Balloon Repair Station

Full House at the BBAC AGM – View from the back row

Full House at the BBAC AGM – View from the backrow

Now I’ve never been a fan of meetings especially in rooms with no windows and air conditioning but after a pretty turbulent year we felt it prudent to attend the British Balloon and Airship Club’s Annual General Meeting. The morning started wet enough as it coincided with the Halton Ride, a madcap laughs cross country ride around the RAF Camp culminating in a full on charge with some hairy jumps around the perimeter of Halton Airfield and leap over a Jet Provost. For the six Team Wellwick riders this meant an early start and a return to the fray for my horse Ruby with eldest Mary aboard who elected to chaperone Miriam3 Miriam and Treasure halton, an up and coming rider from the yard whose ambition has always been to one day jump the aeroplane. Well having been off for a year or so having had a foal Ruby was quite bonkers and decided that all she wanted was to go full tilt boogey. To slow her down and control the leaps and bounds Mary spent most of the ride turning circles. It was raining. Not so much raining as horizontally snowing and raining. On account we rocked up by the Provost and watched the Team come home in various states of bedragglement brought up in the rear by Mary and Mims. As Ruby spun in a circle yet again she shouted that she had been like this all the way round whereupon she took off vertically, performed a cartwheel, and thundered towards the redundant aircraft taking off about two lengths early and clearing it by half an’ horse in a sideways fashion much to everyone’s mirth and merriment. In contrast, in perfect poise, Miriam aboard Treasure executed a near perfect jump to rounds of applause. As Mary disappeared toward the finish in reverse we headed north to Stratford-upon-Avon and the BBAC Meeting.

For those that have never visited the NFU Mutual Headquarters it is a very angular stone-built in-your-face building of grand proportions. There is certainly more money in insurance than farming, that’s clear to see. The NFU however, very kindly provide the BBAC with free rooms for meetings with the adjacent Hall usually being used but this year the Lecture Theatre in the Main Building was the venue. It has to be said that the turn out was impressive, the weather or the special motion relating to rises in membership fees probably being responsible in equal measures but, whatever, there were a lot of members milling around the foyer waiting for the doors to open. Pete Bish had set up his stall behind the Reception Desk and was taking orders left right and centre whilst checking in NFU members to the Sports and Social Club. The manufacturers’ were absent but then again there would have been little space for further stands. So serious was this AGM that even some of the older established members of the BBAC had turned out. Chatting and socialising commenced and all too soon we were at the end of the queue heading into the packed Lecture Theatre managing to just about get a seat at the back by the door. Good for a quick escape if things turned nasty we figured! Efficiently checked in by John Tyrrell and the gentle Jenni d’Alton, we were furnished with a handful of different coloured bits of paper ‘to help with voting’, we were told. I immediately lost mine.

All the Main Committee were present and neatly seated in a row below the serried tiers resembling the Russian Politburo chiefs lined up in front of the Kremlin for a parade in the rain and clearly not wanting to be there. Sallow complexions and glum expressions were de rigueur. Centre stage Ian Hooker rose and took charge, well he is the Chairman, and explained the processes involved in the afternoon’s proceedings. There were to be amendments and things and presentations from Paul Spellward and those tendering amendments to the original proposal. It was quickly noted by all that, for the second year running, the Treasurer and the one person who would have been able to answer questions of a financial nature was notable by his absence. This was a shame seeing as the meeting did revolve around the present apparently critical financial state of the Club. Never mind we had the accounts and the Committee promised they would try and answer any questions relating to the Treasurer’s report. Fortunately I don’t think there were any, possibly as the Treasurer wasn’t there, which was handy as I doubt that the Committee would have been able to answer them. BBAC Webmaster, Piers Glydon, sitting on the check-in table to our right, looked non-plussed, grinned, opened his Lightening McQueen lunchbox and tucked into an impressive sandwich. 

Now my recollection of the exact order of events maybe a little at variance with what, I’m sure, actually went on but, if I recall, once the formalities of accepting last years accounts and the re-election of the current committee was made, there being no one brave enough, or arsed, to stand against them, the meeting got off to a flying start and the various Officer’s reports were briefly discussed and the stage was opened to Paul Spellward, Vice-Chairman, Chairman of the Business Panel and Chairman of the Technical Committee, to present the reasoning behind the need to raise the annual subscription. The Committee looked glummer and the tone of Paul’s voice suggested he would rather someone else be delivering his speech. Despite this his presentation was extremely well prepared, very concise, honest and well balanced. The declining income meant that there was a shortfall and a budget deficit had invaded his pie chart. It was clear then that something needed to be done. Now some of the facts and figures raised confused us somewhat but, by an’ large, the biggest problem lay in the membership fees not even covering the cost of Aerostat. The quandary was that, without the fine tome, many members would lose the one thing they joined for so getting rid of it and going all Webbly was probably going to lose a lot of current members. The Committee had already instigated many cost cutting ideas which left the membership fees as the only viable thing to alter. The majority of the masses nodded in agreement. More clever pie charts and a list of the many things the BBAC did for ballooning were displayed behind the Main Committee by some sort of electronic magic to further strengthen his argument. He had fielded a very good case which seemed generally well received. Then Colin Butter rose to his feet and sought to defend an amendment to the motion that the Committee look into costs and the implications of taking Aerostat to a web format. Sadly he had no graphs, flow charts or actual figures to quote and his argument didn’t seem to flow too well but there were, nonetheless, some murmurs of agreement and some valid points were made. A suggestion that the Spotters Page in Aerostat should go received a volley from the floor and he retreated under a hail of red voting cards. The Chair then moved to invite Crispen Williams to speak. Now this was a surprise, mainly to him. Standing a few seats along from us he stated what was clearly obvious suggesting that the Main Committee proposed structured-flow-charge-gradual-incremental, bi-yearly increase wotsit should be shoved somewhere appropriate and the membership fees raised forthwith. Brilliant, simple and straightforward. Mouths hung open. The Main Committee slumped in relief that someone else had actually made the suggestion they really seemed to want. An undertone of agreement rippled around the auditorium. In the ensuing questions and answers, opinions and counters it was suggested by Andrew Holly that the entire proposed pricing structure be changed and, amongst other things, a fee of £100 be set for membership of ‘commercial’ pilots and that Corporate Membership be introduced. The Chairman strove to draw the discussions to a close as the debate was starting to rotate, still, from our back row seat it did appear that the majority of the house all agreed that the rise was necessary and long overdue and that it was better to get it over and done with in one hit.

Let voting commence. There now followed an interesting discussion between the more senior and enlightened members of the Main Committee, past and present, led by Nigel Tasker as to whether this was a vote to amend the proposal or whether the derangement was an arrangement of the amendment or was it a proposed motion to amend the resolution that was a proposal anyway and not a motion. We understood nothing and prepared to raise coloured bits of paper which I had again misplaced. Piers tucked into an apple slice and helped count the votes. I have no idea what the order of events actually were or what the voting procedure was but as far as the main topic was concerned it all ended up with a well large majority, including us, going for Crispen Williams idea that the fees be raised in one hit to a new level. A straw poll was cast concerning Andrew Holly’s interesting proposal which got approval and, somewhat confused, the Chairman stated that it was carried but as Mr Tasker pointed out that as it wasn’t an amendment it couldn’t form part of the motion. The Chairman then decreed that the amended motion in which the fees would go up in one hit was passed.

There was some other business in the ‘any other business’ but I can’t remember what that was, along with a vote to get the same auditors back for BBAC Ltd in which a few voted against out of devilment. Piers tucked into a kingsize Twix. The faces on the Committee still looked glum but a sense of relief seemed to be creeping in especially at the Phil Dunnington end where he smiled on a number of occasions especially when it was pointed out to him that he and Ally were the main contributors to Aerostat. Then there was a long pause in the proceedings whilst President of the BBAC, Anthony Smith, still replete from his lunch the other week, made his way to the front of the gathering and perched nonchalantly on the front edge of the Chairman’s table in preparation for the prize-giving. The Webmaster took advantage of the break to get another coffee. Don Cameron was now on his feet and smiling, relieved to be in his comfort zone. The awards went back to 2011 because, it was explained, Anthony had been bobbing about on the beautiful briny. Amongst those honoured with BBAC Diplomas were John Rose and Chris Woods for there incredible licences-to-Gordon-Bennett-in-a-year performance, Barry Newman for his contribution over many years to the Chiltern Region and, to tumultuous applause and, very nearly, a standing ovation, 2 grass rootsTeam Sackville for their incredibly popular Grass Roots Meet and after many years a diploma for Norman Apsey for his contribution to everything ballooning and being one of the shortest pilots. 1. dave courtThe Debbie Warley Trophy went to Dave Court for his sterling work in all areas training and, after being put to the vote, the Adam Sparks Trophy, a nice picture of a balloon, went to John Rose and Chris Woods adding to their collection and the big shiny Counties Challenge Cup was presented to Alicia Hempleman-Adams5 alisia hempleman adams, David Double-Barrelled’s daughter who staggered back to her seat admirably.

Now the President’s address is both enjoyed and feared and even more so this year as it had been reported that the last time he spoke it lasted two hours but, never one to disappoint, he kept it short, controversial but overall generally jovial and appropriate to the meeting. His fifteen minute elucidation thus ended along with the 2013 BBAC AGM. Exit polls suggested that although the accounts didn’t really give a true breakdown of the BBAC’s activities and it was very disappointing that the Treasurer hadn’t been there to answer questions the general consensus was that it had gone well, that the rises were necessary and that it was with great relief that Aerostat would stay in its present form. We bade our farewells and left Piers merrily chomping on a large baguette, award in the other hand and head in a bucket of coffee. We headed off into the setting sun, very different to the raging snowstorm on the way up.

In brief then, the amended resolution or proposal, or whatever it was, to increase fees in one hit, was approved by the members present,. This goes to the next Main Committee Meeting to be discussed and, along with the other suggestions, may, or may not, be implemented. If it goes through then the basic membership fee for a pilot will rise to £65 per year. It was a very good turnout, well over a 100 at the last count, and the meeting ran efficiently enough. I don’t think anyone fell asleep, not even on the front bench, although on a couple of occasions minds were elsewhere. That the BBAC needs to recruit more members is certain but the increase may initially see a fall in membership numbers. What was unusual was that no one we spoke to thought attending a waste of an afternoon. That was refreshing in itself. Let’s hope next years AGM will be as equally well attended and some new blood stands for election.

The Awards Bit
Although a number of BBAC Diplomas had been awarded in 2011 and 2012, for various reasons, it had not been possible to present them. As they were now available, all the Diplomas for 2011, 2012 and 2013 were presented to;

Awards for 2013:
David Court Debbie Warley Award-well deserved for his exceptional work in training. Time he had an RAeC thingy.
Not awarded The Green Salver
Not awarded The Landowner Relations Trophy

March 2011 Diplomas, not previously presented:4 piers glydon
Piers Glydon Diploma: web technology services to BBAC and healthy eating.
Norman Apsey Diploma: Services to the BBAC despite being under four foot.
Jonathan Harris (gas balloonist) Diploma: services to gas ballooning. About time too.
Andrew Selby Diploma: landowner relations East Midlands Balloon Group. Ar’ great.

March 2012 diplomas, not previously presented:
David Usill Diploma: services to competition ballooning. No techno here!
Tony Molony Diploma: services to competition ballooning. Jolly well done.
Jonathan Dyer Diploma: services to training. Good on yer matey.

March 2013 diplomas:
Team Sackville Diploma: Promoting back-to-basics ballooning. No contest.
Clive Bailey Diploma: 4th place in Americas Challenge. Wicked.
Jon Mason Diploma: 4th place in Americas Challenge. Good decision.
John Rose Diploma: first Gordon Bennett entry. Blinding.
Chris Wood Diploma: first Gordon Bennett entry. Brahma.
Rachel Pointer Diploma: services to competition ballooning. Nice one.
Jonathan Harris (3-4-40) Diploma: services to 3-4-40 and BBM&L. Star.
Martyn Turner Diploma: services to BBM&L. Good shout. Thanks
Barry Newman Diploma: services to Chiltern Region BBAC. Top banana.

Honourable Mention of other bodies’ awards:
Kevin Meehan FAI Tissandier Diploma. Cool.
Dominic Bareford RAeC President’s Breitling Trophy. Smashing well done.
Allie Dunnington Endorsed IOC application. Whatever it means hope there is champers!

The Adams Sparks Trophy is awarded to a member for their contribution to ballooning. This year the meeting voted that Chris Wood and John Rose should receive this award. Quite right too.

Alicia Hempleman Adams was declared the winner of the Counties Challenge and her trophy was presented by Don Cameron. Very well deserved and the first gril to win it.

Thanks to Wendy Tyrrell for the pics.