Minutes of Annual General Meeting held
via Zoom, on 24th June 2021.

Present: Simon Lang (President), plus 12 members (1 more appearing during item 1 and another during item 3, and 1 leaving during item 6).

1. Minutes of A.G.M 10th December 2020

The Secretary asked for comments on the minutes of the previous AGM of 10th December 2020. None were raised so she proposed acceptance of the minutes. The minutes were accepted with 11 votes for and none against.

The actions from the 2020 AGM were:

Action AGM2020/1 Jim Brightwell to liaise with Paul Clements on the drive system.

No progress due to the Covid situation. The President hoped things would improve during the summer.

Action AGM2020/2 Simon Lang to ensure Martin Williams is involved in live feeds of video from the observatory.

No progress due to the Covid situation. The President expected to meet him during the summer.

2. President’s Remarks

The President thanked the Secretary for organizing the zoom meetings during the lockdown. He felt optimistic that we should re-open in September in person. We all look forward to things returning to normal next year. There has been very little happening in the Society apart from the zoom lectures. He had done a few things for the Astronomy Section, but there was nothing much more to remark on.

3. Trustee’s Report

The Council's separate reports had been collated into a Trustees' Annual Report as recommended by the Charity Commission, and this year it had been distributed to members by email only prior to the AGM.

The Secretary went through the main body of the trustees report.

She noted that Prof. Tony Freeth was hoping to give an in person talk on the Antikythera Mechanism in September.

4. Treasurer’s Report

John Tennant presented the Treasurer's report as contained in Annex 1 of the Trustees' Report. He noted that although the balance sheet in the report was not shown as signed, the original had now been signed. The examiner had checked the figures and believed them to be correct.

5. Archivist's Report

As Julia Daniels was unable to present her report via zoom as she was not audible, the General Secretary presented it on her behalf as contained in Annex 4 of the Trustees Report, with help from David Brandt when she mislaid a page.

Martin Williams noted that it would be good to have the Society's documents scanned and made available on the web site. The Secretary said she still had to upload some scans that Martin Williams had previously supplied.

Simon Lang said he is still waiting for access to the observatory to do the check on assets there. Now that he has had both Covid jabs he hopes this will be soon.

The Secretary thanked Julia Daniels for providing the report.

6. Election of Officers and Council

The Secretary announced that Council had elected Simon Lang as President at the Council meeting on 21st April 2021. She hoped that he would feel safe enough to participate in person in the coming year. The President apologised for not being more involved in the zoom sessions over the challenging last year, but things were looking better now.

The Secretary said that Council had announced its nominations for officers in the April newsletter. As there were no further nominations, the following officers were declared as elected:

Hon. Secretary Julie Atkinson Hon. TreasurerJohn Tennant
Hon. Programme Secretary Jim Brightwell Hon. Membership SecretaryJohn Tennant
Hon. Archivist Julia Daniels

The constitution requires at least one ordinary Council member to resign at the AGM. The Secretary reported that in the 2019-20 session, Anne Watson volunteered to resign as she may be moving to Germany later in the year, having served for 4 years on Council. Council thanked Anne for her service.

The following nominations were made by Council for the 5 ordinary members of Council and distributed in the newsletter:

NomineeKevin DevineDavid BrandtMartin WilliamsNick MaslovJasmin Qureshi
Nominated byCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncil

As there were no further nominations, these nominees were declared as elected to Council.

The President said that Jasmin Qureshi was one of the observatory team and as a film producer had very kindly set up a YouTube channel for the Society on which we would be able to post any of our videos.

7. Election of Independent Checkers

David Woolley agreed to stand again as an independent checker, but Leo McLaughlin had decided to stand down after more than 10 years of serving. The President thanked him for his efforts.

The Constitution requires two checkers. Jim Brightwell asked what a checker needed to be able to do. A checker needs to be able to read account and must not belong to Council.

Jim Brightwell asked if the checker need be a member and the Secretary said they do according to the Constitution. Martin Williams recommended that the rules should be changed to allow non-members to be checkers. The President felt than an outsider would be more independent. The Secretary said that members would have the interests of the Society at heart. Kevin Devine said that we would be likely to be charged by non-members. David Woolley pointed out that if the turnover were more than £25K, it would need an independent examiner and while the Charity Commission didn't object to their being able to vote at an AGM (i.e. being a member) there was an implied preference for non-members. The constitution requires notice before any change can be voted on, so such a change cannot be made at this AGM.

Leo McLaughlin asked if Melvin Reece would be willing to be an independent checker, but the Secretary said she had contacted him and he was not. The President said that constitution changes and checker candidates would need further discussion in Council, as there was no volunteer at the meeting. The Secretary suggested an EGM could address these.

The Secretary proposed that David Woolley be appointed as one of the independent checkers. The proposal was carried with 9 for and one abstention.

8. Astronomy Section Report

The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Simon Lang, presented his report, as contained in the Trustees' report at Annex 2.

He also reported that the death of member Matthew Hepburn and asked Jim Brightwell to speak about him, as a friend of around 20 years. Jim Brightwell said they had first met at the Polytechnic of North London whose Astronomy Forum PONLAF was run by Matthew Hepburn. It later moved to the Irish Centre and then the Crypt Room at St John's Church. He remembered that Matthew had spoken to the Society before the transit of Venus and the many happy gatherings at Matthew Hepburn's home. He would be sadly missed.

The President said that more maintenance was needed. There is a problem with the telescope drive and Paul Clements is considering making a new one with encoders which would turn the instrument into a 'go to' telescope. As London goes over to LED lighting we would be getting a brighter rather than darker sky as they broadcast over all parts of the spectrum. This makes finding objects in the sky harder and so a 'go to' telescope would be very useful.

He hoped that we would have a new programme starting in September and would be able to answer all the people asking when we were opening.

Kevin Devine was willing to help out at the observatory if needed

Astronomy Section Accounts

Julia Daniels, though present, was unable to read out her report to the meeting due to technology issues, and so Julie Atkinson presented it on her behalf as in Annex 3 of the Trustee's Report.

The Astronomy accounts had not been checked by the independent checker due to Covid restrictions, and also she was not able to obtain a statement from the bank as there were no transactions on the account. The checking must take place after the AGM.

Action AGM2021/1 Julia Daniels to enable David Woolley to check the Astronomy Accounts

Leo McLaughlin asked if the BBC paid anything for their observatory session, but Simon Lang said no, as they are a public rather than private body, and the programme was for science education.

The President thanked Julia Daniels for the report.

9. Approval of the Trustee's Report

The Secretary explained that this would be done in two stages. The first was for the trustees themselves to approve the report and the President or Secretary to sign it on their behalf. The second was for the meeting to approve it.

She proposed that Council approve the report and Council approved by 7 votes to none. At the President's request, the Secretary signed the report on behalf of Council.

She then proposed that the meeting approve the report, and the meeting approved by 11 votes to none.

10. AOB

Martin Williams raised the question of zoom, whether its use should be continued, and for what. SysFix IT Support for IT Solutions?. A discussion followed.

Nick Maslov found zoom convenient, particularly for keeping in touch via informal chats. James Hilder enjoyed the zoom meetings from Scotland. Covid risks would make him reluctant to go to in person meetings at the moment, and he was not sure that the situation would improve soon, given the inaccuracy of past predictions. Neither would be able to attend all meetings in person due to not being permanently in London.

Should future meetings be both in person and streamed? To do both may require extra equipment such as extra cameras, to show both the slides and the presenter. It would not be straightforward. Martin Williams stated that streaming live was not practical – it would need good reliable internet connection.

The Secretary noted that this AGM currently had 14 participants rather than the usual 20 plus. This could be due to membership reducing during covid or to reluctance to use zoom.

The Secretary polled attendees informally on whether they wanted to continue zoom talks. The poll was 10 for and one against. The President asked whether zoom would be supplemental to the normal talks or not. The Secretary said not. The President said he and others had voted for supplemental zoom talks, and would not want to replace in person meetings. There was discussion on possibilities, and a suggestion for an annual zoom talk from a speaker from afar who could not come in person. The Secretary suggested the proposed Matthew Hepburn talk could be by zoom.

David Brandt pointed out that at least two attendees could not be present face to face due to staying far from London. He felt that we should try to do something blended, with the emphasis on the normal practice but taking the opportunity to showcase some of the advantages of zoom. Martin Williams agreed we should have a mix and match programme. Our programme secretary was not prepared to arrange additional lectures. The President said we couldn't therefore have two talks a month, one in person and one zoom unless there was a new volunteer to arrange the zoom talks. We wouldn't have to be as rigid with zoom talks as with physical meetings as we don't need to book a venue. A bit ad hoc might be practical. Communication to members by email would be OK as only members online would be able to attend zoom talks anyway.

Martin Williams said recording of lectures would be possible with agreement from the speakers, but would not be straightforward. It would need cameras, microphone and lighting. Kevin Devine said it would need a camera on the speaker, and be able to show the lecture slides, and to include questions and answers afterwards as well. There would need to be some editing of the recording, e.g. using iMovie on a Mac. You can compress video to e.g. less than 25MB which would be good enough quality for a talk.

Simon Lang said some people these days may only read the first line of emails to check whether the rest is of interest. We should not assume that important information in emails will always be picked up.

Martin Williams pointed out that the Society website news is fronted by obituaries which does not draw people in.

Kevin Devine said that a Pentagon report on unidentified aerial phenomena was to be released the following day. There was some discussion on what it might say and scepticism about any alien origins.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM, and there was a general chat rather than a scientific entertainment.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 0118 977 5192

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