The Gazette - May 2014

Sponsored by The Ulverscroft Foundation
Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

Notes from the AGM

You know that an AGM has gone well when people come up to you after the meeting, even on the Sunday, and make a point of telling you how well the AGM went and how well run it was. That was my happy experience this time round, and it must be said the atmosphere throughout the AGM and the weekend as a whole was remarkably positive and some progressive and forward-looking decisions were taken at the AGM itself.

After holding a minute's silence for four deceased members, Sean O’Brien, Michael Keane, John Holmberg and David Winkworth, we moved to the much happier task of awarding honorary life membership to our fundraiser, Julia Scott. Norman pointed out that during her time as fundraiser Julia had raised a truly staggering half a million pounds. It would be stating the obvious, but it should still be stated, that without Julia's work, many of the positive and forward-looking moves the association has made over the years would have not been possible.

Tony Corfe of Castle Chess then gave a brief talk about the tournaments he organises in hotels (you can read about these in the ‘All Under One Roof’ section of the gazette) and announced that he was reconstituting his direct mailing list. If you want automatic notification of Castle Chess events let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

Tony is also about to send an email about the BCA to schools on his database. The hope is that any visually impaired children in those schools might become interested in the game and some thought has been given on how best to follow up with any children who do express an interest.

Turning back to matters of finance and fundraising, we were pleased to note that Julia had raised £14,000 during the first half of the financial year. Looking back over the last few years, it would appear that one or two organisations seem to have become strong supporters of the BCA and the committee is aware of the value of maintaining a good working relationship with such supporters. A classic example is the Primary Club who, yet again, have supported us with a generous donation of £3,500.

Guy reported back on a policy review that he and Norman had been working on. This is something the committee has to do every five years or so anyway, but various legal changes, such as the replacement of the Criminal Records Bureau checking scheme with the new Disclosing and Barring Scheme meant that our vulnerable persons policy also needed updating. Our insurers have also requested us to draw up a fully-fledged, formal health and safety policy. This might sound a bit dull, but they are part and parcel of running an organisation properly and when these policies are published on our website, which they will be soon, it will reflect very well on our association and send a powerful signal to the outside world that we take the proper running of the BCA very seriously.

The final bit of procedure/admin that needs to be covered here is the passing of a motion which added a section on AGM governance to our constitution. We unanimously passed a motion which draws a clear distinction between vigorous debate on issues of policy and direct attacks aimed at individuals and which goes on to state that those who do not observe this distinction will be asked to leave the meeting. The motion also says that guests from outside the association can attend an AGM, but only with the permission of the committee, and that the committee has the right to bar a guest from attending if they think their appearance would be detrimental to the smooth running of the AGM. Needless to say these procedures also apply to an extraordinary general meeting.

Of course our association doesn't just exist for the sake of its own procedures, so let's now look at some chess-focused developments set in motion at this year's AGM. The idea of properly constructed email tournaments was given the go ahead. The more entrants, the merrier! Guy also reported that we had been invited to enter teams into the ECF's National Club championships. These have been reconstituted and will now take place over the last weekend of April each year. Associate member Owen Phillips has also offered us the chance to play an annual match against his club, Wallington, based in Surrey. I for one feel that these are just the kind of things which can keep our chess programme varied and fresh, and they don't require people to give up large chunks of their year to experience something exciting and different. These relatively small-scale, easy to manage enterprises could be just the thing to help get the association even better known and to forge even closer links with the wider chess world. Anyone interested in participating should let me know, and I’ll keep people posted on developments.

In the last gazette three options were put forward regarding the future format of the British Championships. In the event the options for a shorter event based over a long weekend, rather like the tournaments held in Dublin, and an elite weekend event based on a qualification process were conclusively rejected and the vote was decisively in favour of keeping the status quo, i.e. a closed week-long event held every two years. It's likely the 2015 British Championship will take place in Morecambe.

Social media is going to play a very important role in the association's future particularly when it comes to reaching out to younger people, and Chris Ross was able to report that our Twitter account was now up and running and in a relatively short period of time we had acquired a good number of followers. We will be looking for a group of people to tweet on behalf of the BCA; this approach has worked well in the British Computer Association of the Blind and tweeting for us could be a not too arduous way for people with limited time to still help out with promoting our association. Chris also reported that he had a contact in Germany who was interested in getting some Skype tournaments going.

Continuing the digital theme, we've been putting small items on our website, but Chris would like some hall of fame stories, so if you feel up to writing something about some past member or some event you were part of which somehow seems to capture the flavour of who we are and what we do, pass them on to any committee member and we'll get them put online.

The other issues that typically get covered at the AGM are equipment, books and personnel changes, so to finish with here's a brief paragraph on each of these. We may have found a repairer of mechanical chess clocks. A company in Bradford did a good job of repairing the clock of one of our members, so on that basis I've sent eight BCA clocks off to them. I've reason to believe that at least some of these may have been clocks we've sold to members, but I have no way of linking any clock back to an original owner. When we see what state they come back in, a policy decision will have to be taken on what we do with these clocks. I've noticed though that increasingly our members are starting to use the talking digital clocks, so you'll be interested to know that Chris is writing a set of instructions which will be easier to follow than the original ones.

The BCA policy on books is that although we have not entirely given up on adding titles to the audio library or getting books Brailled, we have to be much more demand driven than we have been in the past. This is particularly the case now that ebooks are finally becoming accessible, at least sometimes, to visually impaired chess players. Companies like Everyman Chess have started to put fen diagrams into ebooks, and PGN ebooks can be opened in a basic editor such as Word and processed like any document. This progress on accessibility is something that our publications and ICT sub-committee members have been asking chess publishers for and so we should welcome and support this development. John Gallagher offered to be a point of contact for anyone wanting to explore ebooks, and John Jenkins and I are still thinking of putting on a sort of very brief technology evening at the Chairman's Cup. Those who still like to use Braille may like to know that shortly after the AGM we learned that Jeremy Silman’s endgame course had been transcribed and was available from the RNIB.

And so finally personnel changes. We were all sorry to see Stan Lovell stand down and he received a spontaneous round of applause for the years’ service he has provided us, and in some respects will continue to do so, but we were delighted to welcome another popular and longstanding member of the BCA, Voldi Gailans, to the committee as our Publicity Officer. We were also delighted that Julie Leonard stood for the role of Gazette editor and was elected to the post. We'd like to thank Rebecca Blaevoet for producing some very interesting gazettes during her editorship. As I said, it's always sad to see people leave the committee but change is inevitable, and more than one member made a point of approaching me after the AGM and saying that in their view, the association now had an extremely strong committee to take it forward.

Guy Whitehouse, Secretary.