AGM, Chair’s report

The Annual General Meeting of HGTA was held on June 26th. It was attended by 26 members and 3 guests.

Here is the report which was given by Liz Perrett:

Acting Chair Report to AGM June 26th 2024

This year can be summed up as one of Challenge, Change and Opportunity.

This time last year saw us in the middle of the major challenges of finalising plans for the BAM Youth Cultural Festival and the tri-partite meetings between HTC, GTC and ourselves on future funding and renewal of Service Level Agreements.

This series of meetings aimed to enable re-negotiation of the Service Level Agreement between HTC & HGTA and to arrive at a similar arrangement with GTC. The discussions were robust and, at times, difficult.  However, I am pleased to report that in November they were concluded and HGTA have done all that was required, ratification at this meeting being the final stage, for us. Thanks must go to David Brown and Dick Taplin for their part in the process and everyone on the Committee for their support in enacting the changes required at what was an extremely busy and demanding time.

Which brings me to BAM, what a project, we should be extremely proud of the outcome – I still can’t quite believe that we managed to pull it off – on many occasions that seemed highly unlikely! Huge thanks must go to our project partners, The Commemoration Hall, without whose vision it just wouldn’t have happened, to the Steering Group team, whose HGTA members certainly went above and beyond in all sorts of ways and of course especially to David Brown who was pivotal in making the 2023 Youth Cultural Festival a resounding success. To see all the young people involved forging new friendships and growing in in confidence was tremendously rewarding and for me, this truly was Twinning in action.  I’m sure you all agree the murals look amazing and enhance both towns. The 2024 Youth Sports Festival takes place in Szentendre in September and we shall be taking a team of students from Hinchingbrooke. Thanks must go to Di for all the work she is doing with the school to make this possible.

Our Association faced a major change in December when David made what I know was an extremely difficult decision for him, to step down as Chair.  The challenge was to find a way to keep all the work going and move forward with re-focused plans and priorities. Responsibilities were re-allocated and everyone on the Committee stepped up, despite already heavy workloads and other commitments, with most taking on multiple roles Because of this, in the 6 months since then we have been able to make significant progress and have not been afraid to acknowledge things that are not working and to make changes to established practice.

The year has continued to have a full programme of events and social activities, you have all received copies of the Committee reports from which you can see details of all that each of them lead on. I cannot emphasise enough how much work goes on ‘behind the scenes’ by this small and dedicated number of people to plan and execute a full and enjoyable programme assisted, of course, by their hard-working sub committees and all our members who volunteer to help ‘on the day’. Not forgetting the ‘administrative’ functions of Secretary and Treasurer, who make up with, the Chair, the Officers of the Association.  It’s quite a team!

We have changed the format of the Open Member meetings to make them more sociable and informal and give us all the opportunity to share what we are doing and to hear ideas and questions. Each member meeting has a particular focus, in February it was our Programme and April saw our Celebration of Twinning Open day, this approach has been well received.

We are taking positive steps to involve young people more in Twinning via our Young Twinners initiative. Young Twinners’ covers our younger members; close ties, or ‘affiliations,’ with other established youth groups, facilitating links between our schools and those in our twin towns, liaison and organisation of school students and others participation in Youth Festivals. Membership for under 18s is free of charge. We now have a small group of new young members who are working together on producing a film for the mini film festival running alongside the Youth Sports Festival in Szentendre in September and other plans. I must thank Dan Morris for his work in supporting this initiative and being a tremendous ambassador for twinning.  Look out for more news!

I have been very aware over the past 6 months and in this, our 50th anniversary year, of the tremendous legacy of work done by so many people over that time, some of whom are here this evening! I would like to express my heartfelt and grateful thanks for all the support that I have received whilst carrying out the role of Acting Chair.  Our European friends also face change following the recent EU & mayor elections and share many of the same challenges. There is much still to do if we are to secure a flourishing Association with renewed purpose and to avoid ‘burn out’ of those who have been active for a long period. Together, it can be done, if we all grasp the opportunities presented:

  • The opportunity to do better at working together based on mutual respect & trust
  • The opportunity to finally put into action for 25/26 the recommendations from the tri-partite meetings to secure future funding & support effective planning
  • The opportunity to take a more active role, help grow our membership and support the work and organisation of the Association, via Committee & sub-committee membership
  • The opportunity to help find solutions to shared challenges for all our twin town associations.
  • The opportunity to create a place for young twinners, to facilitate new ideas and opportunities and to integrate them into the democratic process of Twinning

So that, to paraphrase the original Salon charter: ‘Thanks to a better understanding, the living feeling of European friendship may continue to expand and become stronger.’

Thank you.

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