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2017 Annual General Meeting of the Illustrious Order of Fools and Beasts

October 29th, Church Eaton Village Institute, Church Eaton, Stafford ST20 0AG.


1)      Attendance and Apologies

a)      Present: Robert Chisman, Trigg, (Convener); Julian Kohler, Plymouth, (Squire); John Edwards, Stafford, (Webmaster and Minutes Secretary); Peter de Courcy, Kennet, (Membership Secretary); Ethan Armes, Trigg; Peter Austin, Jockey; Greg Bramwell, Yateley; John Burke, King John’s; Rob Collyer; Clive Cowx, Dolphin; Gavin Davison, Ripley; Iain Davison, Lassington Oak; Clive Du Mont, Whitchurch; Jed Dunn, Wyvern Jubilee; Douglas Herdson, Plymouth; Jenny Howard, John Ide, Grimsby; J Jeffey, Plymouth; Henning Koeford, The Maypole Man; Christina Pritchard, Red Stags, Jack Smee, Kennet; John Stait, Jockey; Clive Sturgess, Ripley;

b)      Apologies: Jack Brown, Roger Comley, Chris Chisman, John Clifford, Glen Close, Charlie Corcoran, Mike Frost, Max Haynes, John Jenner, Dave Leister, Glen Osborne, Paul Reece, Roger Ward, Verna & Stephen Wass, Kim Woodward.

2)      Minutes of Last Meeting

a)      The 2016 minutes were available at the meeting and had been published on the F&B Web site since shortly after the meeting. They were deemed to be a true record. (Proposed by Clive S, Seconded by Jeff J).
                [Iain Davison congratulated the Order on spelling both his names right for the first time ever.]

3)      Matters Arising

a)      There were no matters arising that would not be on the agenda.

4)      Officers’ Reports:

a)      Squire’s Report

i)        Julian’s report consisted in a reaffirmation that he was still alive. This was subject to a debate on the grounds that he had been uncommon quiet during the weekend; however, it was eventually accepted.

b)      Convener’s Report

i)        Communications

(a)    It was noted that e-mails being sent out via Mail Chimp had not been received by everyone. Possibly messages were being screened as spam, but the e-mails of those concerned were confirmed to the convener.

(b)   Robert had had a difficult year but the F&B paperwork was now organised.

ii)      Events

(a)    Knotty and Trigger had attended the JMO Meeting in Leicester. Operating in their normal itinerant fashion they had encountered many new sides, met a lot of familiar sides and spoken to several fools and beasts, but that had not yet had any effect on new members for the Order.

(b)   Robert had not been able to attend the Ring ARM, but Peter de Coursy and Roger Comley were present. There was evidently little that transpired which would have any impact on F&B

(c)    Robert had not been able to attend either the Open or Federation AGMs. Since Kim and John C had become less involved with the Open Morris, we were getting little feedback on their AGM or activities.

(d)   Similar remarks applied to the Federation AGM; however Sam Ross had included information about the last Unconvention in her report. Jenny noted that although she was not currently a member of a Fed Side, she could attend as a member of IOFB.

(e)   The Convener, with Trigg and Plymouth, had attended the Ravensbourne ring meeting and noted the exceptional reception they had received on the South Bank. Ratass had also found himself the centre of much attention. There was some discussion about the practicality of F&B going for a similar day of dance. Trigger would investigate further, but it was felt that the IOFB would have quite an impact with the London crowds. Robert would investigate further, but previous attempts to hold Unconventions in London had been prohibitively expensive.

(f)     The Sidmouth “Horse of the Year Show” had been an enjoyable event with Ratass taking the top prize, much to the chagrin of Trigger. This was especially galling as Julian had been the Judge.

iii)    2017 Unconvention

(a)    Robert took the opportunity to thank John for taking on the organisation for this Unconvention, when other offers failed to materialise. There was general consensus that the event was well organised and enjoyable. Five people who were expected did not arrive, three due to illness and two for unknown reasons. That made things difficult and resulted in unnecessary expenses so we might have to have commitment and payment earlier in future.

(b)   He particularly thanked Carol for the excellent catering at the weekend. Many positive remarks were made about the superb food. He also thanked those who had assisted with the kitchen work, notably Christine Burke and Christina Pritchard. However, there was a special mention for the great job done by our newcomer, Greg Bramwell, who had worked tirelessly during the weekend. Sadly, Rachel Haynes, who intended to assist, had broken her arm and was unable to do so.

iv)    Accounts

The accounts were presented for 2016 and a copy is appended.

The 2016 Unconvention had made a slight profit, but the bank balance was down by some £400 to £682. However, there was a substantial amount of stock including £271 spent on Badges.

Only one item gave cause for concern, namely the payment of £25 to the Federation for an advert in their publication. It was thought that paying for their own events was wrong, but in any case the evidence was that no additional members or delegates to Unconventions had resulted. In future, any input to the publication should be by way of reports or articles for which there is no charge.

There was some discussion about on-line sales and making items available via the Morris Shop. Robert would discuss this with Sean in due course.

The Unconvention fees had remained constant for several years and to date had broken more or less even. However, John Ide remarked that maybe it was time to apply an increase, especially if we were going to expensive parts of the country. That way we would not be reliant on collections or shop sales to plug the deficit.

Overall, the accounts were accepted unanimously.

c)       Membership Secretary’s Report

Mr de Courcy will update the list of members, when he receives the new members record from Trigger. This will include both newly accredited or associate members and regrettably identifying others as deceased, or having no further interest in the organisation.

Unfortunately, as with other Morris communications there are frequently no responses and it is not known whether bagmen pass on the details to their fools or beasts.

This led on to discussion about how we could improve contacts to get more members. It seemed that the only way was by personal contact. However, if it was possible to send messages directly to the characters, we may get through. Perhaps addressing the letters to ‘the fool or beast’ or marking it for their attention may work. Jenny noted that there were relatively few fools in Federation sides. Those with sufficient interest would probably find out about our organisation themselves.

Various members had talked to potential candidates at festivals and JMO events, but this had had little effect on increased numbers..

Knotty reported that Jack Brown had just celebrated his 90th birthday and was still playing an active part as the Stafford Fool. [Jack deeply regretted that he had had a ‘Nonagenarian moment’ and forgotten about this event until it was too late.]

Peter had brought the scrap books and photo albums to this event and they had proved interesting to delegates. As with other archive material it was difficult to make them available to a wider public.

d)      Webmaster’s Report

John reported that there had been a significant number of hits on the web site although it was difficult to know who they were or what their interest was. He felt that the web site was basically a reference source, as Facebook, twitter and the like were nowadays providing more immediate reports and pictures of events. Most people can post to social media while compiling a web site is much more complex.

There was discussion about the format and content of the web site and, as usual, the webmaster pointed out that it was not his personal site and he would welcome any input of content or ideas to make it more attractive. Any pictures for the fools or beasts galleries would be particularly welcome.

Various people in the room commented that they had found articles and information on the site interesting and useful. That was pleasing, because there is seldom any feedback on the relevance of the site to members or the public. Peter de Courcy recommended the Workshop Notes available online, which came as a surprise to many.

The Facebook page seemed to be a valuable resource, although a significant number of members never used it and others viewed it only occasionally. Unsurprisingly, younger members made use of social media more than most, but few people had time for IOFB Twitter, or any of the other systems. You Tube was felt to be a useful medium, but again it relied on uploads from members to give us publicity. There are not many F&B clips.

e)      There were no reports from any of the Morris Organisations; Ring, Federation or Open.

5)      Future events

a)      The 2018 JMO day of dance would be on May 19th in Peterborough. It would be hosted by Crosskey Clog on behalf of the Open Morris. No details were available, but individual Fools or Beasts would be welcome. A number of people present intended to go, but some would be committed to their own sides for the day. As usual the IOFB would cater for miscellaneous characters who wished to attend and do their own thing!

b)      It was expected that the Horse of the Year event would again take place during Sidmouth Festival, (3-10 August 2018); although the unbiased judge told Ratass that he would not win again!

c)       Simon Pipe, who danced out on the Saturday tour was endeavouring to obtain funds to reinstate the Banbury Hobby Horse Festival. That was a very successful and enjoyable event for some years until it was subsumed in local politics. Details will be published if and when it happens.

d)      Future Unconventions.

(1)    It looks like there will be hosts for the next few years

(2)    2018 Lassington Oak at Gloucester

(3)    2019 London

(4)    2020 Plymouth in conjunction with the “Mayflower” commemorations.

(5)    2021 Stratford on Avon

(6)    2022 (Maybe Jed’s new pub will be available – near Leominster

6)      Appointment of Officers.

a)      Squire
Julian Kohler was, (as reported above), still alive so it was unnecessary to appoint a new Squire. Not that anyone wanted the job, although there were thought to be certain benefits in taking the credit for other people’s hard work.

b)      Convener
The general consensus that Robert and Trigger were a good team as Scrivener, Convener and Treasurer although trigger’s spelling and handwriting left something to be desired. Nobody asked if they agreed to continue, but with no other nominations they were reappointed.

c)       Membership and Web/Minutes
Peter de Courcy was reappointed as Membership Secretary and John Edwards was reappointed as Webmaster/Minutes secretary, because neither could think of good enough reasons to resign

7)      Membership of the Order - New Members

a)      The newly accredited members who were inducted at the feast, Ethan Ames and Greg Bramwell were formally welcomed. As was Christine Burke who was made an associate member for playing during the Saturday tour.

b)      There had been no application from overseas characters this year.

c)       Discussion about recruitment of new members is reported above, but those present felt we should particularly encourage younger people who had shown an interest in our activities. It was noted that the Ring had a fund to support young dancers and it was though that the federation also had some such scheme. Robert would investigate this with a view to subsidising younger potential members.

8)      Confirmation or amendments to the Constitution and Child Protection Policy.

a)      As last year, The Constitution was confirmed. It was really to define our objectives for third parties, including potential sponsors.

b)       The Order’s Child Protection Policy currently based on that of the Open Morris would continue as such. (It is seldom applicable although in the current litigation society we need to beware of it.)

c)       A number of members present had relevant CRB Clearance which may help if needed.

d)      Knotty noted that as far as vulnerable adults were concerned, his and Trigger’s experience with numerous such people at Leicester resulted in remarkably positive interactions.

e)      The Ring and Open had issued a joint statement about blackened faces and racism. However most of our costumes are so outlandish that it is not clear what races could be offended.

9)        Any other business.

a)      Again there was an enquiry about the professional photographs taken at an earlier Unconvention and those taken by The Daily Telegraph photographer. Nobody had any information, but it was hoped they would be available somewhere.

b)       The meeting closed at 11.25 a.m. so that delegates could clear up and drive to Stafford Market Square ready to dance from 12.30 to 13.30.

Compiled by John Edwards and Knotty.

2nd November 2017


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