I served as membership officer of Sherwood Chapter for almost a year. I enjoyed this volunteer role a great deal and I believe that I made an effective contribution to the chapter during this time. However, in late September, soon after the Sherwood Chapter Rally, I resigned from the committee. This post is my attempt to address the reasons behind this resignation. I am sure that Sue, my wife and the former chapter secretary, could add more to this, but as this is my story, let’s keep it that way for now.
It has been quite difficult to identify when things started to lead up to my departure, but in the almost three months since I took the decision to resign, I have had plenty of time to think about it and I have realised that this was probably inevitable from even before I took on the job. I had swapped a number of emails with a former senior member of the committee about the way that the chapter was being run, mainly in support of Sue, my wife’s, efforts to get the chapter committee behaving more like a democratically accountable voluntary organisation.
At that time, there were no agendas being prepared for meetings, committee members were aloof and out of touch with ordinary members and financial reports were presented from scribbled notes on scraps of paper. Even before I joined the committee, I realised that all was not well with the organisation. Maybe my mistake was to say so.
I certainly played some part in this senior committee member’s decision to stand down and I believe that this, in turn, influenced another senior member of the committee to resign at the same time. This left a couple of vacancies on the committee. One of which, the secretary’s role was being filled by Sue, another was that of membership officer, which I only agreed to take on to support Sue and Pete (Clifford), our new chapter director.
During my time on the committee, it became very clear that there was a faction within the organisation that strongly supported the former senior committee member. It was also clear that for him, resignation did not mean leaving the newly elected officers to get on with it. Indeed, at every turn, he and “his” faction within the committee were effectively a shadow cabinet, discussing committee and chapter business among themselves. I am convinced that the shadow cabinet had a fairly long-standing plan to find an opportunity to take revenge on me for my email exchange.
Their opportunity came with a discussion on the rally that had been organised at a time when I could not get to a very poorly attended meeting early one evening at the Hog’s Head pub. However, Sue did go along in time to hear an attack on both of us for charging the chapter to provide the disco for the two nights of the rally. This attack was led by Pete and Carole Wright, both good friends of the former senior committee member. The gist of their argument was that we were paid for working at the rally while everyone else was volunteering.
If our only involvement at the rally was being paid to do the disco, even I might have had some sympathy with this view. However, Sue and I put in many voluntary hours at the rally, along with some other members of the committee. We both spent a long time on Friday and Saturday on the gate, along with Assistant Director Kev Taylor and others. After we had done our fair share of volunteering, we went to work.
Perhaps Pete and Carole simply failed to see that we earn a substantial part of our livelihood in the entertainment industry.
The Wrights, in particular, were conspicuous by their absence throughout the time we spent on the gate. I have tried to discover just what they spent their time doing other than drinking and talking to friends, and have unearthed the fact that they were involved in decorating the function room for the Friday night and selling a few raffle tickets.
Even this minimal volunteering didn’t extend to them putting any effort into decorating the space outside where the Saturday evening band played and where there was a fantastic atmosphere despite the lack of decoration. Nor did they turn up to take the decorations down from the function room on the Sunday morning. The site owner spent quite a lot of time asking for this to be done before it was, eventually, done by a small team of people.
I have also tried to find out just how many other members of the committee are expected to do what they do for a living for nothing – and have found no-one else that had ever been put into the position that the Wrights were trying to put me in.
It may also be that some people are unable to recognise that there is a very significant difference between providing entertainment and being entertained. I am fortunate that I have job that I am good at and that I enjoy. However, it is still a job and has to be approached as one. If I were to drink even half as much as many of the people at the rally, the disco would have been a disaster and the Wrights would have been 100% justified in saying so. However, I approached this job in the same professional way that I approach every job I do.
Whatever the ultimate motivation for The Wright’s attack on Sue and I, it did the trick. I emailed Pete Clifford that same evening and resigned. I later found out that the former secretary was going to stand against both Sue and I to try re-take the two roles that she had walked away from a year earlier. For a while I toyed with running a campaign to stop her and also to get rid of Pete Wright as treasurer of the chapter, but frankly, I had stopped caring enough to be bothered.
If this was a chapter in a book about governance of voluntary organisations, it would end with a paragraph or two about collective responsibility and the importance of keeping a committee united. For me it ended with an unpleasant experience and a determination not to volunteer for Sherwood Chapter again in the future.
It only took two people to get rid of a couple of good volunteers.