Summary of the RCTA Steering Committee held on 8th February 2018 from Andrew Mills.
Most of the work of carried out by the steering committee is perforce carried out on line so it was very refreshing to meet up in person with other members. There is still much to do if we are to achieve the aims of the Association. As members will know we have struggled to sustain continuity and a stable committee over the recent past. In consequence, it is still early days in the life of the Association but if enthusiasm and goodwill are any indicator of potential success, the current committee should prevail. My own view is that I am not really worried if the membership is 5, 50 or 500 as long as we can achieve some good practical outcomes for our members and which will then benefit other roving traders in the broader community. I like being a member simply as a statement of solidarity with others pursuing a similar objective and would regard my entry in the trader’s directory, the opportunity to network, and the very cheap markets as good value in return for my membership fee ~ anything else is a bonus! Fundamentally, RCTA operates as a ‘self-help’ group for its community of members and I think that is something worth supporting and working for.
Your committee met at the ‘Figure of Eight’ a short walk from the canal at Gas Street Basin. ‘The Spoons’ generally have become a favourite location for meetings and the attractions are obvious, but if you are as deaf as I am they can be quite a challenging environment. Fortunately, I sat opposite Mark Evans who has a rare talent for summarising a wide ranging discussion into its key points and who effectively moved us along. Thanks to Ronni Payne who prepared all the paperwork, our agenda was able to pick up from where the AGM left off. I hope the following is an adequate summary of meeting. If not, blame my hearing aids!
At the AGM it was agreed to redraft the section covering membership in the constitution and Andrew Mills and Mark Evans took this forward. It has become clear that the world of roving trading is even more mobile than its name indicates with boaters moving from trading on the canal to land based festivals and shops and no doubt back again. If they are on the SC we urgently need to retain their skills and knowledge which have been built up over time wherever possible. In consequence, at the next AGM the SC will be proposing an additional membership category of ‘honorary membership’ (for want of a better name) to accommodate this requirement. In the meantime, any committee member who falls into this category and wants to continue in their role will be co-opted under the existing ‘associate membership’ criteria. The revised draft of the membership section is available if you want to see it. Please contact Andrew Mills through the RCTA on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the draft.
In the early days any surplus at the end of each operating year was donated to CRT. This has lapsed over the past two years becoming quite a contentious issue at the AGM between those who wanted to retain all the surplus to further the aims of RCTA and those who felt that charity donations had a valuable role in raising the profile of the Association and in creating goodwill for our endeavours. The SC has taken a less black and white position. If there are funds available at the end of the year and depending on existing commitments and future plans for expenditure they would consider making modest donations to one or more waterways charities in pursuant of the aims of the Association and this could include CRT. It would also mean that in some years no donations would be made. The SC approved a great idea from Sue Meades that if the opportunity to advertise on the back of the market fliers was not taken up by a trader it could be offered free to a waterways charity local to the market.
Floating Market Terms and Conditions.
A number of minor but important amendments and updates proposed by Ronni Payne arising from her experience in managing the markets were agreed. The SC asked Ronni to write an additional condition stating that all traders at a market are expected to remain open for the full length of the market. It is recognised that early closing or casting off early by individual traders undermines the overall success of the market especially for traders at the ends of the line. Similarly, whole market closure due to inclement weather must be a whole market decision chaired by the market manager and that it is essential that this decision was then relayed back to Ronni so that she could alert customers on Facebook.
Delays in approvals from CRT were delaying the release and marketing of markets. Andrew Mills was asked to take this up with Peter Moore to see if there was a way to expedite the process. At the AGM Ronni Payne and Rona Hawes were asked to see if they could explore opportunities for markets which might appeal to our more northern and southern members and in consequence new markets have been added. As we are only allowed a finite number of markets within the current terms of our insurance this has meant not proceeding with some markets undertaken in previous years. A difficult decision to call. It was agreed to release the 2018 Easter markets immediately and the remainder on a provisional basis subject to approval by CRT, traders will be refunded if they don’t go ahead.
A proposal by Justina Evans to move to a new web hosting service which will provide major savings for RCTA over the next 5 years was accepted and would go-ahead immediately (actually during the meeting no less). Our RCTA web site guru is currently not well so its management is being undertaken as a team effort, notably by Sue Meades and Justina Evans but not including a couple of luddites called Andrew Mills and Mark Evans who confess that they are driven to drink by even a mention of the word IT. Sue Meades drew attention to the fact that you can change the postcode in the member’s directory as you travel round the system and this will tell people where to find you. A useful thing to know.
It is hard to understand or rationalise the hostility and undisguised contempt expressed by a small coterie of boaters towards the Association on Facebook. It is so out of kilter with the context and scope of what RCTA is trying to achieve that it would be laughable if it were not plainly designed to intimidate and undermine. We can only assume it is simply another example of the rudeness and bullying that social media seems to encourage. It was agreed that we will need to assert more strongly a policy of terminating discussion which is not acceptable to protect those who manage the Facebook pages. We hope that administrators of the other boating Facebook pages will support us in this policy and in general they seem happy to do so. In addition, Jules Jarman reported that we need to be vigilant regarding an increasing number of contacts from people who are patently trying to gain access for nefarious reasons, one was even living in Canada?! It was agreed that any open discussion on Facebook where the SC are trying to get a feel for how other traders are thinking about a particular issue will be brought back in to the members only group or through a feedback form on the web page so that a more balanced and constructive view can be obtained. Despite this negative background Ronni Payne is going to give our Facebook groups, pages and the markets events pages a re-brand to refresh and further refine them. Where would we be without her?
It was agreed that the newsletter would become a blog on the web site which we could update on a regular basis. Hopefully this will enable members to more easily keep up to date with what is going on. Members will be encouraged to contribute to the blog.
Additional member benefits.
The SC are having difficulty in taking this further at this stage both in identifying meaningful benefits or negotiating anything significant. But the issue has not been dropped and the SC will continue to keep this on the back burner. In the meantime, Jules Jarman made the proposal ~ why not start with ourselves? This is an outcome which is immediately achievable and was approved wholeheartedly. In the member’s trade directory, traders will be encouraged to offer what they feel is an appropriate discount to fellow RCTA members.
Joining other waterways campaigning groups.
The SC decided it would not join other groups and should remain focused on our particular area of interest. But the Association will respond to issues on a case by case basis if members believe we should contribute to a particular campaign.
The ‘To do’ list.
There were 10 further practical tasks on the ‘to do’ list which will get dealt with over the coming months.
I felt energised by the meeting and left looking forward to this year’s roving trading. Don’t forget to book any floating markets that coincide with your journey around the system this summer. If you haven’t tried one before I can tell you that it’s fun to meet up with other members and you really do leave feeling part of a special community of boaters.