Committee Members' Reports 2002/2003

Chairperson - Anne Shapland

One of the achievements of 2003 is that we have moved our group venue. On October 1st we held our first evening meeting at the Local Hero in Freemen's Park, which was attended by about 25 members. The venue was chosen after many visits, discussions, and finally a ballot, the results of which can be seen in the autumn/winter 2003 programme. Thanks to Andy Nicholson, who walked the streets and frequented the pubs, with some help from other members, and co-ordinated the whole process.

At the same time, we are also sad to be leaving the King Richard III after 17 years, and the friendly welcome and support given to the group by Roger & Rose. We wish them well in their coming retirement. There will be a presentation at the AGM by the group to show our appreciation. The excellent mild will also be very much missed!

Leicester YHA won the President's Award 2002 for the best Local Group web site. Thanks to Chris for winning this for the group yet again. The web site is one our main sources for attracting new members, and also serves to make the programme and late entries readily available.

At the last AGM a first aid course was proposed, and there is now a 6 hour certificated course, free of charge, on offer later this year. We are still looking for someone to lead a map reading course.

There have been several new event organisers in the past year, particularly from female members, and they have been very successful. However, we still need more involvement, particularly in leading walks, which should form the core of our group activities. Perhaps some of the members who have been with the group for some time, but not yet organised an activity, would like to make 2004 their debut! There is plenty of help and support available.

Finally, my thanks to the committee members, event organisers, walkers, drivers, and everyone else who has helped to make 2002/3 a success. Let's see if we can do even better next year!

Secretary - Phil Humphrey

Firstly, thanks to Chris Hunt for taking the minutes of the 2002 AGM, as most of you will know, Myra and I became parents to Matthew a few days after this.

The group only entered two categories in the 2002 President's Awards, but we came joint 1st with Chelmsford group in the Best Web Site category. Congratulations to Chris for putting the entry together. It's the 4th time Chris has won this. Chris volunteering some time to the now disbanded National Hostelling & Local Groups Committee has also assisted improvements in other groups' web sites.

The YHA Central Region AGM is on 15th November in London. Dave and Alan are attending. If any other members wish to go, please contact Dave, Alan or myself for more details.

The group are now using the new Group Booking Forms to book hostels for weekends. So far this has worked well. Thanks to Dave Self and Alan Summers for the work they put into this project at national level.

There are also plans to revise the Event Organisers' Guide booklet that was put together last year, primarily by Chris and Dave. If any members who have read or used the existing guide have views on where improvements can be made, please contact Chris or Dave.

The move to our new Wednesday night meeting venue has now been made, thanks to Andy Nicholson for researching a selection of potential venues. His clear and concise report was of great help to the committee before putting the vote out to members on this issue. Thanks also to Brian Goodwin for offering his "local knowledge" to get us a good corner to meet in, and he even delayed his holiday to be at our first evening meeting at the Local Hero.

I have been taking copies of the YHA News and any other correspondence of general group interest to the Wednesday night meetings and then using the notice board to display certain items and spare copies of YHA News. We probably won't have the use of a notice board any more, so please contact me direct if you are especially interested in seeing these sorts of things.

Treasurer - Dave Self

Since it was this Group's motion to the National Hostelling & Local Groups Conference in 2002 that led to its introduction this year, to YHA booking procedures. I must first mention the Local Group Booking Form, or as it has now become the Affiliated (non-educational) Group Booking Form. From the Elterwater weekend, as an Affiliated Group, we are now gaining our 10% loyalty discount on each booking. It is now a reality, but as with any new procedure it is already under review, so please use it, or we lose it!

Concerning our hostelling, 2002/2003 was a very poor year for Leicester YHA; we equalled our previous worst year. The Group organised only 13 successful hostelling weekends in twelve months. However, those 13 hostelling events did earn £192 in Admin Charges, plus a further 44p from rounding errors. In addition, the Group earnt another £28.40 in donations and £10.00 from the YHA President's Awards. At the AGM last year, I held Group Funds at £1,000 and transferred the remaining £40.05 to this year's Group Surplus. With the Committee's approval on the 6th October, I have done something very similar this year, as you will see in the Financial Summary. From where you will also see, our highest expense was £43.05 for the postal ballot for our change of venue. The November 2002 AGM mailing cost £42.40. Our next highest expense, £29.66 for stamps & stationary, was significantly lower than last year. This was mainly because I no longer subsidise the programme delivery from Group Surplus, but also, because publicity expenses were much lower than I expected. Except for producing copies of a long awaited Event Organisers' Guide, the other expenses were the annual costs of advertising the Group. Hence, overall the Group earnt £270.89 in surplus, that is above the money needed to finance our events. We spent out of that disposable income £216.44 to administer the Group, leaving £54.45 in surplus over the year. This Annual Surplus was again carried over, as Group Surplus, but earmarked as money towards the cost of this AGM mailing. In the future, I hope to make this a regular feature of the Annual Accounts. The Annual Surplus, or part of it, will be used to pay for the cost of each AGM mailing. This mailing is a relatively high cost at the start of each new Financial Year. Over and above this, the Group now has a 'constant' £1,000 of non-disposable funds, our Group Fund. These funds are used, to pay the advanced deposits for hostelling weekends. Since those deposits are then recovered, out of participants Advanced-Payments, the money is not lost.

With £76, the Group has had its highest income so far in Programme Subscriptions. This plus £10.11 in other donations, and the £38.85 carried over from last year, we earnt overall £124.96 for the Programme. From which, the Group spent £95.46 on programme printing and delivery. This left £29.50 to start the fund this year. So, in 2002/2003, the Group did finally achieve a self-financing programme, something I have been aiming for, ever since the Programme Fund was first set-up.

Social Secretary - Stella Smyth

Clearly there is a growing interest in extending our range of activities to include more cultural events, shorter weekend options (i.e. Sat-Sun) within a three-hour driving distance. There is a slight trend of other people joining the YHA on these outings, who are less inclined towards the outdoors and exercise! This is perhaps widening our social appeal and introducing a greater element of diversity into our agenda.

It is supported by the fact that the following cultural activities from Jan - Sept 2003 had generally more than 10 participants on each occasion:

12 Jan 2003, Friday night performance of West Side Story, the Haymarket, Leicester.

Jan 2003, Thursday night performance of the Merry Wives of Windsor (organised by Alison) at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Manchester weekend (maximising on free bed vouchers) Feb 2003, including an optional theatre trip to the Royal Exchange to see Yerma by Frederico Lorca, followed by a Mexican meal, and a trip to the new Lowry Arts Centre, complemented by observation of Chinese new year frolics, festivities and gastronomical delights in the rain.

Thurs 11 June 2003, Trip to see Measure for Measure at Stratford-Upon-Avon. We had the pleasant surprise of seeing our group tickets being upgraded, free of charge, to premier seating in the theatre. However, in future I would recommend going to see a Saturday matinee at Stratford, or a Friday night showing with a stopover at the youth hostel there on grounds that rushing to a performance straight from work is not very sociable. The 15 minute interval and the fact that the theatre closes at 10:30 p.m. impedes people from having time to chat, have a drink or something to eat together.

Tony Dodson's classical concert cum picnic at Calke Abbey in July was heavily subscribed to, as was his thwarted efforts to expose up to the highs and lows of Henry V a la the outdoors and fork lightning under the armoury of an umbrella. Unlike the actors' apparel we were in slight danger of being electrocuted as our forks touched the fabulous food, and the fork lightning murdered Shakespeare for the night.

Proposals for Spring/Summer 2004

Social Treasurer - Mick Nice

This year the Social Account has given back by way of, in one case, a total subsidy or discounts, the sum of £133.61 - a record amount that the Social account has ever given back to members since it was opened in 1996. The events that received the benefits were as follows:

Total Annual Deficit, however, was £94.81. Subtracting this figure from £133.51 results in a difference of £38.80. This being the profit the account has clawed back this year.

The 20 pence Administration Charge per person per social event remains unchanged. It applies to all social events, regardless of whether or not they're advertised in the programme, newsletter or on the web site. The exceptions being Christmas and New Year parties, members' house warmings, birthday parties, weddings, etc.

My many thanks as always go to all those volunteers who ran the social events.

Programme Secretary - Chris Hunt

During the year I have published three programmes, which advertised (between 1st October 2002 and 31st September 2003) 1 week-long holiday, 16 weekends away, 18 day walks and 17 evening events advertised in the programme, a total of 52 events. An average of one event a week may seem healthy, but it belies some very real problems in producing a full and varied programme…

Around a hundred people will be receiving these AGM reports. Fifteen of them have organised an event during the year. Of these, one gallant individual has led seven day walks, while another has organised no fewer than five weekends. Whilst I am grateful to these people, and to everyone who has organised an event, it cannot be right to expect them to bear the lion's share of event organisation whilst the rest of the membership enjoy a free ride. Reliance on a few key members means that when they are not available holes appear in the programme.

A second factor is the decline of the Wednesday night meeting. With regular face-to-face contact, it's easier to make people aware of gaps in the programme and inspire them to fill them with an event. Hopefully the move to a new venue will restore the Wednesday night to something of its former glory, though initial attendance figures do not show much improvement.

It's not all doom and gloom. The year has seen two people run their first weekends and a third ran their first day walk (though technically the latter is in the new 2003/4 group year). More people need to follow their lead.

If you have not yet organised an event, why not make 2004 the year to "take the plunge". It doesn't have to be a weekend away - a day walk, a meal, a theatre trip, or some original idea of your own would all be welcome additions to the programme. Weekend trips, however, are what makes this group special and more organisers are desperately needed. It doesn't have to be a weekend of walking in remote mountains - city breaks, seaside trips, one-nighters in nearby hostels have all proved popular in the past - variety is the key!

My special thanks go to Tony T for his help in producing and distributing the programme during the year, and to those fifteen people who have organised events. For the rest of you, "ask not what your YHA Group can do for you, but what you can do for your YHA Group!"

Publicity Officers - Alison King & Jo Vickers

Publicity and posters were distributed across Leicester according to Phil Worden's list for spring/summer 2003. They will be followed by the autumn/winter campaign.

We also advertised the group through our web site and the Leicester hospitals Intranet site, maintaining convenient access to information about the Leicester YHA.

The Leicester Link paper has been informed of changes to the venue and time of group meetings as from October 1st 2003 following the group's decision to relocate. It has been suggested that the Leicester Mercury might be interested in running an article about the group to coincide with the venue change.

Phil Humphrey has placed the local group's advert in the Triangle magazine.

Committee members have responded to several enquiries concerning the group's program. These enquiries have come from a broad range of people attracted by the many different activities available, from short walks to weekend breaks.

Editor - Paul Jennings

Since the last A.G.M, I have only been able to produce 4 issues of "Milestones" and should I be re-elected, I now intend this to be the normal schedule. However, it is still important to reinforce my annual urging that contributions are made in good time.

I have now finally conceded defeat and resigned myself to the fact that not all weekends will be covered. There have been very few weekend descriptions in comparison to previous years and not as many different contributors (9 excluding myself). Even so, each Newsletter had 8 pages, apart from last December that had 6.

I would like to make a special mention regarding Alison King & Kathy Burditt who supplied their first reports. It would also be difficult not to mention Tony Dodson's marathon report on the Turkey trip, which had to be spread over 2 issues (almost 3!). Phil Worden & Mick Nice provided much needed descriptions of some of the many day walks that we organise

The web site has been kept up to date. My efforts to include older editions of "Milestones" only resulted in June 1994 being added, but this is a project that I still intend to complete. There is much more that could be done, but it needs a lot of effort to ensure that information is easy to find and there are no navigation problems within the site, or linking to other sites.

My time with the Group has been limited to only one weekend (Wells-next-the-Sea) since the last A.G.M and one day walk along the Tissington Trail. Most will already realise that this is because I got married in March and setting up a new home together is very time consuming

However, I will have time to do the Newsletter. I hope to make improvements, mostly to the paper copy and am always open to suggestions (within reason). Unfortunately, the most obvious steps remain as last year. A first step would be to get more short write-ups included. A second is to ask all weekend organisers to ensure that someone is appointed before a weekend to do its write-up and that it is produced within one month of the event.

If it's time to welcome someone new to the role (perhaps high time, since I've been in it since the December 1990 edition), then I would be happy to offer any assistance that is required. It has always been rewarding, if demanding and has enabled me to keep in touch with Group activities, be involved on the Committee & experiment with Internet web design. Not to mention a free license to pun and insult without too much comeback (well, so far!).

Thanks to everyone who has given me so much encouragement and help over the years.

Regional Representative - Alan Summers

2003 was the year in which the new volunteer structure commenced. Gone were the National Hostelling and Local Groups Committee, and Countryside Committee. The work of the other old committees was allotted into a new structure.

Central Region met for the AGM at Oxford YH on October 6, 2002. The next Central Region AGM will be held on Saturday 15th November 2003 at the University of London Union Building in Malet Street, a few minutes walk from St Pancras railway station.

There were three other meetings of Regional Council during 2003,held at Hampstead Heath YH (February), Lincoln (June), Ravenstor (August) at which reports were received. Throughout the year the Association's aim was the principal message. The reports are available should anyone wish to read them. The compass booking system does not come up to the expectations required of it and has been abandoned. A replacement system is now being designed. The Guide has been redesigned as a "GO" hostelling booklet as you all know, and the lack of an index in the price booklet has been remedied in the issue 2 update. During the year the booking conditions and local group booking form has been introduced and my feedback is that it has solved some of the problems with managers and local groups bookings. Leicester Group was behind this initiative with Edwina Edwards and myself at YHA head office in Matlock setting out the booking conditions applicable and Dave Self designing and road testing the new booking form.

At each of the Regional meetings there has been discussion groups on the aims of YHA. The results of these workshops hopefully will influence the Board.

During the year four hostels due to be closed were kept open pending a final decision depending on local support for refurbishment. One of which is Dufton with its red squirrels. New hostels opened at Lizard Point (4*) Littlehampton (4*) whilst Plymouth and Shrewsbury closed. An initiative to acquire another hostel in the heart of London is going forward with the agreement of the trustees.

This year a National Conference preceded the National Council Meeting. These were held at Sheffield University. I managed to arrange a Sherry Reception for 15 members of local groups at very short notice thanks being due to the Hall Manager at Stephenson Hall. The Conference showed an insight to other aspects of the YHA community. Chris Darmon gave an illustrated review of the year using an electronic projector. Roger Clarke spoke on the progress of the five-year plan. This appears to be to increase the number of hostel beds, which would increase income and reduce the debt. The third speaker was Richard Caborn, the Minister for Sport and Tourism. He spoke about the standing of YHA as seen by an outsider. YHA is highly regarded in Parliament and there is a parliamentary local group.

Session two was given by six speakers under the Chairmanship of Barbara Smith the Assistant Treasurer. These speakers were Bev Robinson who spoke on the duties of the hostel manager to meet budgets and the set targets, and all other aspects of hostel management. The second speaker was Jo Ward who spoke about volunteering, and she said it should not be seen as digging, more digging, with some gardening and decorating. YHA had to get the skills of members involved in volunteering rather than treating volunteers as an extension of the compulsory duty long since abolished. After Jo came Sue who is a very feisty character with the shoulders of a weight lifter. She needed to be for she leads Groups of young offenders on hostel activities. This is another aspect of group hostelling that few were aware of and the problems of arranging suitable hostelling experiences for the youngsters. Ian Baker, Regional Manager for the north-east spoke next. He said that in future there would be less managing by the regional managers thereby allowing the hostel manager more direct contact with HQ and being allowed to better manage the hostel to the greater benefit of guests.

Mrs Vicki Parker, a family member spoke about her family hostelling experiences although her children now appeared to be grown up. Finally Kirsten Jackson who volunteered as a Trustee in answer to the advert placed in Triangle spoke about her experiences in that aspect of YHA.

Session three was where all delegates had to discuss some aspect of hostelling and this was reported back to the delegates.

Tom Levitt M.P chaired session four. Three speakers gave views of the external work by YHA. James Blake a Trustee spoke on YHA and the regeneration of the environment. Simon Ainley Regional manger spoke on YHA and the environment. YHA is in the forefront in the use of solar cells and wind turbines. Margaret Whaley, Director spoke about YHA and International Understanding. Tom Levitt chaired a question and discussion session before the day was summed up by Chris Boulton the National Chairman.

This year there was no formal dinner with speakers

On Sunday National Council heard from Alan Bourne, Treasurer, that the business plan is to expand into new hostels and thereby increase assets and income. The general loan debt is to be reduced. In future all borrowings are to be set against specific projects to enable closer monitoring to take place.

The retiring President David Bellamy called in on his way up north, to say how much he enjoyed his term of office. He wished the new President John Craven success in the post. John was not present

There was no opposition to any of the nominees for posts on the NEC.

The proposition from Central Region that 'National Council believes that YHA is to remain as a major countryside organisation' and that to further these aims 'a committee is formed with clear terms of reference' was carried with only two votes against.

Sunday was a quiet day in comparison with the Saturday activities.