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Summary of the Committee Meeting held on 27th May 2011

Internal Communication - not for publication

The meeting was held from 7:30 until 10:05pm. John Walls was welcomed as a newly elected Trustee. Our other new Trustee Chris Hunford was absent (pre-arranged holiday). Jan Kozminski (Trust Representative) also attended, with apologies from Richard Salmon

Society Finance:  Subscription and donation income for April was £16k (£14k in 2010), giving a total so far this year of £68k (£81k in 2010). Land Purchase donations for the month were £627. Deferred Share Scheme commitments so far this year are £20k.

Membership: Membership total was 10,306 but this included people whose subscription had lapsed at the end of March which would reduce the total by around 200.

Review of AGM: 279 members signed in for the AGM, which was one of the highest for several years. Profit from the sale of refreshments and the retiring collection raised £677 and Tenner for the Tip raised £380. Added to the cheques sent to the Chairman with members' apologies for absence, the total for the evening was around £1,700. The Horsted Gang, Mike Gibbard and David Cockram were thanked for their efforts.

Feedback from the evening was that members were happy with what they heard and the absence of the promised presentations had not marred the evening. However, the absence of the stage crew and the resultant problems with the PA were a major glitch and thanks were recorded to Robert Philpot, later assisted by Dave Abbott and Mike Carroll, for getting something set up for the evening in difficult circumstances. An apology had been received from the college and they were investigating.

A proposal was made that we acquire our own PA kit which could be used for the AGM and also for other external events. A number of radio technicians/engineers had made themselves known through the Yahoo group and it may be possible to set up a small sub-group within S&T to look after this kit and the railway's fixed PA systems. As ever, there was the problem of maintenance and storage as the sort of PA equipment we would need for the AGM would be bulky and heavy to transport.

There was a suggestion from the floor that we move to a more professional and convenient location. The difficulty was in finding somewhere that was available on the 3rd Saturday in May, was within 15 miles of Sheffield Park Station, could seat around 300 people, had additional space for display stands and for signing in, allowed us to do our own refreshments, had plenty of parking, was within reasonable walking distance of a mainline railway station and did not cost much more than we were already paying. An initial quote from a hotel in Gatwick was around the £6,000 mark but they would have to provide the refreshments at additional cost. The 15 mile radius extended out as far as Brighton, Hove, Newhaven, Royal Tunbridge Wells (just), Crawley, Horley and East Grinstead. The General Secretary is to investigate and report back.

The Committee debated at some length the significance of the numbers that Graham Flight had set out at the meeting. It was made clear that the money for the summer phase of the dig included money from the sale of parts of the West Hoathly site for housing to be built. There was still some disquiet about this as we had still not received an adequate response to the concerns we had raised several years ago.

PLC Board members made it clear that we were now at the end-game and we had run out of options. There was an attempt to blame the Society Trustees for failing to come up with alternative funding or ideas, having first been challenged to do so in January this year. However, it was argued that prior to the AGM, the message around the railway was that we were not to worry and that all would be revealed at the AGM: in the light of what was said at the AGM, those assurances were now somewhat hollow. The Committee were also told that there would not be a further share issue and that the main thrust of the appeal would be future editions of Bluebell News and Steam Railway. There was a need to wake-up the membership and to push for the money to complete the project. John Walls agreed to lead a co-ordinated Final Appeal.

It was suggested that Chris White should be invited to the July meeting to discuss the West Hoathly issue further.

Nomination of Directors: The Society's Rules require the Committee at its first meeting after the AGM to nominate persons to serve as Directors of the company. Notwithstanding this requirement, the Committee decided to defer any nominations until the July meeting as we would be discussing issues at the next meeting which might have an impact on roles.

Trustee Responsibilities: Neil Glaskin was looking to relinquish responsibility for Volunteer Recruitment and Accommodation as he felt it was difficult to devote sufficient time to these now that he is Operations Director. Chris Hunford had expressed a wish to work on Infrastructure and accordingly he was appointed Chairman of the Infrastructure sub-committee, and also given responsibility for Buildings, Security and Maintenance. John Walls would head up a new Fundraising Committee.

Funding: A written report tabled by Roger Kelly showed donations towards the extension of £569k this year and £4k for other projects. Attention was also drawn to an EU Scheme for brownfield sites and it may be possible to claim that the tip is a brownfield site and thus eligible. The point was made that since the Line Purchase, fundraising was not something we had tackled in any serious manner for many years. Before Woodpax, the last big fund raising effort was in 1975 for the purchase of the West Hoathly site. The method of raising funds had changed enormously in the intervening period and we were only just beginning to get to grips with the opportunities that were there.

Request for Trust Funding: The Committee agreed a proposal to approach the Trust to fund the rescue of a mid 19th century LBSC 1st class carriage body. A strategy is being prepared on how we will preserve and display our oldest carriage bodies.

4 COR Motor Coach No 11201: A proposal from the Southern Electric Group on the staffing and maintenance of this vehicle was considered by the Committee. Whilst we recognised their difficulties in finding enough volunteers to keep the carriage open at weekends (as we had requested), the proposal to ask the HK Station Staff to open the carriage anyway should no SEG volunteers be available was not considered acceptable. Furthermore the proposal to re-roof the carriage in-situ (because of the difficulty in getting space in the C&W shed), went against our policy not to allow vehicle restoration on the west side of the station and would also be ruled out on H&S grounds. The matter would be discussed further with the SEG.

Proposed Visitor Attraction on Platforms 1 & 2 at Horsted Keynes: A team from the C&W had put forward a proposal to use two of the rooms on Platforms 1 and 2 for a new display that would focus on the local area, the impact that the railway had on a rural community and the decline and eventual takeover by Bluebell. The Museum Management Committee had also tabled their own proposal which sought to create a Pullman display in association with Pullman Society and to expand on the display in the C&W Works.

The Committee could not accept the argument for having a room dedicated to the Pullmans, however worthy the cause and the promise of artefacts from the Pullman Society. We had limited display space available and it was felt that the proposal for a display based on the impact of the railway in HK would be the most suitable.

As part of our bid for Heritage Lottery Funding, the railway had to develop and adopt an Interpretation Strategy which was also approved by the HLF. The Museum Management Committee was set up under a tripartite agreement between the Society, the company and the Trust to operate and manage the railway's Museum and artefacts and to be the custodians of the Interpretation Strategy. It is a Registered Museum and has to abide by certain standards.

With that in mind, the Society Committee made it clear to all parties that:

Memorial Garden:  The first engraved blocks for the Garden had been ordered and it was hoped that the Garden would be officially opened and dedicated in July. A doubled sided leaflet had been prepared which could be sent out in response to requests for information about memorials. However, burial of ashes would not be permitted.

Gavin Bennett
General Secretary


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