New Director's Blog - Part 1

An insight into the workings of The Ringing World by Peter G Davies
The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely mine and are not necessarily related to any views or policies of the Board of The Ringing World Ltd.

Shall I, shan’t I?

I have to confess that when I first saw the advert earlier in the year for a new Ringing World director to replace Prudence Fay, who was retiring, my antennae quivered and I wondered if I might apply, but I decided they were probably looking for someone a bit younger and an established figure in the Exercise, so I dismissed the idea. Then, in a casual conversation with the Editor, with whom I was on good terms after our collaboration over RR2005 at Newbury, he asked if I had considered the job and the idea re-surfaced from the depths of my memory to which it had been conveyed when I dismissed it. I agreed to give it further thought, reminding myself of the excellent co-operation I had received when organising RR2005 and my favourable impressions of a close-knit team of people turning out a quality product week after week (that should ensure this is published!), with whom I was sure I could work. So, I consulted a few people whom I considered to be "established figures in the Exercise". I was also invited to lunch at Andover which was obviously a thinly-veiled pre-nomination interview! The consensus of those I consulted was "Go for it". So, despite my misgivings, I agreed to be nominated, justifying my decision on the grounds that I had effectively been headhunted!

Ringing World Board members are nominated at the company AGM which is held at the Central Council Annual Meeting, which this year was at Newcastle but it was made clear I wasn’t expected to travel so far to witness my presumed election. I say "presumed" because I was flattered to have a current Board member nominate me, reading to a script containing information on my ringing history which I had sent him! I learned of my elevation to the Board by the now traditional communication technology - a terse text message, sent to me by my wife while I was out of the house, saying "u r a rw dir". An e-mail confirmation from my nominator followed shortly after telling me I had been elected "by a substantial majority". Hang on a minute, I thought, my nomination was from the Board and I knew there were no other nominations, so how come there was a "substantial majority" and not unanimous support? Obviously there had been a vote or votes against me! Discreet enquiries seeking the source of the "no" votes were unsuccessful and the only answer I got was "That’s ringers for you!" Still, it makes me wonder whether I need to keep an eye on my back in case the "antis" are out to get me!

I’m in!

So, how did I begin to take up my duties as the new director - and, more importantly, what are they? I didn’t have to wait long before I got an invite from the Chairman, Jackie Roberts, to meet at Eagleside House. Jackie actually followed a written procedure entitled Trustee Induction. I was impressed, because in all my experiences in industry I had never seen one of these before, on-the-job training being the normal way a new member of a team was inducted. Furthermore, this document was backed up by several others which immediately informed me of the way a trustee is expected to carry on. I confess I hadn’t really appreciated that, as The Ringing World is a charity, the directors are trustees.

Also present at my induction was Chris Rogers, Finance Director. I hadn’t realised that Chris’ path and mine had crossed before and he recounted a chat with me on a coach outing from Isleworth to Northamptonshire on the subject of pronunciation of Welsh place names. I checked when I got home and found this was in 1956 - what a memory! My doubts about my age surfaced when he told me he had been a schoolboy at the time! I had rung at Isleworth with his illustrious father and late mother when I was at London University.

So, what was expected of me? I was told I had inherited Prudence’s portfolio which comprised advertising (in the paper) and production of the diary and the calendar, oh, and while I was at it, I could help to organise the paper’s appearance at RR2008. It was put to me that if I could organise 130 exhibitors at RR2005, just one at RR2008 was obviously a piece of cake! … and just one more thing, the centenary celebrations of the paper in 2011. I was secretly chuffed to be asked to do the last named as it seemed that despite my advanced age, I had been assessed as likely to be still alive in 2011!

Ringing Roadshow 2008

My involvement in this did indeed turn out to be a piece of cake because most of the preparation work had already been done before I appeared on the scene. I was only deputed to help Phil Watts (I’d met him at RR2005), whose responsibilities include marketing the paper and the Ringing World General Manager Chris Darvill. There was another blast from the past with Chris whose parents, Ken and Angela I knew well from the ODG. Phil, in his capacity as Head of Corporate Affairs at Ordnance Survey is well-versed in marketing and Chris has come from the exhibition world where he knew how to get the most out of an exhibition stand. I was able to help with the transport of exhibition display material, kindly loaned by OS through the good offices of Phil and I was delighted to be told what to do by Chris, who despite claiming to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown throughout the whole show, dealt with all sorts of panics very successfully, including re-designing the stand layout when we arrived at Stoneleigh to find the organisers had forgotten to tell us there was a huge vertical girder slap in the middle of our allocated area. Chris has a first class honours degree in blagging - which is the in-term for scrounging - and this produced all sorts of loan items to embellish the stand! I was very impressed with the stand and even more by the manning of it by all the directors and office staff, who operated the complex (to me!) till as if they’d always worked in a retail environment. The takings were impressive too, equating to £2.50 a second!

I thoroughly enjoyed RR2008, mainly because I wasn’t organising it! I lost count of the number of people who came up to me and said "Do you have a feeling of déjà vu?" My answer was always the same: "Yes, but without the stress!" I was proud to display my badge proclaiming my directorship although I was a bit disappointed at the number of people who didn’t know about it - non-readers obviously (must do something about them!) I was also pleased to have played a small part in the organising of RR2008 by providing John Anderson and his team with the details of how we organised Newbury. All in all, the Ringing World presence at Stoneleigh was a great success and we did some useful business. I’m not sure when the next Roadshow will be but if it’s in three years time it’ll coincide with the Ringing World centenary - but more of that later.

My First Board Meeting

The Ringing World Board only meets four times a year and my first attendance was in September. The meeting was preceded by a viewing of the proposed new premises in Andover, of which more later! So, having established where the chairman would be sitting I retired to the end of the table in the forlorn hope of not catching her eye when actions arose! This was the first opportunity I’d had to meet all my fellow directors together although unfortunately Fred Bone was unable to attend. No matter, I’d become acquainted with Fred at RR2005 when we wrestled with the wi-fi system at Newbury Racecourse and I’d been impressed with his mastery of things IT. I’d met the other directors individually before but I hadn’t met Ian Oram, Company Secretary, who is gravitas personified! He gave me a friendly welcome but gleefully pointed out that he had been pleased to receive my personal details for the nomination process because they revealed that he would no longer be the oldest person at the Board meeting (it’s the age thing rearing its ugly head again!). Bill Hibbert, or Doctor Bill Hibbert as he should be properly addressed, was known to me through my efforts to record and analyse the nominals of ODG bells using his brilliant software. I also spent some time with him at RR2008 providing text for the pictures he uploaded to the Editor’s blog on the Ringing World web site.

So, what was on the agenda? There were no fewer than seventeen items, including the inevitable apologies and approval of the minutes of the last meeting, laid out in immaculate detail by Ian. My bit was grandly titled "Production and Advertising Director’s Report" and I was alarmed to see "Printing Contract" listed among my responsibilities. I soon got shot of that as the recent troubles with printers, well-documented in the paper, had been dealt with by Chris Rogers and Chris Darvill and were certainly not my problem!

The Issues

What are the issues facing the Ringing World and what can the Board do about them? Probably the most important is a declining circulation. This is hardly Earth-shattering news to anyone involved in publishing because it is a common problem with every periodical in the country. Our annual loss rate of just over one percent is actually pretty good relative to many other magazines, which on average have much higher loss rates. However, the Board fully recognises the problem and there are various ideas being floated to counter the losses, of which more in the future. Efforts are being directed to at least stabilising the situation and, ideally, restoring the losses. However, the general decline in periodical readership is believed to be attributable to greater use of electronic communications which at least suggests the way the Ringing World should go - but how? The new web site is a step in the right direction and there are lots of ideas for adding to it. Have you visited it yet - and if not why not?

The Diary

I was asked what I proposed to do to change the 2010 diary, which is now my baby and I put forward a few ideas, almost off the top of my head, although I do have strong feelings that changes are necessary to maintain interest in it - and to keep the sales up. My preliminary thinking, which is what it was, did not exactly go down too well with the conservatives but we shall see. I am sure we can make it even more attractive than it is now and I’m determined to make a success of this, my first responsibility.

 

New Director's Blog - Part 2

 

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