Guernsey Eisteddfod Society
Annual Report 2019
Presented by Barbara Minta
General Secretary of Guernsey Eisteddfod Society.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me very great pleasure to present to you my thirty eighth Annual Report as General Secretary of this Society
2019 has been a year of ups and downs – the Artistic Roller Skating section was disbanded so there were no competitions in this area but I am delighted to say that the section has been reformed for 2020 under the leadership of Gloria Dekker and we wish her and her team every success for the future.
At last year’s AGM the demise of the Guernsey French section was highlighted, and Vice President, Geoffrey Mahy, undertook the task of trying to keep our native language alive in Guernsey and within the auspices of the Festival. He has done a sterling job with the aid of a dedicated team, and the section, now called Guernesiais, had an excellent festival in 2019 and we look forward to 2020.
The Flower section continues to cause problems. Tracey Ozanne, its Executive Officer tried to retire a couple of years ago but no-one could be found to take on the role. A friend of mine helped Tracey in 2019 but she is unwilling to continue; it was suggested that I should approach the Guernsey Flower Arranging Society to see if any of their members were willing to assume the role; the response from that body was that it would be very sad if the section had to fold but they were not able to help in any way. So where now?
However, back to the Festival of 2019.
This year we celebrated our eighty ninth Annual Festival and we are rapidly approaching the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Guernsey Eisteddfod Society, which will occur in 2021. You will see that I have put this on the agenda for the latter part of today’s meeting.
Our Music Adjudicator this year was a real showman, Steven Roberts endeared himself to audiences, participants, teachers alike. His wealth of knowledge was amazing and he delivered with such joy, praise and obvious enjoyment that we all really appreciated him! One to remember, Katherine, and hopefully to be invited back! Entries this year were slightly down but we anticipate this every other year when the Channel Islands Dance Festival is held in Guernsey. Sincere thanks go to Katherine and her hard working team who are so very well organised that the ten days of music competitions fly by with everything working like clockwork!
We were delighted to welcome back an old friend as adjudicator of the Speech and Drama section. Cally Foster is a real charmer, puts everyone at ease, gives helpful and constructive comments and is very easy for the audience to listen to. Shaun Winterflood has had some health issues this year and he has had to rely heavily on Kath and Mick Prince and other members of his committee to take on much of the admin for the section. Happily Shaun is much better and is making good progress and we thank him and all his team for their splendid organisation. Entries were again down on previous years, this due to a number of factors – the Dance Festival, Shaun’s Drama School, SWATS, which was then on the verge of closure and subsequently has closed its doors; new groups have since set up but they need time to ‘bed in’ before their students are ready for competition. However this year’s Speech and Drama section was very successful and was much enjoyed and appreciated.
The Modern Languages section was also down in entry numbers; more people had entered than actually came along for competition and so there was a fair amount of hanging around. The French adjudicator was Madame Christine Bonhomme from Jersey and she was very good. The number of primary entries was high, and on the door at Beau Sejour we were kept very busy! It was the older competitors whose numbers dwindled. Their competitions were held in the Town Church, which was not a very satisfactory venue owing to the extraneous noise of traffic. Mrs Sproule works hard to try to keep interest going and I thank her for her enthusiasm and dedication.
She will be looking I am sure, for a different venue for next year’s senior competitions.
The newly refurbished Guernesiais section was a triumph! The venue for the senior competitions was the Drama Studio at the Ladies College but it was actually too small to accommodate the number of competitors and audience. Junior competitions were held at the Forest School. Professor Mari Jones from Cambridge University was the adjudicator and it was quite a coup to have the benefit of her experience and knowledge and she so obviously enjoyed herself enormously! Geoff Mahy and his team worked very hard to ensure the success of the event, even providing a cup of tea and piece of home made Guernsey Gache to keep the audience members happy in the interval! Thank you, Geoff and your committee!
As always the Arts and Crafts Exhibition was a huge success. The Halls looked magnificent and the support of the Beau Sejour staff, in particular Martyn Bourgaize, was much appreciated. All sections worked hard to establish displays to appeal to the visitors who toured the Exhibition and there was this year a good attendance by members of the public and by school parties. In my Report of 2018 I gave notice that Pippa McCathie and her husband, Niall, were leaving the island to reside in the UK. As yet the family has not been able to leave so we continued to have the benefit of Pippa’s experience at this year’s Festival and I am sure that Pippa’s successor, Sophie Appleqvist was pleased to have her around to ‘show her the ropes’. We wish Pippa and Niall every success with their move when it finally does take place!
Our other new Executive Officer this year is Margaret Girard who has taken on the Needlework section. Margaret is a real enthusiast and she is a joy to have on the committee. I thank her and her team for their excellent work this year.
As I said earlier the whole Exhibition was a joy to behold and I wish to thank all Executive Officers and their committees for the hard work they put into ensuring its success. The other person to thank most warmly is Peter de Garis, the Exhibition organiser; Peter is a perfectionist par excellence and we are so lucky to have him at the helm of this part of the annual festival. For some time Peter has made known that he would welcome some help with the organisation and to this end I am delighted to say that he has managed to persuade Sue Duport to come on to the committee to be responsible for liaison with schools and playgroups.
‘The People’s Choice ‘ Awards this year were won by Melrose School and Monkey Puzzle Playgroup and we were very grateful that yet again the Bailiff made himself available early one morning to visit the two establishments to present their awards. Judge Cherry McMillen was our invited guest this year and she professed herself to be amazed at the quality of work on display. We were delighted that Judge McMillen found time in her busy pre-retirement schedule to attend The Presentation of Trophies event and we were delighted that His Excellency and Lady Corder were also able to be present on the Opening Night.
The Gala Concert was a great success once again, with a broad range of talent on show – out of the thousands of people who take part in the performing competitions it is very difficult to pick just about twenty to showcase their talents on this one night!
Once again we are hugely indebted to the generosity of our sponsors, without whose financial assistance the Festival would not survive! There are many of them and I do not want this to sound like a shopping list; you will have read their names in the Annual Programme and the advertising of the Festival but suffice it to say that, large or small, every donation we get is very much welcomed. Some companies support us financially, some support us by allowing us to use their premises for our advertising banners but all are greatly appreciated!
There are a huge number of people whom I should thank following this year’s Festival, and I am sure I am bound to forget someone but I wish to express my personal gratitude to the Guernsey Press for its continued support and excellent coverage; to Melody Press for their work on programmes and other stationery, often working to a very tight deadline; to Jewellers Martyn Guille for the excellent job of maintaining our huge number of trophies; to Elizabeth Langlois who prepares the Syllabus; to Martin Shires our pro bono auditor of our accounts; to the staff of the various venues, the stewards, those who man the ticket desks, to all participants, teachers, parents and members of the audience and all who support us in any way. You are so valuable and important to us and to our continued existence .
One new committee member, our PRO, has done a stalwart job in this his first year – I rather dragooned him into assuming this role but I am delighted that he agreed! Thank you, Pete!
To all other members of committees, to Peter Dumont our Treasurer, Tim Hibbs our vice chairman, Alan Brown our chairman, and Sue de Garis my assistant secretary, a very big thank you to you all – I count you all as friends and I do not know where we or I would be without you!