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Minutes of the 1998 Annual General Meeting of
Esperanto-Asocio de Britio

The meeting took place at the 1998 British Congress of Esperanto at the Moat House Hotel, Chester, on 1998 April 11th, 09:30 – 12:00. The agenda had been distributed with the annual report, beforehand.

On the stage before about 80 members of the association were: Geoffrey Greatrex (president), Martyn McClelland (office manager), Bill Walker (minutes) and Joyce Bunting (treasurer).

Before the meeting, the president read out the names of those members who had passed away during the previous (financial) year.

1. Language for the Meeting

Geoffrey Greatrex summarised the arguments for and against the use of English for this meeting, which had already been aired in The British Esperantist. A vote was taken and about 40 members voted in favour of English, 20 against.

2. Minutes of the Previous AGM

Bill Walker read out the minutes of the previous AGM (which had been conducted and minuted in Esperanto). A vote was taken to accept the minutes, a majority voted in favour, and no-one opposed.

3. Annual Report

Geoffrey Greatrex referred to the Annual Report of the Association, which had been circulated with the agenda beforehand, and invited corrections.

Arthur Prent highlighted the incorrect total for the membership numbers.

Joan Dawson corrected an omission in the examination statistics; one diploma had been awarded.

Don Lord stressed the value of the diploma, announcing that Dr Chris Gledhill (who received the diploma several years ago) has now received a doctorate in linguistics.

A vote was taken to accept the annual report; a majority voted in favour, no-one opposed or abstained.

4. Accounts for the Year 1996 – 1997

Joyce Bunting presented the financial report. The accounting procedures had been revised to satisfy the Charities Act 1993 and the Statement of Recommended Practice. An independent Financial Examination was held in lieu of a full audit. This requires a Trustees’ report for the Charity Commissioners, copies of which are available on request from the Esperanto Centre.

A summary of this report was distributed, and Joyce Bunting read out highlights - only essential repairs to the building were undertaken; EAB received a generous legacy of £20,000 from Mr William Edwards; the market value of investments at 31st October 1997 was £169,731, with an additional £22,532 in the bank and £571 in cash. She clarified that under the terms of the original legacy, the principal funds in the John Brownlee fund are restricted, and that only the income from the fund may be spent.

In the year, income exceeded expenditure by £10,468, so the balance sheet looks healthy. However without receipt of legacies we would have suffered a loss of £12,000. Also, much of our invested capital is of a restricted nature and the stock of books and teaching materials would have little value on the open market; an estimate of the expendable assets is only £65,000.

The computer system used for the accounts and membership database has been reviewed with regard to operation in and after the year 2000, and volunteer Simon Davies is working on the associated software.

Joyce Bunting thanked Martyn McClelland, Norah Brown, Peter Danning, Simon Davies and Eric Walker for their help during the year, and announced the formation of a Finance committee which would assist the Treasurer and report to the Management Committee. She declared her intention to resign as a director of BEA Ltd, in order to spend more time on finance matters, and announced plans to work with Paul Hewitt to produce an office accounting handbook, conforming to standard accounting procedures.

The financial considerations of a move from 140 Holland Park Avenue were presented - the premises had been valued at £500,000; selling or leasing only part of the building would involve redevelopment which would require significant up-front capital expenditure; a sale and move to smaller and more modern premises might release capital; the capital gains tax implications of a sale had been explored and advice received on how to minimise such a tax bill.

Comments from the membership on financial matters were invited:

David Hulatt asked that EAB’s own publishing activities be shown separately from the bought-in stock.

Hilary Chapman proposed that we record our thanks to Joyce Bunting for her work as Treasurer. Eric Walker seconded the proposal, highlighting her and Norah Brown’s achievements in rationalising the accounts.

A vote was taken to approve the accounts; a majority voted in favour, no-one opposed or abstained.

5. Subscriptions

Geoffrey Greatrex presented the proposal to leave the subscription rates unchanged this year.

A vote was taken to approve the proposal; a majority voted in favour, no-one opposed, three abstained.

6. Officers and Members of the Management Committee

Geoffrey Greatrex summarised the nominations shown in the agenda, and announced a further nomination for vice-president. He explained that the Management Committee plans to restructure its operations and that this may help to compensate for the continued lack of an honorary secretary.

A vote was held to accept the proposed management committee as:

President: Geoffrey Greatrex

Vice-President: Edmund Grimley-Evans

Honorary Secretary: (vacant)

Treasurer: Joyce Bunting

Minutes Secretary: Edmund Grimley-Evans

Other committee members:
Brian Barker, David Bisset, Peter Danning, Simon Davies, Angela Tellier.

A majority voted in favour, no-one opposed or abstained.

Geoffrey Greatrex expressed his thanks to retiring committee members Malcolm Jones and Bill Walker.

Don Lord offered thanks to the entire management committee and especially to Martyn McClelland for their work through the year. Arthur Prent added thanks to those other volunteers whose work has supported the movement.

7. Move of the Esperanto Centre

Geoffrey Greatrex explained that a separate discussion had been timetabled during the congress to discuss this important matter, however members who were only attending the AGM were welcome to raise points during item 9, later.

8. Location of British Congress in the Year 2000

Geoffrey Greatrex explained that the next European Esperanto Union congress will take place in Ostend in the year 2000, and suggested that this could be the venue for the British Esperanto Congress that year. This did not imply that the AGM would be held in Ostend; a separate event would be arranged in the UK. He invited comments on this proposal.

Don Lord raised the concern that a UK registered charity might be obliged to hold its AGM within the United Kingdom. Geoffrey Greatrex confirmed that was still the intention.

Bernice Scott felt that a British Congress should be held in Britain.

Don Lord asked to what degree "British" events had been arranged during the previous EEU congress in Stuttgart; Geoffrey Greatrex said this had been minimal and attributed this to a lack of volunteers and involvement with the LKK. However as the EEU is a multi-national venture he felt that stronger collaboration was surely possible within the Esperanto movement.

Norah Brown wondered if more people would attend the AGM if it were combined with a British Congress.

Bill Walker highlighted the significant commitment and effort required of volunteers to run a congress; it is a struggle to resource this every year within Britain, while Ostend represents an opportunity to hold a congress without placing a significant burden on British volunteers.

Les Hartridge asked about the World Esperanto Congress that year. The answer was that there are currently two contenders; Zagreb and Tel-Aviv. The Ostend congress will be at the start of May.

Arthur Prent spoke in favour of keeping strong links with European groups, and mentioned the local groups who have conducted cross-channel ventures.

Lillian Wrigley asked if Ostend could be reached by public transport. The answer was yes.

Don Lord asked that we consider the travelling implications for people from the north of the country. He also mentioned the concern that while a beginner can participate at a congress in Britain, they cannot "get by" with English at a foreign venue.

Sally Phillips pointed out that it can be cheaper travel to by public transport from Scotland to London than from the Midlands to London.

Jim Kempster expressed concern that this matter should be debated in English, in the presence of journalists.

Bernice Scott asked if a European congress could be held in Britain. The answer was yes, if enough volunteers could put together a sufficiently attractive and confident proposal for the EEU to accept the invitation. However the venue for the year 2000 has already been chosen.

Pat Search agreed with the concerns about the costs of travelling abroad, and stressed the difficulties this can present for the older members of the association. She suggested holding congresses in both the United Kingdom and (continental) Europe.

Martin Howard proposed that we raise a legal challenge about where we must hold our AGM.

The debate was concluded by Angela Tellier, management committee member with responsibility for co-ordinating the British Congress arrangements. From her perspective if we did not hold the congress in Ostend then there was likely to be no British congress that year, for lack of volunteers prepared to organise the event.

A vote was taken to approve the proposal; 40 voted in favour, 18 opposed, 10 abstained.

9. Suggestions and Comments from the Membership.

Geoffrey Greatrex invited proposals, suggestions and comments from the membership, including comments on the suggested move of the Esperanto Centre which could not be made at the discussion meeting scheduled for later.

Les Hartridge wanted the suggested move discussed. Geoffrey Greatrex summarised the background of this issue and explained that we do not yet have a definitive proposal with a new address yet. The discussions so far had been:

Paul Hewitt asked if we are being forced to move because of a crisis, and whether the Management Committee had considered why we are losing members. Joyce Bunting answered that we can carry on as we are for another six years; this initiative is "thinking ahead". Geoffrey Greatrex confirmed that we don’t see a move – in itself – as the solution to all our problems. We are also working to attract and retain more members, through the provision of better support for beginners, as well as working to improve the efficiency of the management committee. A move outside London could release significant capital, which could be invested to reduce our reliance on membership fees – then we will be in a position to restructure the membership package to address a wider spectrum of people.

Eric Walker explained that a discussion paper, summarising a survey of federation secretaries and officials on the relocation issue, is available from him on request.

Joan Dawson proposed that we undertake the redevelopment of 140 Holland Park Avenue ourselves, and then sell it for a higher price. She also warned of the cost of moving books, that any new building would need to take the considerable weight of the library, and suggested that an appeal be started among the membership to raise funds to save the existing address. Geoffrey Greatrex said that these points have been and will be considered in any final decision.

Peter Miles stressed the importance of having a clear vision of where we are going, with both a short-range and a long range view. He suggested Acton as a candidate site if we are to stay in London, as it is also home to the International Friendship League.

Rosalind Walter said she was not against moving "as such", but the destination is important – we should consider the long-term value of any new property.

David Hulatt asked if we had applied to the National Lottery for funding. Geoffrey Greatrex explained that this had been explored, and that as a precondition we would need to raise matching funds from other sponsors.

Hilary Chapman congratulated Eric Walker on his discussion paper, and observed that moving out of London is now a trend; he knows of two other authorities who have undertaken a similar move.

Les Hartridge expressed his dissatisfaction with the arrangements that had been made for discussing the move.

Arthur Prent proposed that we should not allow journalists into formal meetings conducted in English. Hilary Chapman explained that the gentleman in question was a photographer hired by the LKK; his photos would be distributed to the press with text written by the LKK.

Norah Brown suggested that, to address the declining membership figures, we should consider who we are targeting with our literature – especially the free material which hooks people but doesn’t retain them. Rather than aim at people who seek "something for nothing" we should present Esperanto as something to which people will want to contribute; we must also revise our teaching materials.

Ronald Scott agreed, suggesting that in our enthusiasm to attract as many people as possible we are perhaps cheapening our product.

Terry Page asked that the management committee should consider the language for the Annual General Meeting in advance.

At this point the time allotted for the meeting ran out; discussion on the relocation of the Esperanto-Centre continued in the later session timetabled for this purpose.

The president closed the meeting at 12:00.

Signed: Date:

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