Sunday 20 March 2022

BABS Council is the governing body of BABS, comprising nominated members from all our clubs, up and down the country.  After two years of 'virtual' meetings, Council met last weekend for its AGM and our first in-person meeting since September 2019.  It was a joy to see so many familiar faces there and to greet old friends. 48 BABS members met in the historic surroundings of Sulgrave Manor, Northants, the ancestral home of George Washington's family.

Our chair, Alan Hughes, opened the meeting and conducted the preliminary business before handing over to Liz Smith, Finance Director. She presented the accounts for the 9 month period to September 2021 (in future, the Association's financial year is to run from 1 October to 30 September, to more closely align with our activities). She was able to report a much needed boost to our reserves as a result, sadly, of few in-person meetings during the period.

Alan then introduced the Trustee Team, most of whom are familiar faces to Council Members. Pippa Goodall had resigned her post as Finance Director, prior to her marriage this year and she was thanked for her service and her modernisation of many of our processes.  Our incoming Finance Director, Liz Smith, was warmly welcomed to the Board.

In his report on our varied activities, Alan focussed on the work done by our Diversity and Inclusion team, the statistics they had gathered, and their plans going forward, which would focus on strategies for achieving a more diverse and inclusive membership, and taking a look at song choices, and, for example, phasing out songs from a slave heritage.

Our Vice Chair, Laurence Hasson, spoke of his activities, developing opportunities to work with Barbershop In Harmony, LABBS and Sweet Adelines.  He has led the Diversity and Inclusion project and is leading work on our 50th anniversary plans.  He spoke of three upcoming Board vacancies, Director of Music and Education (Nov '22); Vice Chair/Chair Designate (Mar '23); Director of Administration (Mar '23).  All these have been or will be advertised in Harmony Express, the latter two in late April.

Up next was Dale Kynaston, Director of Music and Education, who spoke about the excellent QuartetCon contest held in November, the sadly cancelled Directors' Academy (because of tight venue restrictions making our normal style of contest impossible), the seminar held by the C and J team and the recent MD's forum. He spoke of the newly developed contest software that the team are evaluating, and its place in future contests.

Shanna Wells, Director of Marketing and Events, outlined the myriad activities run or planned by her creative team. Coming soon, of course, is Sing2022, and a schedule of events is now available elsewhere on this website. She was excited to report that we now have 27 Male Chorus entries, 9 Mixed Chorus entries and 19 Quartet semi-finalists. There will be a Saturday night show, and a show at the Sunday closing ceremony. There will be afterglows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

A full Harmony College programme is planned for the weekend of 5-7 August (n.b. dates), with exciting new and updated streams.  The website will open on 29 April.

Peter Bryant, Director of Membership, was unavoidably absent, but his presentation was given by Laurence Hasson. He reported a small increase in our numbers, now 1757, up from 1730 in December, and 66 registered quartets.

Pat Perridge, Director of Administration, reported on the grants available for Harmony College. In summary, there are scholarships available for those wishing to attend the Directing stream, Arranging, the College Chorus, Personal Development, Quartet stream, new members, young members, and seniors. Winners of the BOTY, Young BOTY and Recruitment Champions Award all get free Harmony College places.

A number of matters had been submitted for consideration by Council.  First was from East Midlands, who submitted that the Board should reconsider gender eligibility for Youth and Seniors contests, and that they should revert to male only. There were strongly held views on both sides of this argument, eloquently expressed and argued. It was pointed out that if carried, there would be no other contest available to young singers or seniors in mixed ensembles who wished to qualify for International. Others felt that BinH should play a more prominent role in mixed contests. For the Board, Alan Hughes reaffirmed that there would always be a place for male only ensembles and there were no plans to take anything away from those who prefer that. After a good period of debate, the motion was voted on but fell.

(Unfortunately, Alan Goldsmith who was to have presented these motions reported a negative Covid test that morning and was so unable to attend. His place was ably taken by Chris Blatchford of EMBHC)

In response, the Board submitted a motion proposing that it hold discussions with the other two principal barbershop organisations to find ways of most effectively catering for all barbershoppers, emphasising the value held by our members on single gender ensembles, as well as mixed gender. The outcome of these discussions would be reported to the Autumn Members' Meeting, and in the interim there would be no changes in the eligibility rules. A vote was taken on these proposals en bloc, and was passed.

In response to a question from the same club, as to whether concessions would be available for carers who attend convention, it was replied that every concession means that others have to pay more. There are great difficulties in defining, what is a carer? The matter had been carefully reviewed for Sing 2022, and it had been decided not to initiate any change this year. The matter will, however, be kept under review.

A motion from the Isle of Wight, asked if, for reasons of cost, BABS events could be moved away from bank holidays, and that more cost effective locations be sourced by 2024. Following a message of amplification from Steve Morris, unfortunately unable to attend, Shanna explained that this motion was unfortunately based on several false premises. Although bank holidays may be more expensive on the Isle of Wight, generally across the nation, they are not, and most large venues find bank holidays difficult to sell, and they are priced down accordingly. BABS gets extremely good deals from both Harrogate and Bournemouth. Furthermore, venue costs represent less than 30% of the costs in running convention, and the remaining costs would apply, whatever the venue. There are very few venues capable of proving facilities for up to 2000 singers and partners, considering catering, parking, bars, restaurants and accommodation.  Events on this scale are planned years in advance, and we are currently committed for the next few years. After a short debate, a vote on the motion was taken but the motion fell.

A vote on the Resolution to re-appoint members of the BABS Board was held without debate and was passed.

A discussion was then taken on the future pattern of BABS general meetings, in the past held in person and in the Spring and Autumn of each year. Things have changed, as we have all learned to use meetings software (Zoom, Teams) in the recent past. There were eloquent submissions from those living far away from the centre of the UK, about how difficult, and often impossible they normally found it to attend general meetings. The Midlands are not the centre of the UK, they are the centre of England. Some debate centred around hybrid meetings, and many pointed out the several disadvantages inherent in such an arrangement. However, those normally unable to attend made it clear that they would prefer an unsatisfactory arrangement to no practicable arrangement at all. There was a suggestion that large hotel groups and some businesses may offer online conference facilities.

It was a most useful debate and the Board undertook to consider all the points made with a view to recommending a way forward.

A resolution to correct a small and uncontroversial typographical error in the constitution was passed. The Board were also empowered by Council to draft and submit suitable wording to the Charity Commission permitting online meetings. These are not expressly permitted by the current constitution's wording.

Members were thanked, for the time and trouble they had taken to attend the meeting, and particularly for all contributions to what had been interesting and challenging debates.

The full minutes of the meeting will be published shortly as will the slide presentations. Your club's BABS Council member will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Pat Perridge
BABS Director of Administration