A different kind of AGM

On March 8th 2014 I finally got to attend a Druid Network (TDN) AGM.  I’ve read minutes of previous TDN AGM meetings but nothing could really prepare me for the experience I had at this one. Minutes are of necessity formal documents and bish, the current secretary of the TDN does a wonderful job of putting them together but a TDN AGM is anything but formal.

Where to begin…

For me this AGM started at 3am Saturday morning when Neil woke me to get ready to start our journey.  We set off about 3.40 am from the north side of Glasgow and headed south.  Neil drives so much in his job that driving long distances is not difficult for him and anyway as yet he doesn’t trust me not to decorate his car with scratches so I got to be passenger for the whole trip.  For part of it I dozed as there’s not much to be seen driving along motorway in the dark.  Around 5.30 am I noticed the first streaks of light touching clouds in the east.  I sat with my head craned to one side and watched as first light and then colour flowed back into the world from the east.  It’s been a long time since I had the time to simply watch the sunrise.  I noticed that about midway through this lightening process we crossed the River Ribble. I thought it appropriate that as we passed through that area of land with its strong links with Brigantia that I should see the fingers of the dawn caress the clouds and leave them blushing.  We stopped at a service station for some breakfast around 7 am and then continued on to our destination. 

AGMs for most organisations are relatively formal. TDN doesn’t really do formal. The room we used in the centre is a fairly large but comfortable room with a relaxed atmosphere, sofas and comfy chairs had already been pulled into a circle with a few gaps so we pulled up another couple of chairs in one of the larger gaps. Hugs were exchanged with those we knew well enough and greetings with those we didn’t. I’m a tactile sort of person but I know some people are not comfortable being hugged by someone they barely know and I try and restrain my enthusiasm. 

Once it looked like everyone was there we were led out to the garden round to one side of the building by those that knew the way. We moved naturally into circle for an opening ritual. There was no formal casting of a circle or calling directions or elements. The ritual was led by the current chair of the TDN, Phil, and he simply asked us to each in turn state what our intentions were for the weekend. If I remember correctly most of us mentioned service in some way as part of our intentions. Once each of us had spoken our words of intention to each other and the spirits of that place we moved back inside again.
 
After hot drinks had been made for those that wished them we all sat round and the “formal” part of the meeting began. If I remember correctly it was around 11 in the morning. The formal parts of the AGM that had to be covered were a chair’s report, a treasurer’s report, a membership report and a report on the website and social site. I’m not going to go into detail about what these reports covered as that will be in the formal minutes. What I think is more interesting is how these reports were given and responded to. None of the reports were given out as written reports, those giving them used notes for facts where appropriate but essentially each person simply spoke to the rest of us. Some aspects led to questions and discussions to clarify aspects or working practices but the discussions were always respectful and friendly. The overwhelming feeling was of relaxed friends catching up on things.

We adjourned at about 12.15 for lunch and most of us congregated in the kitchen to get another hot drink and sort out food before returning to the room we were meeting in and we started the relative formalities back up at about 1pm. Further reports and discussions on projects took place through the afternoon. The whole process was relaxed and friendly yet also productive. Different people offered to take on tasks, small working groups were formed for some projects and plans were made for the coming year.
One of the more notable things about TDN processes is that decisions are reached by consensus with voting being a last resort in the event of a situation that cannot be resolved by consensus. Needless to say no voting took place during this AGM.

There are some things I learnt from the discussions that I think are worth shouting about a bit more loudly. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to read that the Druid Network website and members social site need hosting on servers. What I had been unaware of was how much effort is put into using a hosting company that is as ethical as possible. Time and effort are put in to not only give TDN a good site to use but also one hosted by as ethical a company as can be found – one that uses carbon offsetting and where possible energy produced via renewable sources. The Druid Network also now has a small amount of merchandise, a line of clothing with the TDN logo on it. I knew these items were ethically sourced but it hadn’t really sunk in that the company chosen to supply these items (Cotton Roots) can tell you the story of each product from start to finish. If it’s a cotton item they can tell you where the cotton was grown, where it was turned into thread, cloth and finally the finished item. And the fleeces are made from recycled bottles (an average of 44 bottles per fleece). A great deal of thought and effort has been put in by past trustees and TDN members to find such ethical products.

The AGM finally drew to a close at 5 pm. Not everyone was staying overnight but those of us that were staying then moved to a nearby pub for an evening meal and the start of a relaxing and amusing evening. Alcohol was involved to some extent for all of us, some have much larger capacities and experience than others. After a meal and a drink or three in the pub we returned to the centre where various bottles were opened and in some cases finished depending on the tastes of the group. Our offering was a bottle of Strawberry wine and a bottle of Raspberry Wine from the Scottish winery Cairn O’ Mohr. My own capacity for alcohol is fairly low and I quickly got tipsy and had a couple of episodes of laughing until I had tears streaming down my face and could barely breath. Others present had a much larger tolerance and capacity than I do. Suffice it to say that a good time was had by all.

The following morning Neil and I woke fairly early (although not the earliest by any means) and took the opportunity of taking a walk into the hills a little way in the sun. While out we heard a woodpecker start knocking. I think that’s only the second time I’ve heard a woodpecker and it felt like the woodpecker was announcing to us that the world of TDN had come knocking. It will be interesting to see what opening that door brings us. We left the centre at about 9.30 am for our journey home after saying goodbye to all that were about at the time.

Attending my first Druid Network AGM has been a wonderful experience and I hope by sharing this here I will encourage others to consider joining the Druid Network.

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