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Board?

Comment here or under the EGM post on the  Home page…

This might also be a good place for those who’d like to share the letters they’ve written to the Board. (If you’d like it to be anonymous, send it to me or Kate and I’ll post it under the site’s name).

I’ve posted correspondence between us and the board on the far right-hand page above: The Mail.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Desmond Swords permalink
    July 19, 2011 10:58 pm

    Clanchy’s letter is addressed to Laura Bamford as ‘Chair of the Trustees’, and the latest, out of date, information from the Poetry Society listing the ‘trustees’, is a Financial Statements report made up on year end 31 March 2009, in which the trustees listed are:

    Anne-Marie Fyfe (Chair )
    Barry Kernon
    Moniza Alvi
    Maggie Sullivan
    Rachel Alexander
    Robyn Bolam
    John Richmond
    Emma Bravo – appointed 20 November 2008
    Peter Carpenter – appointed 20 November 2008
    Jacqui Rowe – appointed 20 November 2008
    Anne Jenkins – appointed 20 November 2008
    Jacob Sam-La Rose – appointed 20 November 2008

    Raficq Shaik Abdulla – resigned 20 November 2008
    Mick Felton – resigned 20 November 2008
    Helen Gray – resigned 20 November 2008
    Sir John Weston – resigned 20 November 2008

    Director Judith Palmer
    Company Secretary Judith Palmer

    However, ther is some interesting information from Company’s House in the UK, reproduced online here, taken from year end accounts 31 March 2010 that were filed on 29 December 2010, a company return showing the directors and ownership details, made up on 17 October 2010 and filed on 20 October 2010, and other, more recent information sent within the last two months.

    The information states the ‘directors’ termination and appointments that are listed in the latest documents, many of whom are the same names as the ‘trustees’ listed above.

    The Charity Commisssion, in answer to the question: Trustees and directors – what’s the difference? states

    “Although there are many names for trustees, their central responsibilities are the same in all cases….” (contd. at link)

    The esssential duties of the trustees are submitting the accounts.

    Information from Company House states:

    JUDITH PALMER Appointment terminated as secretary on 01 Jun 2011

    MR BARRY PATRICK WARING KERNON Appointed as secretary on 01 Jun 2011

    MS LAURA ELIZABETH BAMFORD Appointed as director on 18 Feb 2011

    MR DUKE HALLIWELL DOBING Appointed as director on 18 Feb 2011

    MR JOHN NEIL SIMMONS Particulars Changed as director on 04 Jan 2011

    —-

    MAGGIE SULLIVAN Appointment terminated as director on 21 Sep 2010

    MONIZA ALVI Appointment terminated as director on 21 Sep 2010

    RACHEL ALEXANDER Appointment terminated as director on 21 Sep 2010

    —-

    MR ALAN FITZGERALD JENKINS Appointed as director on 22 Sep 2010

    MS WENDY JONES Appointed as director on 22 Sep 2010

    MR JOHN NEIL SIMMONS Appointed as director on 21 Sep 2010

    —-

    ANNE FYFE Appointment terminated as director on 07 Oct 2010

    So, we have an end of year report made up on 31 March 2010 and submitted on 29 December, 8 months later, and in the intervening period, six months later, three ‘directors’: Rachel Alexander, Moniza Alvi and Maggie Sullivan, (presumably) resign as directors (trustees?) or have their appointments terminated. Two and a half weeks later, the Chair of the Board, Anne Fyfe, resigns or is terminated, then nine weeks after that the 2010 accounts are filed, and six days later John Neil Simmons has his ‘particulars’ as ‘director’ changed. Six weeks after this Bamford comes in as a director (trustee?) along with Duke Dobing, and Palmer resigns her position as both Director and Secretary three and a half months later (saying nothing only she is ‘taking legal advice as to how much’ she ‘can say’), along with the finance officer, and then Carpenter steps down as Chair soon after citing pressures of his teaching work.

    *
    Originally published at the link Dan Wyke provides above.

  2. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 19, 2011 11:12 am

    PS to facilitator business:

    Apart from asking fee and wording of brief as agreed with Poetry Society – put in motion at the meeting to thank Sheriff for her no-longer required services?

  3. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 16, 2011 10:57 pm

    On Facebook, Katy Evans Bush remarks:

    “… event facilitators are usually hired just to run a team training day or similar – so their stated aim quoted would generally be entirely appropriate, as in “We need our team to come away with a greater awareness of xyz…” We’d need to know what their brief was in terms of this job, to know just how they’ve been asked to participate.”

    Perhaps this question needs to be added to those asked at the meeting?

  4. Charles Lauder Jr permalink
    July 15, 2011 3:44 pm

    BTW, I received no response to this letter.

  5. claudia daventry permalink
    July 12, 2011 10:24 am

    FYI the caring response I got to my letter of 8 July was remarkably similar to that received by Stephen Wilson (above). In fact, minus the pasted ‘personal touches’ re saccharine and macho, it was a carbon copy.

  6. dan wyke permalink
    July 12, 2011 10:21 am

    Some useful info here – details of the board etc.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/11493748

  7. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 11, 2011 1:54 pm

    Stephen Wilson et al,

    The agenda as the Poetry Society present is most certainly does not leave enough time for discussion, considering the mounting concerns, including the Trustees’ less than satisfactory responses and tone (to put it politely).

    Above include very relevant queries I’d have made myself, were I in the country (have set up my proxy). If the following points aren’t addressed, I’d likewise ask the following:

    Please clarify if any individuals previously essential to Board meetings were suddenly excluded from these, and why?

    Was this exclusion legal under the constitution?

    Were any staff members forbidden from talking about this and/or permitted to attend meetings on the condition they don’t speak freely?

    What subject was under discussion at these or other recent meetings and were these responsible for any of the internal problems or difference of opinion and why?

    Please explain in detail and clarify an proposed changes structure, governance and reallocation of funds, especially insofar as these differ from terms of recently successful Arts Council application, as completed by recent Director.

    • claudia daventry permalink
      July 12, 2011 10:28 am

      Some extremely interesting questions here, Eva. I look forward to seeing the reply to this one.

      • Eva Salzman permalink
        July 16, 2011 12:49 am

        I tend to think that if replies or explanations were forthcoming we’d have had some by now, minus evasion and that tone of noblesse oblige that rubs me up the wrong way, and I don’t seem to be the only one. Saying we’ll be heard is not the same as actually addressing WHAT is being heard but we shall see. I’m a cynic. I hope I’m wrong.

  8. Anne Vinden permalink
    July 11, 2011 12:13 pm

    To: The Board of Trustees

    I’ve not been one for joining things in my life but my long-time membership of the Poetry Society has always provided immense enjoyment and stimulation. Even, or particularly, living in Spain, as I do. It’s therefore with dismay, and even a kind of grief, that I face the fact that something at the administrative level is not sound. Seems ready to betray principles that I’d have thought were absolutely taken for granted. If this is doing you an appalling injustice – and I so hope it is – please could you correct the very unhappy impression being made by recent events. I’m not a published poet but very many of the names on the Requisition list are among those who define the main reason for the Poetry Society’s existence. To fob them off is not only unforgivable bad manners but suggests a very skewed perception at Head Office. I don’t enjoy being fobbed off myself.

    Anne Vinden

    Reply:

    Anne – thank you for taking the time to contact us. We are well aware of the level of concern amongst Members and the Trustees have been working very hard to get things on track

    I hope you will have seen the Agenda and Guidelines we have been able to publish earlier this evening – we are not into the business of fobbing people off, be they published or unpublised poets and I hope that the meeting will clarify that we are not into betrayal or skewed perceptions either!

    All the Trustees are very much looking forward to meeting people later this month. I hope that you will continue to participate fully in the Poetry Society and that we will continue to entertain and stimulate your poetry endeavours
    kind regards
    Laura Bamford

  9. Stephen Wilson permalink
    July 9, 2011 12:22 pm

    Dear Laura,

    Thank you for a speedy reply to my email. I should be glad to be proven wrong in my perception of the Trustees’ modus operandi. The delay in committing to transparency has dented the confidence of many members. It will only be restored when that commitment is publicly honoured at the forthcoming EGM. Some questions to which I would like answers and which you might think about when drafting your explanation are:

    Agenda Item 4
    Was there conflict which resulted in legal action or the threat of legal action?
    If there was conflict, what was at stake?
    If there was conflict, could it have been resolved in some other way?
    Are the Trustees involved in negotiating any severance payments?
    How much money did the Trustees spend on legal fees during the financial year 2010-2011?
    How much money have the Trustees spent on legal fees so far during the financial year 2011-2012?
    How much money do the Trustees anticipate spending on legal fees during the current financial year?
    What is the total amount of money the Trustees anticipate spending on legal fees relating to any current matters that are sub judice?

    I also have a proposal to make:

    Agenda Item 5:
    Ways of working more closely and transparently in the future:
    Although the Poetry Society is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, there is no reason why the principles contained in that act should not be incorporated into the Articles of Association. I should like to propose that in future, Council’s minutes (subject to legitimate extraction and redaction) be routinely published on the society’s website. At the same time a mechanism could be set up enabling members to make requests for information. No doubt there are other ways of promoting closer relations between the membership and the trustees, but it seems to me that this step would be a helpful contribution.

    I too look forward to seeing you later this month at the meeting.

    Kind regards,

    Stephen

  10. Stephen Wilson permalink
    July 9, 2011 12:19 pm

    > Stephen – thank you very much for getting in touch – I am only sorry at the necessity for that communication. I hope that you will by now have seen the Agenda and Guidelines that we were able to publish earlier this evening. I also hope that you will see that the Agenda demonstrates our commitment to transparency and the Guidelines might you give you some insight into the level of complexity involved, hence any delay in getting them out to all Members
    >
    > All the Trustees are doing all we can to bring things to an orderly status that will ultimately benefit the Members and the Poetry Society. We also look forward to a time when we are able more closely to reflect Members concerns and celebrate their interests at meetings or in groups. I am sorry that you find us to be acting with saccharine contempt and a thin veneer of friendliness – any macho posturing you perceive on our part is unfounded: all the Trustees are Members too and we have the benefit of poetry and the Poetry Society very close to our hearts
    >
    > All the Trustees are very aware that the Society belongs to Members and is funded by them. We all hope that your enjoyment and satisfaction of being a Member, will continue in the months and years to come: all of us value everybody’s membership very much – be it renowned, practising, unpublished poet or interested party!
    >
    > I look forward to seeing you later this month at the meeting, if you can make it
    > kind regards laura
    >

  11. claudia daventry permalink
    July 8, 2011 3:43 pm

    Dear Ms Bamford and Board of Trustees,

    This, supposedly, isn’t about me. I’m not a famous poet, but I am a reader and writer of poetry. A teacher of the same. A student currently doing a PhD at St Andrews with Don Paterson and John Burnside, and a good friend of many poets.

    It’s not about the fact that I help out on the committee of Scotland’s poetry festival, StAnza, or that, while I have not published an individual collection I have the small achievements to my name, similar to those of many PoSoc members, that show our dedication to poetry: like attending festivals, giving readings and having work that has won prizes and been anthologised, both here and in other countries and other languages, or, in my case, hosting a radio programme on poetry in the Netherlands. Like many, I try to be in touch with all aspects of poetry and I take an active role in the performance and slam circuit, encouraging my younger students to do the same as a route in to the more formal stuff.
    As have many, I’ve been a member of the Poetry Society for some years, even when I was still living in the Netherlands, and have introduced others to the Society.

    I have been following the recent events regarding the resignations at the Poetry Society with, first of all, vague interest then surprise. As things progress – or don’t – the surprise is rapidly turning to amazement.
    I have the shady other life of someone who has also worked in international business and who has, over the past few years, been involved in a series of court hearings and protracted litigation. Both of these experiences have been about as far removed from poetry as anything I can imagine. The Poetry Society should not be about politics. It should not be about business, or obfuscation. It certainly should not be about litigation.

    Obviously remaining silent is a right, but it is a highly political one, and is not an acceptable route for the Board to take given its responsibility towards both its members and, as we career towards an exchange of lawyers letters, to the funds. If you are not happy with the pressure that we, the 10+% of the members have been applying with the Requisition, then I, as a ‘Joe Member’, urge you, please, at the very least to issue a formal statement (instead of the chummy notes that have been circulated) explaining either what has been going on or why, precisely, you should find it necessary to keep the information covert. In the current desert of information, we can do nothing other than surmise, and subsist on rumour. Neither of which is healthy.

    Finally, I strongly feel you must either speak up or formally accept the authority of the EGM because, if nothing else, a Board of Trustees is in place to be trusted.

    With regards,

    Claudia Daventry

  12. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 8, 2011 11:46 am

    Sue Kindon received this reply from the Board of Trustees:

    “Thank you for your email. We genuinely hope that the meeting on July 22nd will be able to respond to member concerns and discuss recent events. We will be sending out an agenda next week and I hope you will see that we are attempting to listen to our members.”

    This is the reply I received from the Trustees. I assume it is the standard reply, as it does not address the points I raised. “Genuinely hoping” does not sound like an agenda item. “Attempting” to listen to members means that they have their fingers in their ears. You either listen or you don’t. “Our members” implies that The Trustees are The Poetry Society, and we are some sort of slight annoyance which will go away if given enough plums.

  13. marcelle olivier permalink
    July 8, 2011 10:56 am

    To the Board of Trustees

    You are probably inundated with letters; mine is unlikely to even be read. Nevertheless, I would like to add my two pence. It surprises me that you continue to act in such a vague manner with respect to the requests for information about resignations and the EGM.

    There is a simple solution – call the EGM, and make a statement plainly saying why people have chosen to resign. Whatever their reasons, letting us know these could not be more damaging to your reputation than to keep as silent as you are, dancing around the EGM-request.

    I am happy to continue to support the Poetry Society – but for god’s sake just pull up your bootstraps and act like a professional organisation bound by its constitution and an honest respect for its members, instead of a political party suspicious of everyone other than itself.

    Yours,
    Dr M Olivier

  14. The Poetry Society permalink*
    July 7, 2011 10:43 pm

    Who are the trustees and other post-holders at the Poetry Society?

    Those of you who might be wondering about the identities of these people may see the list of names on the About Us page of the Poetry Society website, here: http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/aboutus/

  15. Stephen Wilson permalink
    July 7, 2011 9:14 pm

    7th July 2011
    Dear Trustees of the Poetry Society,
    Whatever issues underlie the recent spate of resignations, you must by
    now realise that your management of the situation is deeply flawed. To
    have provoked more than 400 members into signing a requisition for an
    Extraordinary General Meeting, and then to have treated that demand with
    what can only be described as saccharine contempt, is unacceptable. The
    “soft power” that coats macho management techniques with a thin veneer
    of friendliness should have no place in the running of the poetry
    society. I value my membership of the society but am increasingly
    perturbed by the behaviour of its trustees. I urge you to reflect on
    this and demonstrate that you have really taken on board the concerns of
    members expressed in the requisition. To do this you need to embrace the
    Extraordinary General Meeting rather than evade it.
    Yours sincerely,
    Stephen Wilson (Dr)

  16. The Poetry Society Members permalink*
    July 7, 2011 1:28 pm

    Letters from Members to the Board
    _________________________________

    8th July 2011

    To the Board of Trustees
    The very few messages we are getting from the Poetry Society at this time of crisis are both complacent and patronising in the extreme. We are not naughty schoolchildren to be fobbed off with kind words, buttered parsnips, and the implication that this is business for grown-ups. Any organisation shedding officers at the rate the Poetry Society seems to be, is clearly in turmoil, yet you seem to think that we, who along with various publicly funded bodies, pay for its existence; and incidentally, your positions; should believe that all is well, and it is nothing for us to worry about, that you will sort it out on the quiet and tell us afterwards what you have done – This will not do.
    You have our petition, you know the feelings of the concerned membership, yet it appears that it is your earnest desire to carry on sailing towards the rocks as more and more of the crew jump ship. As a body you are bound by the Freedom of Information Act; you, as a body, have a duty of care towards the membership; and if a sufficient number of the membership are disquieted enough to call for an Extraordinary General Meeting it is your duty to listen to the call and respond. There are questions which must be answered by the Board or its representative; there are questions which any concerned member of the society attending an EGM feel duty bound to ask on behalf of the membership.
    The sudden departure of the Chief Financial Officer and several other Trustees is bound to start rumours, and where there is rumour there is malice and manipulation of the truth by those with an axe to grind, and those who make it their business to provide the whetstones with which to sharpen those axes.
    This business needs to be clarified with the utmost speed before things gets out of hand and the Poetry Society collapses, like Ozymandius, into the sand and is blown away by the winds of time.
    Yours, a concerned member,
    Jonathan Briggs.
    _________________________________

    7th July 2011

    Dear Board of Trustees,

    Like many other members of the Poetry Society, I am bemused and concerned by the recent resignations and by your series of announcements, each of which tell us that the Poetry Society is falling apart but fails to give us any indication of what is really going on. It has reached the point where it seems to have become de rigeur to include the announcement of yet another resignation in each missive.

    And like many others, I am at a loss to understand why you continue to fob off the instruction that you have been given regarding the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held on the 22nd July.

    I had suggested that you might save yourselves some embarrassment by calling a meeting on your own account in advance of being compelled to do so by the requisition that was about to reach you. You indeed did call a meeting, but instead of demonstrating that your concern was as keen as ours by embracing our desire for an EGM, you have put something in its way that looks more like an attempt to undermine the wishes of your members – who, as you know, ARE the Society, and constitute the body which the Board is charged to serve.

    Many of us have asked you to be open and honest in your dealings with members, and yet the series of bland and cautious responses received by our convenor remind one of some big corporation which refuses to relinquish control or serve the interests of its shareholders. I can’t imagine that this could possibly be the case with the Poetry Society, but my credulity is being stretched beyond its normally generous capacity.

    The fact remains that the seriously diminished trust of members in the Board of Trustees is in danger of being completely exhausted. Your actions so far in responding to calls for information about the avalanche of resignations have only further diminished it – and it’s a sad thing when the mess made of handling a mess threatens to out-do the mess itself.

    You have a constitutional obligation to accept and implement the requisition made of you by members. Please stop this prevarication and do so. It’s absurd to waste the Society’s limited funds on the protection of its Board from the concerns of the membership; and it would be dishonourable of you all if you were to continue this charade and force an unpleasant confrontation in the meeting.

    The Poetry Society – and with it, poetry – have already suffered enough damage. Please announce immediately that the meeting on the 22nd will be the EGM that the Poetry Society itself has required that you should announce and hold.

    With very best wishes for a peaceful and positive resolution to this unhappy affair,

    Martin Alexander
    _________________________________
    7th July 2011

    Dear Board of Trustees,

    I write as an ordinary member of the Poetry Society, not part of any faction or clique, who has viewed the growing crisis at the Society with concern. I am one of the signatories of the Requisition for an Extraordinary General Meeting, because I believe that it is essential that the Board of Trustees addresses my concerns, and that of many members, in a manner which will put a stop to the enormous damage which their lack of transparency has caused.
    “As a member, I find the few brief, bland and late statements which have been issued by the Board of Trustees completely unsatisfactory; but the patronising and wholly inadequate message from Laura Bamford issued yesterday in response to the members’ Requisition – not a suggestion – once again refuses to engage with members in any meaningful way. Far from being reassured that the Board “will, of course, do all we can to address your concerns at the General Meeting”, I am beginning to wonder what exactly has happened at the Poetry Society – particularly in view of yet another resignation – which makes the Board so afraid to act on a straightforward requisition, and one which would be at least cost to the Society, both financially and in terms of its reputation.
    “I urge you to call a halt to this damaging episode by acting on the Requisition and calling an EGM before/after or instead of the General Meeting: what exactly have you got to lose?

    Victoria Cichy
    _________________________________
    7th July 2011

    I am writing to express my disappointment at the way in which you are handling the current problems within the society and to emphasise my hope that we can move on from this. I am sorry for the harsh tone of some of this email – I value the work you do, but the ongoing problems are rather worrying.

    Your emails and updates, while pleasant, evade the issues we have brought to you and contain little substance. You repeatedly refer to your own General Meeting, despite the fact that we have requisitioned you to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting. You continue to push for your own agenda, albeit incorporating our ‘suggestions’, and ignore the very clear agenda that we have given you. You appear to be procrastinating.

    This has the effect of trivialising our requisition and of forcing members to consider further action. We all, surely, hope that this isn’t necessary. Surely we’re united in wanting the Poetry Society to be a strong force, a society we’re proud of, a society that represents poets and poetry in a relevant, contemporary, far-reaching way. Please, let’s build on this.

    I would like to leave you with this thought: the implications of these problems extend beyond the offices, the trustees and the members. In the words of Shelley, ‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’. And if poets are no longer able to overcome internal political disputes, what hope is there for the rest of society?

    I am asking you to quickly change your approach to the current problems. I hope that you will do so today.

    Lindsey Holland
    _______________________________
    6th July 2011

    Ms Bamford,

    I regret that I find the attached communication from you to be unacceptable.
    You announced the calling of a General Meeting of the Society on the 30th June with a bland ‘catch all’ description of its purpose as “To outline the future strategy of The Poetry Society” and to receive members’ input but are now expecting me to believe that no formal agenda has yet been prepared and, indeed, no agenda will be available until next week. When next week? Monday? Friday?
    My position is as follows:
    1. if the Board has good reasons for the unusually high number of resignations I want to know them;
    2. if the Board wishes to change the direction of the Society (within the terms of the Memorandum and Articles, of course) I want to know why and in what direction; and
    3. if the Board wishes me to remain as a Member please have the courtesy to treat me as such.
    I have no axes to grind, I am not a published poet, I am not involved in any poetry based business, I just enjoy poetry! If I was a shareholder in a business which was bringing itself in to disrepute I would expect, no, demand, action and information from the Board to enable me to judge the facts. If this information was not forthcoming I would cease to be a shareholder – why should the Poetry Society be different?

    Bert Molsom
    _______________________________
    6th July 2011

    Dear Trustees of the Poetry Society,

    I am writing to express my disappointment at the lack of an appropriate response from the Society to the requisition delivered to its headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.

    I have always looked to the Society as a body that represents my interests as an aspiring poet and also the interests of the country – as the chief interface between poetry and the public, with an important educational role to play.

    Yet this closed behaviour following the various recent high-level resignations that have taken place with no reason given – and the subsequent requisition by more than 10% of the society’s membership for an Extraordinary General Meeting to be held to explain them – just smacks of arrogance. It is beginning to sour my view of the Society’s purpose and its work.

    I am asking you today to please act quickly and decisively to do your duty in this matter – to arrest further damage to the relationship between the Society and its members and between the Society and the public at large.

    I fear the resonance of this debacle and the Society’s high-handed behaviour (gifts of plums nothwithstanding) will last for years to come – and cause regret that the Poetry Trust lost its funding while the Poetry Society did not.

    I appeal to you again to open up to the membership and behave as a national society might be expected to – before forcible action has to be taken and further damage is done. And to please do this today.
    ________________________________

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