites had been enhanced by moving them to a HTPPS prefix.
At the end of the meeting the Vice Chairman presented theatre tokens to the retiring Membership Secretary, Hilary Leigh, in recognition of all she had done towards the success of Guildford Arts.
W D Ward
Chairman – July 2017