AGM 2018 Chairs report

Annual General Meeting

February 12th 2018

Chairman’s Report

This years’ AGM is the first since our new constitution was adopted. Under our new rules AGM’s have to be held within 15 months of the previous one, so this one is in February but I am hoping that next years will be in late March or April, and then every year thereafter March/April depending on where Easter Falls.

.As usual a number of volunteers have left us this year and we have recruited new ones. One of the Nelson Leader teams have left us but we have recruited two new readers to take their place. We have also lost two of the readers based in Barnoldswick, and are looking for new volunteer readers there. A new volunteer takes responsibility for downloading publications sent over the internet, and also does some copying.

This year listener numbers have continued to drop. We currently have 319 listeners taking a total of 436 publications. Recordings are also sent to four other TN’s, Bury Pipeline, Hyndburn, Elmbridge and Runnymead and Warrington, who copy them and send them out to some of their listeners, but we do not know how many listeners receive our recordings through other TN’s.  We have started to send some publications to a charity called British Wireless for the Blind Fund who make our recordings available to stream from their site. This is a recent development and we are only sending 5 publications so far.

In order to try and increase listener numbers our publicity leaflets have been sent to numerous Eye Clinic Liaison Officers both locally and those in hospitals in Leeds and Manchester, and we have had some referrals from local hospitals.

It is important that people know of our existence, and we keep ourselves in the public eye which these days it means using social media. At the beginning of the year our Twitter and Facebook pages had been inactive for some time but we have a  new volunteer who has taken over responsibility to manage these. However she needs some information and ideas to post, so if anyone wants to get in touch with her with some news or thoughts, she would be delighted.

Now to our expenditure. This year our main item of expenditure, apart from the building has been on boom boxes. We bought 12 in April and a further 12 in November. We have also bought new tags for the USB sticks and attached most of them. In addition we have had to buy a new computer for the studio. The old one crashed completely which fortunately it happened when our IT volunteer was at the studio, and he was able to get it going again. As he said it was likely that it would happen again, we decided to buy a new one. Although we are still using Adobe Audition, several readers have needed support to get going with the new computer. I would just like to reassure all of our readers that support is available if they want it.

Following on from the work we had done in the building in 2016, the next thing we had done was sorting out the wiring. As with most things at Smith Street it proved to be more extensive than originally thought. After that we arranged for the removal of the polystyrene tiles from the ceiling in the back room downstairs – these days they are considered a fire hazard. The ceiling was then replastered. We turned the dehumidifier off to allow the plaster to dry out naturally – and several damp patches appeared on the wall between us and no 167. These have been investigated and we will shortly have the remedial work carried out. When that has been done we will continue to update the building by redecorating the room.

At the Talking News Federation conference in 2016, there was an offer to review our recordings. I understood this would involve both the quality of the reading and the content. We discussed this in a committee meeting and thought that they would only review at most 2 readers reading one publication – and we have 26 readers reading 10 publications! It was also felt that we would prefer to ask our listeners what they would like us to include in the recording. The committee decided we would do our own review, so committee members shared the task of listening to all our readers, and I am currently in the process of writing a report which all our readers will get. In general the standard is high, but there are some occasional issues such as the sound of a page turn which we need to be aware of and address.

The website continues to be a source of some difficulty. We have a basic website and last year uploaded photos and short descriptions of all our publications. We have been looking for some time for a website developer to improve the website and put on additional features but no-one has come forward so far. We are currently trying to make contact with the college to see if one of their students could help. We will see if anything comes of that.   

When I have finished the report on our readers review, we will look at the best way to organize a listener’s review. Listeners are very bad at giving us feedback – either good or bad, so any information we get back will be useful either to reassure us, or to let us know how to develop our service.

In November I was invited to an exhibition put on by the Lion’s club in Burnley to celebrate their 40th anniversary, and the 100th anniversary of the international organization, which was held at Towneley Hall. Several other organizations that provide support for the blind and visually impaired were there as well. We were able to meet and chat with other exhibitors and visitors, and I would like to thank the volunteers who came along to help on the day.

The Craven Herald has been contacted for permission to use some of their articles to supplement the news in the Barnolswick and Earby Times. This has been granted.

Looking ahead, next year we will continue to work through the building – there is still work to do and some of it may be disruptive. At Barnoldswick we still need to recruit and train another reader.

We will continue working on our social media – website, Facebook and Twitter, and we also need to continue to look at ways to increase the number of our listeners.

Any help to carry out these additional tasks would be appreciated.

From time to time we get letters and notes of thanks from our listeners or their families, and I thought I would mention a few

Thank you for your sterling work – A W

I appreciate your work – J S

Thank you for the articles – I do like the new address tags, so much easier to get in the envelope. – I

Thank you for everything you do, mum appreciates it all. – D. B.

We also had a letter from a listener in Australia, although she had lived there for many years, she appreciated hearing articles about the UK.

Finally I would like to thank all of our volunteers.  I have found an enormous amount of goodwill and support for one another, for example at holiday times and in times of illness, and the sense of responsibility to our listeners to make sure they get their publication is a credit to all of you. I would also like to thank those of you who help with all the jobs that need doing around Smith Street, clearing rubbish, changing lightbulbs, sorting out problems with recordings and helping to prepare the building when we have workmen in. These are often the sort of jobs that make things better for all of us at Smith Street, and are usually taken for granted.

Thank you all.

Averil Astin

Chair