Thursday, January 11, 2007

The swan

I often think that Crouch End Festival Chorus is rather like a swan - elegant and smooth on the surface, but with a lot of feverish paddling going on below the water-line to keep everything running smoothly. January is one of those times of year when the behind-the-scenes activity is at a peak. The AGM is coming up on 26th January, and everyone on the committee is involved in getting ready. Each committee member has to write a report on their activities for the year, and the finance team are busy finishing off the accounts.

Today and tomorrow are particularly important days. Members of the chorus will know that a couple of years ago we made the decision to turn the choir into a limited company - things had just grown to be too large and complicated to continue to be best served by the informal unincorporated association which had sufficed over the last 20 years. We finally made the cutover to the new organization (which is nevertheless still a charity) on 1st January 2006. If you do the maths, this means we have not one, but two sets of accounts to deal with for the last financial year (which ended on 31st August 2006). Tonight there are 3 meetings happening (in succession). The first is of the trustees of the old charity (and the original Crouch End Festival Chorus), to approve its final set of accounts before we apply to the Charity Commission to have it struck off the register. The second meeting is a normal Management Committee meeting where we discuss the real nitty-gritty of running the Chorus: music, concerts, fundraising events and future commissions (we will be undertaking our biggest ever in 2008). The final meeting of the evening will be to approve the accounts for the new charity. Then I will be delivering both sets to the auditor tomorrow morning so that he has time to examine them and report before the AGM.

Why is all this so important? Well, I firmly believe that good governance, communication and accountability is the foundation of a successful organization. If the basics are right you can spend more time on the important stuff like furthering the artistic aims of the chorus. The AGM is a real opportunity for the trustees to communicate properly with the chorus membership, and for the members to feed back their own thoughts and feelings. This year we are looking at ways of making the financial performance of the chorus clearer for its members, and also trying to address concerns and issues that have surfaced over the last 12 months. I'm hoping that we can encourage as many members as possible to attend.

Once the AGM is out of the way, planning will continue in earnest for the next season. We've already got a pretty good idea of how the season will start in October, but I'm looking forward to discussing the remaining concerts with our Musical Director, David Temple, in the coming weeks.