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The last weekend in June, the recently elected Management Committee met at Esperanto House for their annual 'Planning Weekend', when they review achievements over the past twelve months and set the course for the coming year. Other meetings are always a race against the clock (a race that John Wells invariably wins!) so it is well worth while, once in the year, taking time for a more strategic overview and appraisal. Everyone, including Angela, Viv and Stephen Thompson, as well as the Trustees themselves, are asked to prepare comprehensive reports and proposals.
Derek Tatton's resignation (for personal reasons) just before the AGM left us a little short-handed, so it was agreed to co-opt Hilary Chapman to the Committee. Unfortunately, a long-standing family commitment prevented him from joining us for the weekend.
We spent some time discussing possible links and collaboration with the Esperanto Federation in India (or Bharat, as they prefer), following the visit by David Kelso and Geoffrey Sutton to the Asian Congress in Bangalore (Bengaluru) in February. The movement there is relatively small but very enthusiastic. In the end, we set aside £500 (in the first instance) and asked David to continue his discussions with the Bharat Federation about possible joint projects.
We had yet another discussion about our system of elections, which seems rather elaborate for a relatively small organisation. After considering the idea of 3-year terms of office (with one-third retiring each year), we eventually decided to propose to next year's AGM that elections be biennial rather than annual. I'm sure that will be a lively discussion!
We agreed to re-activate the title of 'Fellow' of EAB, which hasn't been used much of late. It was agreed to award the distinction to Angela Tellier, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Esperanto Education, through the Springboard initiative and many other achievements; and to consider other possible nominations. Suggestions welcome: nominees must be fully competent in Esperanto, have made a significant contribution to the language and/or the movement and have been in the movement for some years. We also took the opportunity to award Honorary Life Membership (as announced at the AGM) on Geoffrey King, our Hon. Librarian, in recognition of his colossal contribution to the Butler Library over many years. Geoffrey was present and John Wells presented him with a commemorative letter.
Angela gave us a comprehensive report on Education, especially the Springboard project and flagged up the major challenges ahead. Her main concern is finding new pilot schools: she appealed to Trustees, activists and members as a whole to let her know of any possible contacts they have with primary schools, as the key seems to be personal links with (innovative) headteachers. We also noted problems regarding courses at Wedgwood Memorial College and agreed that henceforth the Association should assume a lead role in developing and promoting these courses (which, historically, enjoyed a somewhat independent status).
Stephen Thompson reported fully on his work on Publicity over the previous 9 months, with a generous array of practical proposals for the future. After much discussion, it was agreed that Hilary Chapman will be the Trustee with lead responsibility for Publicity and related matters, that Stephen should continue as 'Publicity Co-ordinator' (receiving a modest honorarium for this work) and that Hilary and Stephen should jointly take forward the ambitious Publicity agenda, with an enhanced budget of £15,000 p.a. Among the ideas that they will be pursuing (many of which arose from the 'brainstorming' in Barlaston in March) are new publicity materials, a publicity network (rather than committee), the use of professional PR services, an opinion survey (more likely, piggy-backing on one), a Rapid Response Unit and drawing in the talent and energy of younger members.
Viv O'Dunne reported on the work of Esperanto House, including statistics on membership and book sales. Membership, sadly, continues to fall, although there is a steady inflow of new members (which should mean an eventual plateau in membership). Book sales were also down, but only due to when major bulk sales (e.g. UEA) fall - generally, the book service is very busy and much appreciated by members.
Paul Gubbins, who chairs the Advisory Committee of Wedgwood Memorial College, joined us for a discussion on the future of the College, which was rather handicapped by the fact that we have been totally unable to extract any information whatsoever from Stoke-on-Trent City Council. The latest promise is for 'some decisions within a matter of weeks' but, bluntly, we no longer take at face value anything coming from the City Council. There are plenty of rumours around, but no hard information at all; Paul confirmed that the Advisory Committee is in exactly the same situation. Agreed that Secretary should write, yet again, expressing our serious dissatisfaction.
Preparations for the 2009 Congress (in Salisbury) are well in hand, with Jean Bisset in the lead. The 2010 Congress will almost certainly be in North Wales (Llandudno), subject to successful negotiation of venue etc. Hilary reported that he already had a 'shadow LKK' in place !
David Bisset reported, with a large grin, that Michael Seaton has, after 5 years, completed his listing of the Butler Library bookstock, a prodigious feat, for which we gave him a present, in gratitude. The main catalogue continues on its measured tread, with completion still some years away. We discussed again possible solutions to the Library's (and the Office's) storage problems.
The only publications this past year have been in the education field but Edmund Grimley Evans regaled us with a cornucopia of ideas for future publications, both educational and general, including a new edition of 'Esperanto for Beginners' (as part of a mini-series, in A6 format, with the existing Mini-Dictionary and a new mini-grammar); perhaps a collection of anecdotes about esperantists and the Esperanto community (perhaps starting as a series in La Brita Esperantisto); and a book comprising existing booklets on the Cornish, Scottish and Gaelic languages, supplemented by sections on Welsh, Irish and Manx. 'Conversational Esperanto' is to be reprinted (with improved typeface) as the first print-run is almost sold out.
We had a long, at times baffling, discussion about the Association's finances, especially our investments. The only concrete decisions were to confirm that our investent policy should be consistently 'ethical', with particular attention to issues touching on human rights, and (in line with professional advice) to move some assets (about 6%) from cash/ fixed interest into 'global equity', at such time as seemed expedient. We shall, however, continue to explore possibilities for ongoing, independent, affordable professional advice.
And so much more besides, but I wouldn't want to get my genteel readership over-excited, so I shall leave it there for now.
David Kelso (Secretary)
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