MINUTES OF THE 70th (72nd year) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – Tuesday 22nd March, 2022

The AGM was held via zoom.

MINUTES OF THE 70th (72nd year) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE GAGE PLAYERS, held at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 22nd March, 2022 via Zoom.

  1. Present
    Gay Weeden (in the chair) and 10 members of the company
  1. Apologies for absence
    Received from Clive Elcome, Clare Smyl, Elayne Teague and Lorraine Wheeler-Smith.
  1. Minutes of the 2018 AGM
    The minutes of the 2019 AGM minutes were accepted as a correct record.
  1. Matters arising
    There were no matters arising.
  1. Chairman’s report
    Gay Weeden read out her report for the year:‘Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the Gage 2022 AGM, our first general meeting for two years.‘I took over the role of chairman in September 2020, after the end of our first, sunny, lockdown. Our spring 2020 production of Molly’s Calling written and directed by Pip Rolls had been postponed because of Covid – people were not allowed to mix freely in public or to visit loved ones in hospital and care homes, and it had become obvious that there would be no staged productions for The Gage. We should have been celebrating our 70th anniversary, a rare and remarkable milestone for any amateur drama society, with a gala production in November 2020 directed by Gill Gibbins, but Covid and lockdown meant that this wonderful landmark occasion had to be missed, to our great sadness.‘In order to keep interest and contact going, we turned in September to Zoom for informal weekly meetings – reading poems, prose or short plays, anything from Shakespeare to Monty Python and Pam Ayres! These evenings were very successful, full of variety, fun and were a good way of maintaining the enthusiasm of Gage members who wished to take part or to listen in.

    ‘The second lockdown came suddenly at Christmas 2020 and was very different, with cold, grey days, and disappointments. Our hoped-for spring 2021 production of Molly’s Calling continued to be on hold. However, as the original cast were still available, it was hoped that we could recommence rehearsals and aim for a November 2021 production. Our usual September supper with rehearsed reading, to be directed by Chris Slater, was also postponed until less worrying times.

    ‘In planning ahead, we learned from our regular rehearsal hall that not only had the hire charges tripled but that without notice our regular Wednesday evening slot would not be available to us at the times we needed – and had always had – despite giving them very early notice of our production dates. We really felt that we were not being fairly treated, after so many years as a loyal hall user. We searched for other venues, and learned that we would have to pay increased hire charges, but very happily found that Walton Primary School Hall was available when we needed it, with excellent facilities and administration, and car parking.

    ‘Optimistically, rehearsals had got under way in our new venue in September 2021 but, just a week away from opening night in November, we had to make the devastating decision once again to cancel the show. Tickets sales were very slow, with people still afraid to mix in enclosed spaces, despite ventilation and our meeting all the Covid regulations, and we knew that the show would run at a very substantial loss if we went ahead, to say nothing of tiny audiences being demoralising for the cast. The cast and crew were all hugely disappointed but understood the importance of containing losses as much as possible, with the Gage already having to write off the rehearsal and other preparation charges, though we were able to save some of the Riddell Hall charges and a few front of house costs. Our sympathy went out to our playwright and director, Pip Rolls, who patiently accepted the situation on this third attempt to put his play on the stage.

    ‘The use of Walton Primary School has opened up other opportunities for the Gage. As our poetry evenings have been so successful it was suggested to the school that the children of the top two classes could have a competition to write or read a favourite poem, and join us for a matinee performance. The six winning children would read their poems on stage, and six Gage members would read our choices, with an interval for afternoon tea and a raffle, and a gift bag plus commemorative Gage certificate being presented to each child on stage at the end. We hope this will draw a good audience of parents, grandparents, friends and teachers. Well, this event should already have happened this March, but unfortunately so many children were going down with this wretched Covid that it was thought wiser to wait until the autumn, when we hope the virus will be better controlled for young ones.

    ‘The highlight of our year so far in 2022 has been the staging of Pip Rolls’ five short comedies, What Really Happened, a funny and irreverent take on some key moments in our history, in a rehearsed reading performance with supper. It was so good to be treading the boards again! The audience were very appreciative and really enjoyed the whole evening. Thank you, Pip, for ‘making it happen’. Following that success, we hope to put o at least one further rehearsed reading play with supper later in the year.

    ‘The 2021 Walton May Pageant had also been postponed, to 21st May 2022, with its title ‘Our Precious Planet’. We shall have a Gage stall there, and will also run the bottle tombola stall, a reliable source of revenue, so we are looking forward to a popular, fun event – and good weather.

    ‘While it might seem as though nothing has been going on, behind the scenes many improvements were being made: the scenery storage shed had to be re-roofed, a new shed for wardrobe was paid for and installed, and all our wardrobe items were sorted (some discarded), washed, ironed and hung ready for future use – thank you to Eileen, Clare and Lorraine for their Trojan efforts.

    ‘In addition, two grant applications have been prepared and presented this month, to give our running costs a safety net until we have built up our reserves again – they are the monies we use to fund all the upfront expenditure for productions, and also to make improvements to the hall. Thanks go to Rod Lucas, our treasurer, and Gill Gibbins, our secretary, for putting together a bid direct to the National Lottery Community Fund, and to Pfizer, via the good offices of Walton Village Forum. We are awaiting their responses.

    ‘My personal thanks go to Gill Gibbins for all the work she quietly does in the background, and for the help and support she has given me. I couldn’t do this job without her, I just wouldn’t know where to start. So many people deserve mention and thanks for getting things done, but again, especially our treasurer, Rod Lucas, for working hard with our financial position – not an enviable task, with no opportunities to generate income for two years, but plenty of outgoings! I know you will explain our state of affairs in a moment.

    ‘Thank you to all who have kept enthusiasm for and belief in the Gage going in these dreadful times, and I look forward to being with you all again soon, in person.’

  1. Treasurer’s report
    Rod Lucas’s financial account for the past two years had been circulated ahead of the meeting, which demonstrated the losses caused to the Gage by two years of being unable to generate income from tickets sales while having to pay running and production costs of shows which had to be cancelled after incurring upfront charges. His treasurer’s report was as follows:‘During the last two years the Gage has suffered a huge financial loss, particularly by the cancellation of Molly’s Calling by Pip Rolls, where we made a loss of £590.95, plus the associated profits we would have made on productions.‘However, the recent play reading evening boosted our finances quite a bit, so did also generous donations made by many members when they renewed their last year’s subs, which support our high annual insurance premium.‘I invite members to renew their subscriptions (£20 for full membership, £10 for juniors) by bank transfer if that is convenient, if not by a cheque or even cash at some time. Please include a reference on the bank transaction. Donations would of course be very welcome.

    Bank details:-
    Account name ‘The Gage Players’
    Sort code 20-29-90
    Account number 00396907’

    It was agreed that Lars Sawyer would circulate a request for the payment of subscriptions to the Gage membership, and would include a note to the effect that any extra donations would be gratefully received, if members found that possible.

    The matter of paying for cast copies of Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders by Derek Webb was discussed. Chris Slater confirmed that he had handed copies to Elayne Teague, Eileen Debski, Val Anscombe, Moya Weeks, Lars Sawyer and Debbie Nichols; Rod Lucas reported that payment (£7 per copy) had been received from some of them. Chris still has four copies for future cast members, and Gill Gibbins has three for prompt, for stage managers/wardrobe, and for sound/light, (which three are paid for by the Gage). If, when the play comes again to audition/casting, those already holding a copy cannot take part, they will return their copy to Chris and be refunded, and those who do take part and had not previously paid for their copy would do so at that point.The matter of levying a show charge to those taking part in a production on stage (as is done by some other amdram companies) was briefly discussed and it was agreed that the Gage would not do this.

    The accounts were accepted by all present.

  1. Election of officers
    Gay Weeden, Rod Lucas and Gill Gibbins were willing to remain in their respective posts of chairman, treasurer and secretary, and were re-elected unanimously en bloc by those present.
  1. Election of committee
    Debbie Nichols had been obliged by circumstances to resign from the committee in December 2021, to everyone’s regret.The current membership of the committee were all willing to serve another term, and were re-elected unanimously en bloc by those present.The committee comprises Gay Weeden as chairman, Gill Gibbins, Jon Laws, Gill Lucas, Rod Lucas, Martin Saul, Lars Sawyer, Clare Smyl and Beryl White. There is also an effective (unelected) sub-committee comprising Eileen Debski, Pip Rolls, Chris Slater and Lorraine Wheeler-Smith.
  1. Election of auditor
    Rod Lucas undertook to contact Paul Spooner to verify that he would be willing to continue in his role as auditor.
  1. Forward planning
    Two grant applications are in progress for funding to tide the Gage over until we have been able to build up our reserves again to finance upfront costs on main productions. Rod Lucas had made a grant bid to the National Lottery Community Fund but their rules appear to have changed since we last did so, as they now require the names of more than one Gage trustee in the application, as well as two separate committee members. Rod will review everything and see what may need to be done in order to comply with their requirements as soon as possible.Gill Gibbins had sent a grant application to Pfizer through to the Walton Village Forum, who had offered to put this through to Pfizer. After several weeks of not hearing back, Gill had heard yesterday from Grant Webster at the WVF that it seems Pfizer have now handed the management of their community fund to Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. He is hoping to find out who at the council should be approached, and how, and is going to ask his contact at Pfizer the same thing, so we hope we may be able to make progress with this before long.10.2 The Gage will have a stall, and will run the bottle tombola stall at the Walton May Pageant on 21st May.We are also hoping to hold another rehearsed reading with supper on 24th September, 2022, of Playgoers by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, directed by Chris Slater.

    We were planning to hold the delayed Pop-up Poetry event with Walton Primary School also in September, but on the advice of Anne Henderson it was agreed that this should most likely be held later in the year if possible. The Covid situation is very fluid, particularly among children and their families and teachers, in addition to which those in the school’s top two classes would be different following the start of a new school year, and a September date would not allow sufficient time for preparation. There is also still the possibility of a main production starting rehearsal in September for end-November performances, which might place undue pressure on Gage personnel.

  1. Any other business
    There was no other business and the meeting was closed at 8.15pm, to be followed by a Gage committee meeting.
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