It was in February of last year that I stood before you at our Calcott Hall Venue and produced the last annual review. It was not a difficult review to produce as I had a template from previous years, Scott Griffiths produced the Stats as usual and I followed the usual format.
Almost immediately after that meeting, the world was thrown into confusion and as a result of the various lockdowns, we have been unable to continue with our meetings at Calcott Hall Farm. My template was out of the window and our group was suffering an existentialist crisis.
A series of occurrences had a profound effect on our group.
No review of this year would have any meaning if it did not begin with a sad remembrance of Marcelle who became an early victim of Covid and died in March 2020. A long-standing member, she occupied a unique chair in our group dealing with diamonds and jewellery but also a unique place in our hearts that will be impossible to replace. She was not only a very effective member of EBF but was a warm and considerate person and a friend to all of us who had dealings with her. Those of us who knew her miss her greatly.
The temporary loss of a venue where we could meet forced us to review how we should operate.
Following membership renewal season several members left us reducing our membership number to 23.
This was the low point of the year and it is a tribute to all of the members, old and new, that now we have a membership of 29 and rising. We have emerged as a stronger group.
At the heart of our phoenix-like rise from the ashes of Covid was the adaptation of our meeting via zoom. Front and center of the board’s efforts to move forward was Scott Griffiths. The setting up of the Zoom meeting and of equal importance, the adaptation of our web site to deal with the meetings lifeblood; referrals, thanks for the money and other activity records which can now be dealt with digitally. From its early beginnings, the meeting has become slicker and able to deal with all aspects of our non-virtual meeting. Consistently numbers have been at the 25+ level and with frequent visitors have on occasion topped 28.
We have as a result of a visitors meeting in March and further visitors attending our meetings, recovered our membership level to 29. We have gained this year new members Sarah Bell, Sarah Steel, Colin O’Connor, Nathan Howson, and most recently Mike Skinner.
Most important and frequently referred to by members, is the feeling of community that has been generated by supporting one another in this very disrupted year.
The 1-2-1 has emerged as an excellent tool for keeping in touch and educating each other. The Synergy Teams have been well attended. The Finance and Business to Consumer teams actually met in the flesh on a couple of occasions, and the most recent Business to Consumer meeting attracted 11 members.
Individual Members have organised entertainment via Zoom with quizzes and discussions about favourite records all lubricated by sensible amounts of alcoholic accompaniment.
From a business point of view, some of us have fared better than others in the new reality that has confronted us. Members have demonstrated resilience.
Richard Reed is a particular example. A recent 60-second presentation by him was awarded the Oscar, if for no other reason than to stop him shooting himself after a very effective and impassioned 4-minute rant. Simon Essex has bravely and effectively changed direction, at least temporarily, and deserves special mention for this. By contrast, others have progressed, almost because of the difficulties, which was heartening and continues to help maintain community spirit.
We really have become a group of which it is worthwhile being a member.
Statistics for the year will be dealt with after this by Scott Griffiths when he also deals with the awards.
In gathering the information regarding the awards from you I would like to share with you one or two highlights of our meetings as recognised by you .
- Top of the list was of course Nick Cooke’s technology enforced impression of Daffy Duck/Donald Duck/a Dalek
- The Mayor of Gants Hill wearing his head phones/getting stroppy with his internet/stroppy with his lap top, mainly just getting stroppy and on one occasion in his underpants. A thing of beauty is a joy to behold.
- Simon Essex in full Halloween make up…scary
- As already mentioned, Richard Reeds Rant of the year.
The Meeting – Most of us are looking forward to getting back together, hopefully at our old venue. However the sort of meeting that we have, probably makes it likely to be the last to emerge from lockdown and autumn might be optimistic. Nonetheless, the Board is determined to get ourselves back on track as soon as we can safely do so.
Membership – We wish to continue to boost our membership and a second visitors meeting is proposed for early March 2021. The general intention is to generate invitations to visitors through Synergy Team meetings; not only Finance and Business to Consumer but also the Trades and the Creatives. Watch this space for further announcements. We should not be put off in casting our net for visitors beyond the immediate locality. It has become clear that a zoom meeting for those who are out of the area at least once a month could be maintained even when we are back at our venue for our regular Thursday meetings although that is very much a consideration for the future.
Fees -The current concessionary fees to “zoom members” will be recognised for full members when they come up for renewal, by making the annual fee cover 1 year and 2 months.
On an entirely personal note, I would like to thank the Leadership Team who have created a consistency of direction and all of the members for the camaraderie and support that has developed over the course of this year which has made it a privilege for me to chair our meeting.
Member Awards 2020/2021
Best 60-second presenter:
Best 10-minute presenter:
1st place was Stuart Smallcombe
2nd place was Brian Painter
Best Education Slot Presenter:
1st place was Ben Golding
2nd place was Stuart Smallcombe
Member of the year (voted by the members):
1st place was Scott Griffiths
2nd pace was Matt Barry
Member of the year (from our internal statistics):
1st place was Matt Barry
2nd place was Scott Griffiths