3rd June 2013 — AGM and updates of the St. George Theatre project

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Minutes of the AGM

Held on 3rd June 2013 at 2:30pm
At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

The Chairman, David Wilkinson welcomed 22 Members and guests to the meeting, including Shaun McGarry – Vice Chairman, Wendy George – NNAB and Treasurer, Judy Morrow – Secretary, Darren Hendry – Committee member, Paul Bowerbank – Sensory Support Unit, Ian Hardy – Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Tom Bailey – Artistic Manager, St George’s Theatre and Paul – VIP Volunteer and HAPPI Project.

Apologies for absence were received from Linda McGurk, Tracey (NNAB), Joe Howes (DIAL) and Penny Parker (Equal Lives).

Liz Kitchener, who has recently retired from NNAB had sent her best wishes for the meeting.

The Annual General Meeting

Chairman’s Report

David reported on a busy year, in which the Group had welcomed speakers from the Fire Brigade, First Bus, Police and Richard Polley (NNAB Assistive Technology). A very enjoyable Christmas lunch had been held here at Wherry Way Communal Room, with guest handbell ringers as entertainment. David reminded the Group that he was always willing to take up access issues on Members’ behalf, and that DIAL provided an outreach facility on Tuesday mornings at the NNAB office. Relations with the bus company continued to be good, and Wendy had copies of large print timetables. He also invited members to take advantage of the large print laminated bus numbers which were proving useful for blind and visually impaired people to attract the attention of drivers to which bus they wanted to stop.

David expressed his thanks to Ian for his on going support, for Shaun in his role as Vice-Chairman and managing the website, to Judy Morrow for being an efficient secretary and Committee Member, Wendy for continuing to manage the Group’s finances, Darren for his contribution as a Committee member, Judy P for writing minutes of meetings, Paul for helping out at meetings, Tracey, Liz’s replacement at NNAB and a warm thanks to those who had made contributions to the Group funds.

Treasurer’s Report

Wendy reported that in the financial year 2012-13 outgoings had reduced. The funds stolen by the previous treasurer were being reimbursed at the rate of £80 per month, and to date £1,120 had been repaid. Transport costs were £493, partly funded by Members’ contributions and subsidised from Group funds. £457.27 had been spent on the new publicity leaflet, a donation to James Paget Hospital in memory of Charlie Johnson, the Group website and a donation to Voluntary Norfolk. Donations had been received from St Mary’s Lodge and individual members. The balance at the end of the financial year was £3,080.51 and there were no outstanding accounts.

Wendy was thanked for her Report.

The Election

The Committee stood down and Ian Hardy took the chair for the election of the new committee. Ian remarked that in its 14 year history the Group had achieved a lot, and had kept the Great Yarmouth Borough Council on its toes.

Election of Chairman

Tim nominated David Wilkinson, seconded by Darren. 15 in favour.
David re-elected as Chairman.

Election of Vice Chairman

June Stamp nominated Shaun McGarry, seconded by John Kempster. 15 in favour.
Shaun re-elected as Vice-Chairman.

Election of Treasurer

David nominated Wendy George, seconded by Judy Morrow. 14 in favour.
Wendy re-elected as Treasurer.

Election of Secretary

Tim nominated Judy Morrow, seconded by Wendy. 14 in favour.
Judy re-elected as Secretary.

Election of Committee members

Darren was nominated by Shaun, seconded by Wendy. 14 in favour.
Darren was re-elected to serve on the Committee.

Ian said that further Committee Members could be appointed during the year.

David thanked Ian Hardy for overseeing the elections, and also for his support and advice during the year.

General Meeting

David resumed his position as Chairman, and dealt with Any Other Business.

Access Issues

The problem with cyclists in the market place was again brought up, but resolution of the problem appeared to be hampered by Public Highway legalities. Unless “No Cycling” signs were in place, there were no legal grounds for stopping cyclists using the pathways. Ian Hardy said he would look into this.

Access to ATMs

Shaun had received notification from The Cooperative Bank that they had installed 400 talking ATMs with high contrast screens, and that a further 1000 would be introduced before the end of the year. ASDA had not yet updated their machines.


On the whole the Group enjoyed a good relationship with transport providers. Darren had encountered problems using his disabled bus pass before 9.30am: if other members had a similar problem they should let David know and he would arrange for a letter to show to bus drivers reminding them of the provision for unrestricted use of disabled bus passes. Tim was awaiting a response to a problem he had notified the bus company about, when he was left standing at a bus stop. Bus companies were only paid 25p per passenger using a concessionary bus pass, regardless of the length of the journey.

Sensory Support Unit

Paul Bowerbank was invited to update the Group on the current situation with regard to Sensory support. The RNIB had carried out a national survey of statistics on how many people issued with a certificate of impairment had undergone a rehabilitation programme and how many had accessed Sensory Support for a new assessment at the point of need. People’s needs changed with time, and sometimes these were not addressed. Paul said that the number of staff employed at the Unit had reduced from 9 to 4 in the last year, but following the retirement of a Deaf Support worker, a new post of Rehab Support worker was currently being advertised. The Sensory Support Unit had been the subject of a Scrutiny Committee investigation, which looked at 26 areas, of which 13 were found to be of concern, mostly in the area of accessibility of service and funding, and 13 areas of good practice were highlighted. The appointment of a new rehab worker would increase the Unit’s ability to get out to visit new referrals earlier, and rather than having to send out a “standard delay letter”, would in future be able to make a phone call to new referrals to make an initial assessment of an individual’s potential rehab or social care needs, and respond with a visit more quickly. At present the average delay was 12 weeks, but it was hoped that this would be reduced to 2 weeks. Community workers would always refer blind and partially sighted referrals to the NNAB for information about services available, assistive technology etc.

In response to a question about the proposed Low Vision Committee mooted about a year ago, Paul explained that the delay appeared to be because Professor Jen Yipp from Cambridge University, who had been appointed to oversee the Committee had been overwhelmed with other commitments.

David thanked Paul Bowerbank for attending the meeting and updating the Group.

Circulation of Minutes

Ian Hardy raised a query about whether minutes of the Group’s meeting were being kept. Shaun reassured him that this was the case, and that a misunderstanding had occurred because several Members had said that they no longer wished to receive copies of the minutes, resulting in a reduction in the number of copies the Borough Council was being asked to post. Copies of all minutes were kept on file, and both minutes and the Newsletter containing vital information could be accessed via the VIP Group website. Shaun would ensure that Ian received an updated mailing list. For those unable to access the website, minutes and newsletters were available in audio form, transcribed by Grapevine. Ian was thanked for the service and support provided to the Group in sending out paper copies of the minutes.

Guest Speaker

David welcomed as guest speaker Tom Bailey, the Artistic Manager of St George’s Theatre and function room. St George’s was initially commissioned in the early 1700s as a chapel when Great Yarmouth was a wealthy merchant town. It was deconsecrated in the 1950s, and narrowly escaped demolition in the 1960s when it became an arts theatre. When the building became too dangerous for use, it was decided to transform it, and the surrounding area, into a modern theatre for the town. It is now hosting an eclectic mix of shows and is available for weddings and civic functions. At present comedy shows seemed to be the biggest box office attraction.

With regard to accessibility, the theatre had been fitted with a state-of-the art infra-red sound listening loop, which was used regularly, and it was hoped that in future it might be possible to include subtitled/captioned performances. A show of hands revealed that ten members would be interested in a visit to the Theatre. Eight members had attended various performances at the Theatre Royal in Norwich. Judy Manning said that audio description is not available at every performance, but that she finds it helpful to be provided with audio notes to listen to prior to a performance. Tom said that while audio description had not yet been introduced at St George’s, he saw it as a potential development area. It was not something that could be pre-recorded because of the variable nature of live performances.

The outside of the historic building had been retained, but there was an adjacent new building which housed the box office, coffee shop and bar and screens showing information about forthcoming shows.

The small outside plaza area would be opened at the end of July. Concerns were expressed about safety and accessibility issues as this would be an open area. At one time there had been talk about a sunken performance area with tiered seats, which Judy Morrow described as a “pit to catch blind people” but Tom said that the current plan was for the outside area to remain flat. He would check on this and report back, and would also let David know when the next Committee meeting to discuss the outside area was to take place. No outdoor performances were planned for this year.

Information DVDs and brochures were available for members to take away. Information was also available on the theatre website, and Tom said that he would look into the provision of large print or audio programmes. Judy Manning had used the St George’s website using her speaking software and said it was excellent. She also recommended that Tom visit the “Vocaleyes” website for more information about audio description.

NNAB in Norwich organises theatre trips, but it was felt that Great YARMOUTH people would much prefer to attend suitable performances in the town. There was safe storage for mobility scooters during performances.
Tim said that the Theatre Royal and Britannia Theatre were always helpful with access to amenities for himself and his guide dog, and Tom said that St George’s had well-trained volunteers, but it would be helpful to mention specific needs to box office stewards when booking tickets.

Seven Members had already visited St George’s Theatre and found that both access and lighting were good, the staff were helpful, the aisles wide and leg-room comfortable.

At present performances were mainly held in the evenings, but there were plans for more matinee performances in future. The new brochure would be available in July/August.

Tom was warmly thanked for coming to the meeting, and for his interesting and informative talk.

General Information

Judy informed the group of research into contrasting colours being undertaken by two London universities and Moorfield Eye Hospital, who were looking for volunteers to help with the research. June, Tony and Darren expressed interest in finding out more details about going to London with a view to taking part in the research.

Magpie News had announced that the Norfolk Magazine and Eastern Evening News were to be available on memory sticks which could be played on equipment much smaller than that provided by Grapevine. Darren’s Mum said that she was no longer receiving Magpie News – Wendy said that copies were always available at the NNAB Office on Hall quay.

Shaun said that the former NCODP – now known as Equal Lives – would be holding a Members’ Forum at UEA on 13th June, where members were invited to discuss future projects. Transport and lunch would be provided. David, Shaun and Darren planned to go, and Paul volunteered to accompany them.

Judy asked if Members would be interested in a guided walk around historic Yarmouth. It was agreed that she would invite a guide to come and talk to the Group at a future meeting with the possibility of arranging a walk on a date to be arranged.

It was also agreed to invite Jane, the new NNAB sports co-ordinator to the July meeting, and someone from Oak House Foods to the September meeting.

Other suggestions for speakers were Ambulance Service and Macular Society (Macular Degeneration Disease).

Forthcoming events

Lawn Bowls – Fridays 10-12 Gorleston cliff tops. Make own way there (No 8 bus stops on Marine Parade) wear flat shoes. Bowls available for use on a first visit, but after that please provide your own. Tim has 2 spare woods for sale.

Regent Bowl (ten pin) – Tuesday 1.30pm at Regent Road

NNAB – Resource Centre open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (cards, games, cribbage, beetle, dominos, Scrabble) £1 and Friday (craft and basket work or coffee morning). Don’t forget the exhibition on 20th June.

Other Updates

Reminder – the large print bus numbers would be available from Wendy. Suggested that you cut off the corner at the top of the number or fix a bump-on (so you hold it the right way up for the bus driver to read).

Members aired the on-going concerns about the lack of crossings. Tony had to cross the Beccles Road 2-3 times a day, and despite a 6,000 name petition, the best the Highways Dept came up with was 20mph signs for traffic.

Ella was having to take taxis home because she could not get across Marine Parade without assistance.

Wendy asked whether members would like to hold their Christmas Party at Wherry Way again this year.
This was agreed, and it was suggested that the handbell ringers be invited back again.

The meeting closed at 4:20pm.


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