Chairmans Chat – October 2010

Well with the 2010 AGM approaching this month I have decided to move away from my usual summary of recent events and focus in on something that has been a concern since the start of my role as chairman last year. The subject that worries me most at the moment is that of membership, both in terms of overall numbers but also with regard to the general level of activity and, without being personal to anyone in particular, their age.Without a doubt a society that is increasingly affluent and with greater level of free time has led to increased participation in outdoor activities over recent decades. Climbing has followed the same general trend with a move away from the fringes of normal activity towards the mainstream, something which can be clearly seen by both the large numbers of indoor climbing walls which have now opened and the generally high levels of activity at the popular crags both locally and further afield.

This increase in both popularity and participation is however something that does not seem to be being reflected in club membership numbers, not just in the TWMC but also with clubs throughout the country. This gradual reduction in the level of club membership is a serious issue and, in my opinion, probably the most significant threat to climbing club survival throughout the UK.

The TWMC, like most clubs in the country, is conforming to this general trend. Membership numbers are falling from the high that we had in previous years and this is combined with a gradual increase in the average age of members as a whole. I know for a fact that I am one of the youngest members in the Club and I have just celebrated my fortieth birthday. Coupled with this it has also become apparent that the general levels of member participation in club events are also reducing, two club trips were cancelled this year due to insufficient interest and whilst others can be classed as successful this is sometimes due to the recruitment of participants from outside the club (e.g. Lundy with one place unfilled and three non members attending). The general level of sandstone climbing has also fallen and even with the driest summer for several years participation levels during the evening meets this year were generally low.

I therefore consider that, in order to maintain a healthy and vibrant Club, it is essential for us to both encourage new members and at the same time to start attracting those in their twenties and thirties. I believe that it is these people who will both carry the Club through the coming years and also provide the vibrant and active climbing scene that we need.

Whilst the current situation could easily be seen in a negative light I feel that it would be both wrong and unhelpful to do so. Instead I think that it should be seen as a positive and ultimately the catalyst for detailed analysis of the Club’s aims and objectives and the manner in which it seeks to achieve these.

Over the last twelve months I have spent my time canvassing various people, both members and non-members, as to the changes that they think the Club should make to attract both new and younger members.

Suggestions have been varied and include items such as greater visibility, increased ease of contact, a change of image, greater flexibility in trip dates and locations and even dropping the BMC affiliated status.

I believe that all of these ideas have merit and should be considered although whether they are implemented would depend to a greater extent on whether they accord with the aims of the Club and its current members.

The Committee has recently made a decision to upgrade our website, this it is hoped will add a degree of functionality to what we already have and it is hoped will go some considerable way to addressing certain issues such as visibility and ease of contact. In doing so it is anticipated that there will be a streamlining of the Clubs communication policy with the phasing out of the e-mail group and newsletter and greater emphasis placed upon a more interactive website.

Whilst nothing is yet fully decided I will be taking the opportunity to present the idea of a new website at the forthcoming AGM and to hopefully introduce the idea of further long-term changes as well. Although further consultation with members can be undertaken via e-mail the AGM presents an opportunity to both add detail to my rather brief summary in this article and to enter into group discussion if that is what people want.

Therefore in addition to the normal vote on next year’s Committee members and update on accounts I will be doing a short presentation on the above points and a question/answer/discussion session if required.

To date the proposed Committee for next year is:

  • John Mitchener – Chairman
  • Charlie Pickin – Vice Chair
  • Rob Foster – Treasurer
  • Rob Naylor – Membership Secretary
  • Steve Jackson – Secretary (to take turns with doing the minutes)
  • Sue Paddon – Hut Bookings (with help from Rob F.)
  • Paul Highams – Website
  • General members – Zara, Katy, Ute, Sue Luck

Obviously any member is welcome to attend the Committee meetings but if you have a burning desire to be an official member, or if you have any issues with the above, then please let any current Committee member know.

I look forward to seeing you all at the AGM on Wednesday 13th October at the Junction. The meeting will start at 8pm prompt and should be followed by a slideshow. Early arrivals can obviously grab a drink and socialise.

Kind regards