My 1st Annual Gathering!!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Annual Gathering (AG) is the annual opportunity to vote on the things which matter most to the Woodcraft Folk. Before AG motions are submitted to and an agenda is made.

Lots of people arrived on the Friday (which I intend to do next year) and I arrived to a circle of tents and a few marquees

 dotted around. Registration was simple and was greeted with a smile and simple instructions as to what was where and when.

This year the structure was to have some workshops on Saturday which were based on key areas of the woodcraft. I arrived slightly late just before lunch because of the traffic and decided to go to the workshop on “new to AG”. Half expecting to be there alone it was nice to see a healthy group of about 15 of us there in the marquee. The session was led by Chloe and Josh and was really fun and informative. They took us through the AG processes and at the end we did a mock debate. It was really nice to see so many Venturers there for the first time. I was really impressed with how articulate and passionate they were (even when arguing against motions playing devils advocate!). It was a nice touch that we were all given a new to AG badge. I love badges!

Just before lunch we had a meet and greet with GC and I introduced myself as standing for committee. It was quite a short session and I wondered if there could’ve been some more structure to the session in order to help new delegates understand more about specifically how each person on AG contributes and what their key skills are. Or perhaps it should be structured as a question time format for those who see AG as a good forum to air concerns or promote achievements.

Lunch was great, typically woody and a special shout out for the soup! I’ll say now I really enjoyed the food over the two days I was there.

After lunch I went to my second workshop which was Funding and Grant Applications led by Melissa March on General Council.

The workshop was just under an hour and gave us an insight into the type of terminology we should be using in our grant applications through to resources available from “central folk”. It was hands on, practical with us writing down our ideas and Mel advising us on how to create the right image for the projects we are requesting funding for.

We had a break and after a bit of mingling with people I’ve never met we went to the open space session. The topics at open space in some ways mimicked the agenda of AG and I’m really glad we had that before the motions. I was scribing in the space to discuss Leadership Recognition and mapping out ideas and concepts, potential pitfalls and benefits really helped me shape my opinion for the Sunday when it came to voting.

If you haven’t ever had “open space” It is where you can choose to attend any topics which interest you. You can stay for 2 minutes or 20, it is up to you. Some people like to float around all of the stations and some people choose to sit throughout. I suppose it also depends on the type of information being discussed.

In the evening we had some drinks in the main hall and had a raffle. Initially I was disappointed that there wasn’t something more organized like a quiz or a cèilidh but to be honest it was ok as it gave me the opportunity to chat to some of the existing GC members to understand more about what I am signing up for. It never fails to impress me how much passion, dedication and energy people devote to Woodcraft. I love how different groups operate yet we have the same binding principles. It was nice to have a raffle too.

I ended up at the campfire singing songs with a collection of DF’s. No songbooks in sight just a guitar and some great voices (and memories!). As the night wore on the crowd and the volume grew. Old songs, new songs, northern favourites, foreign recitals. Was really interesting hearing how people sing Red River Valley differently, a slow verse with a fast chorus! Where is the woodcraft folk choir?!!

The next morning it was down to business. After a slow start we were ready to roll and we started with a financial update. I was impressed with the level of detail shown yet still keeping it to a level where hopefully everyone in the room could understand where we are at. The proposed motions then started and it wasn’t long before I was itching to have my say. In the first workshop I attended they suggested we start by introducing yourself at the mic and saying “this is my first time at AG”. This is great advice but totally left my mind when I stood up in front of 160 people! I kept my point short and sweet and sat back down.

Another thing which impressed me was the amount of Venturers who stood up and spoke with a real desire to make a difference. We had representatives from Venturer committee and the DF’s were there both on general council and as delegates. I would say on balance there were as many young people who spoke as those over 18.

This year there were only 5 motions compared to previous years where there have been considerably more. I’m intrigued to know how that works, better or worse. I felt we gave each topic just about enough time but if there had been 32 motions would we have needed a week camp?! After we had concluded the business we had an opportunity to collect materials we can use for our groups. There was a really good range of materials on offer and there was very little left right at the end. If you have never read any WCF literature or aids for running sessions etc then you should. They are really really good.

We finished on link your hands together and said our goodbyes. For some it was the end of the year and for me it was the beginning. I’m really excited and proud about joining GC and I hope next year I can stand up and tell everyone about all the great things we have achieved. 

By Tom Gaffikin