Held at the Salt House, West Bay, at 6pm on Wednesday, 22nd September, 2021
Phyllida Culpin (Chair), John West, Sarah West, David Lee, Sarah Carney, Trevor Ware.
Amanda Streatfeild, Phillip Sturrock, Madeleine Sturrock, Andrew Cook, Mike Carter, Paul Everall, Anna Ware, Penny Deacon, Glenn Crawford, Dee Fenton.
1. Apologies for absence
Alan Scutt, Tim Crabtree, Charles Palmer, Pat Hughes, Sarah Fletcher, Richard Toft, Matthew Solon, John Walker, Martin Isaacs, Tim Connor, Ryan Holmes, Jane Carter, Marek Wakar.
2. Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 15th November, 2019, at the LSi
The 2019 minutes were accepted as a correct record of the meeting. No AGM was held in 2020 because of COVID 19 regulations and with an agreed postponement to 2021 by board resolution. Proposed by A Ware. Seconded by A Streatfeild.
3. Matters arising
There were no matters arising from the minutes. Two years had elapsed since the last AGM and ‘live’ items for discussion were now all included on the agenda.
4. Financial report
John West provided a full account of the Trust’s financial position over the past two years. He explained that during 2019 the LSi suffered losses from the Alembic Canteen because of a lack of footfall, and described the various methods used to redress that situation, including events and changes to menus and opening times. The Alembic, as a Trust supported stand-alone trading venture, was closed in December 2019. The cafe continued under an operating licence agreed with a local trader, Giles Smith. Due to Covid 19 this was forced to close in March 2021.The two meeting rooms also failed to reach financial sustainability, as did hot desk bookings, possibly as a result of an underspend on marketing. Take-up was well below the earlier predictions. At the close of 2019/20 the LSi had reserves of £18k.
As a result the board decided to review the 2015 business plan with the help of a resilience grant of £86,000 from NLHF (National Lottery Heritage Fund).
The total amount of additional Covid-inspired grant funding for the LSi and WBDC was £54,000. This, with a considerable effort to reduce LSi running costs and the resilience fund, had now stabilised the Trust’s financial position for the immediate future.
Members were asked to approve the 2020/21 Report and Accounts – Resolution 1.
The Accounts were accepted by the meeting nem con.
5. The Literary and Scientific Institute (LSi)
Trevor Ware referred members and the meeting to the Directors’ Report in the latest Report and Accounts for 2020 /21. These were available on the Trust website and in hard copy at the meeting. The key objectives for the trustees were to make the building financially viable and sustainable. It was found to be impossible to run the building on a day-to-day basis with only a small group of volunteers and trustees.
The business plan work had been combined with an audience survey amongst current LSi users. This proved that a membership scheme could not attract sufficient annual members to keep the LSi operating sustainably over the medium to long term. It was decided to appoint a commercial property agent – Symonds and Sampson – to seek expressions of interest in running the building. Five were received and two subjected to full feasibility studies to prove their true viability. The results were put to public evaluation with the support and advice of Andrew Cook, a Dorset LEP Mentor. It was decided to give a three-year lease to Crowdfunder and 3DC, a new CIC set up by Clive Stafford Smith and Emily Bolton, for the bottom floors, and introduce Gillinghams, a local financial services company, as tenant for the two upper floors. These arrangements and new leases had now been put in place. All agreements/leases have been signed off by the major grant providers, including the NLHF, Historic England and the Architectural Heritage Fund. Dorset Council have also been kept informed and approve the new plans. The 2021/22 forecasts show a balanced budget.
The meeting was next given two live video-link presentations by Simon Deverell, for Crowdfunder, and Clive Stafford Smith, for 3DC, illustrating the activities they were undertaking in the LSi. The Crowdfunder presentation highlighted the local charities and business startups that had been helped financially with their campaigns. 3DC explained the mentoring and training work they were doing with young people on human rights and other important issues, including social, economic and environmental justice. This included real-time practice in a courtroom situation. 3DC would be organising public access for a number of events and talks during the year. The building would be open during the Dorset Architectural Heritage week.
There was one question from the audience asking for details of the proposed film being made of the courtroom trial. Clive Stafford Smith undertook to announce when it would become available.
6. West Bay Discovery Centre
John West reported on the continuing success of West Bay Discovery Centre. The new centre manager is very effective, and more awards had been received from various tourism bodies. The building was now a recognised part of the Jurassic Coast Centres string of pearls! Even though Covid had forced a closure for part of the summer of 2020, as well as imposing restrictions on numbers, footfall was increasing rapidly once more. A positive number of regular volunteers were helping with stewarding and guided walks. Shop sales were excellent. New exhibitions were being planned for 2022, including, for example, Geology – Layers of Time. Accessibility and safety had both been enhanced and new partnerships had been created.
The income from donations, grants from Bridport Town Council and shop sales meant the project has a viable future.
There were no questions.
7. Election of trustees
The following directors were due to retire, or had announced their retirement: Trevor Ware, Vanessa White, David Cliffe, Professor Patrick Vaughan, Sarah West. These were noted and approved.
The following were confirmed as new directors since 2020. Alan Scutt, David Lee, Phyllida Culpin, Sarah Carney (Bridport Town Council representative).
Marek Wakar was elected as a director and was proposed for the role of Company Secretary.
Proposed by David Lee. Seconded by Dee Fenton.
8. Amendment to the Memorandum and Articles of Association
It was proposed that the Memorandum and Articles of the Trust should be amended to limit the term in office for future Trust chairs to three years. No reappointment would be made without the full consent of the individual concerned and a majority of the directors. This resolution was proposed by the Trust board at the suggestion of Trevor Ware.
This resolution was passed unanimously.
9. Future direction of the Trust
The Resolution was proposed by Glenn Crawford (BADT member). The trustees would within six months of the date of this AGM agree BADT priorities for the years 2022-2025 and publish this as an outline plan to members. This resolution was seconded by Paul Everall and approved unanimously. The Chair suggested that a meeting would be convened to consult with all members when the draft was ready in spring 2022.
A board audit would be commissioned to establish the required key skills for the future. Further trustee appointments would be sought depending on the outcome of this work.
10. Any other business
Thanks were given to two retiring directors. Sarah West played a vital part in the creation of West Bay Discovery Centre and its considerable subsequent success, and had handled the management accounts for the Trust over the past 18 months. Trevor Ware had been a director since 2015 and chair for five years, and was a key figure in the redevelopment of the LSi and in the appraisal ensuring its long-term viability and sustainability.
Both thanked the other board members for their hard work, dedication and support over their respective times in office.
11. Close of the meeting
There being no further business the meeting closed at 7.30pm.