Here are reports and documents for the 2019 AGM being held on 18th July at Sutton Coldfield Methodist Church Centre.
At last year’s AGM I indicated that I would “do another year”. That year is about to end and changes are in process. I wish I could feel confident that administratively I shall be passing on a neat “package” over to my successor. At the time of writing these notes I still have to get to grips with preparing that package and will not only do my best with it but at the same time I’m saying, “I’m not going anywhere”.
The tidying up operation has to be done in what is about to be a momentous year. A year when BTNA will embark upon structural changes which it is hoped will lead to sound and effective running on a daily basis and out of which will be the best outcomes (“for the relief of the blind”) that can possibly be achieved.
Our “outcomes” are already of a high order, the quality of our recordings, and the efficiency achieved by the various teams in our weekly news and additional weekly and monthly add-ons. However, as the “Second City” we have long realised that although we are near to being the “first” in listener numbers to whom we send “first-rate “ recorded material, there is much more to be aimed for.
These aims come under the following headings.
*Marketing: There are reputedly 27,000 Blind or visually impaired people in the greater Birmingham region. We currently have 600 listeners on out register. Could do better?
*Technological Developments : Once again we are near the “sharp end” on this with our excellent quality recordings on USB memory sticks. Nevertheless we know that there is yet another step, or leap, that we have to have the know-how and ambition to make. Fear it or like it Artificial Intelligence, still perhaps in its infancy is on a march and probably won’t be ignored. How long will it be before our listeners, maybe with help from us will not have to wait for their weekly pouch? But will instead say to their PC or some inexpensive variant, “take me to my Talking Newspaper!”
*Fundraising: It is possible that future developments will come at a cost and we are comfortably solvent within our present methodology that we are, we cannot relax in this area of our movement.
*Recruitment: Of volunteers. It is being said, and it hurts, that we are an ageing collection of folk. That certainly is undeniable in my case and in every circle I move in I look around and guess that I am the most “senior” there. This is almost so with BTNA.
The point of the above range of headings is that our Vice Chairman (North) set in motion at last year’s AGM a “programme for change” and further to that, had a list of names of people willing to become Trustees on a new Board of Trustees. Each new trustee is expected to have strengths which they will deploy within the above headings and other areas not yet named, (such as Networking, enabling links that can add value to what we do).
One such new Trustee plus a fellow volunteer have already used their previous experience and expertise (and clearly much of their time) in drawing up a framework which will result in BTNA converting itself into a CHARITABLE INCORPORATED ORGANISATION for which it is hoped the current committee will vote and which in its turn will lead to a disbanding of our Association. The Executive Committee has in fact already voted in favour (with one dissension) of adopting these changes at its April 2019 meeting. It can be expected that the benefits arising from this important move will be outlined at the AGM.
A Chairman’s final word. Most of us will be able to continue doing our stuff as if nothing has changed and no one need feel threatened in any way. I don’t know whether I can be of any continued use to BTNA but please know that “you’ve got a friend”.
Our volunteers are amazing in their steadfastness and I want to thank them all. Particularly all on the Committee, but also some of the stars in the teams I sit with on Friday and Tuesday afternoons.
But for all they have done in starting to turn our ocean going liner around I will give special mention to Mike Hughes, Charles Ashton Gray and David Gowdy.
On personnel matters, I have to report with regret our Treasurer Aileen has resigned, having realised the need to be “digital” (fortunately she has finalised the end of year, March 31 2019 balance).
At the time of writing this report, Marion has advised us of the death of her husband and although she is determined to do her imminent Tech shift so soon afterwards, she will not know and we cannot ask the extent to which we can count on her in the near future.
Thank you everyone for your unstinting support to BTNA and hence to me.
Charitable Incorporated Organisation Files
The following files are a synopsis of the reason for changing our charitable status and a draft copy of the proposed constitution
Monthly Magazine Report for Annual General Meeting
The Monthly Magazine has been part of Birmingham Talking Newspaper for some 20 years and more. In the early days it was circulated only in South Birmingham, and had two different Editors before I took it over 12 years ago on the death of Pete Oxton.
When I took over, it was sent out on CD and to all Listeners in Birmingham. When BTN went digital, it continued to be sent out on CD for a period of a year or two, but then was transferred to the Memory Stick that the News and Weekly Magazine went out on.
At that time there was only one Team, who recorded articles at a private home in Bromsgrove. Those articles were then sent to me, to edit and to create the magazine each month. This continued for many years.
The members of that team in Bromsgrove had been recording for many, many years, and were growing older and more infirm. Their Leader, Ruth Harper, and I, agreed that a second team was desirable.
Since I am based at South Centre, I looked among South Readers for those I considered the best, and made up a team of 6 people for that second team.
The Bromsgrove have gradually changed, with new blood coming in. So now, and for at least 5 years, BTN has two teams finding entertaining material for the Monthly Magazine.
Both Teams continue to find their own material for recording sessions, knowing that their two parameters are ‘entertainment’ and ‘10mins or less per articles’.
Listeners very rarely mention this Magazine in particular – it is simply there – but feedback does suggest that it is enjoyed.
Danny Collman, Editor
Monthly News Report for Annual General Meeting
This team was created some 5 years ago to accommodate the fact that there was a lot of local news which was not date-sensitive (so hadn’t particularly happened that week).
All Weekly News Teams (North and South) give assistance to this team by sending the articles that they have read to this team, who then know which articles have already been read by Weekly Teams.
This Monthly Team uses the same papers used by the Weekly News Teams. They use newspapers going back 4 or 5 weeks.
The Monthly Team sort the articles together in the first part of the session, choosing articles which fit the Team’s stated parameters, then record
The Monthly News Team does an excellent job with the month’s news, but I am fairly sure that the Listeners don’t actually realise the difference. I believe it is still worth doing.
The Monthly News tends to be rather longer than the Weekly – 90 mins rather than 60.
The Monthly News has become a staple of our Talking Newspaper, and is enjoyed by our Listeners. But for them it is simply ‘there’.
Miscellany Magazine Report for Annual General Meeting
The Miscellany Magazine started as a fill-in for those weeks when the History Talk did not happen, probably about 15 weeks in the year. I felt that our Listeners were losing out. Since then, the Magazine has become quite popular, with Listeners calling in to find out when the next edition was coming out. This calling in is only very occasional, but it has happened.
Until last year, this Magazine was limited edition. For various reasons, the History Talk became a standard regular weekly magazine for the Birmingham Talking Newspaper, being missed only at Christmas when we close down for a week or two every year. At that time, I made the decision to change the status of the Miscellany Magazine from occasional to monthly.
I had two teams, one at North Centre, one at South Centre. They were all volunteering their extra time to find and read articles intended to benefit our Listeners. I specifically asked members of both teams whether they were willing to continue, though on a different basis. The answer was a unanimous ‘yes’.
The Miscellany Magazine continued – with 2 changes.
1. The Magazine started to be published Monthly in the same way that the Monthly Magazine and the Monthly News are done. The two teams record every other month. Thus, the magazine has 12 editions, but each team meets 6 times in the year.
2. Until then, the Miscellany Magazine had had articles with a History flavour or Geography flavour, or with both. From last September, the articles began to be on any subject, but there is no Fiction. All articles are all fact-based.
It is my hope that Listeners have continued to enjoy the Miscellany Magazine in its new guise.
Leader of the Miscellany Magazine Teams.
Technical Committee Report for Annual General Meeting
The Technical Committee continues to meet every quarter to discuss the technical needs of Birmingham Talking Newspaper. The Committee has representation from both North and South Centres which enables us to consider the technical needs of both Centres.
For two years I have commented on the apparent loss of Memory Sticks. This loss seemed to have been greater than was desirable or acceptable. As an interim measure we put into circulation the remains of a consignment of sticks which we had had for some months, but we also felt the need to find out the reason for the rate of attrition
A part of this problem turned out to be the fact that a large number of new Listeners failed to return their pouches and sticks. This is an administration problem rather than technical, but clearly the two aspects are interlinked, and we are working together to overcome the problem.
During Committee Meetings we spend considerable time discussing how to improve operations to provide a better experience for our Listeners, although I believe that the experience we already provide is extremely good.
I noted last year that both Centres have a drip feed of new Volunteers for Reading, but that new Technicians are considerably more difficult to find.
The Technical Committee continues its work to provide the best quality of output for our Listeners.
Technical Committee Chairman
Listener Representative Report
Website and Social Media Report