FRMS & Regeneration

It is probably true that most affiliate societies have aging memberships and concerns about recruitment, for without members there are no societies. The decline which some recorded music societies suffer happens for other reasons than just the above. Meeting room rental costs; finding people willing to take on organisational roles; organising and funding interesting presentations which members and visitors want to attend etc. etc. are all relevant and persistent additional issues.

But the fundamental issue of regeneration is energy. Without it, nothing happens. Whilst FRMS can offer support, organise licenses, insurance, technical expertise and circulate information, it is only at district level that affiliate societies can successfully operate.

The salient feature of affiliate societies which hold or expand their memberships is a high degree of energy and commitment to providing a service which is valued and wanted by the communities it seeks to serve. Who provides that energy? Some mistakenly believe, in my view, that it is the 'officers' who are the power generators of the movement. From my experience as a secretary of some years, things only really happen when the members drive things forward.

Research carried out under the auspices of FRMS has shown that most societies which expand do so by members recruiting people that they know. If you are enthusiastic about your society and its programme, you are much more likely to pass on the 'infection' to someone else and they may well turn up and 'give it a try'. Certainly, publicising meetings in the local press, having information available at libraries, art galleries and live music events, raises the profile for affiliates at the local level. But 'bring a friend' seems to offer the best way forward for maintenance, even expansion. However, when someone new does arrive, make a fuss; ensure the programme they have come to is interesting/stimulating - a good reason not to sit in front of the telly. Affiliates are societies, i.e. social gatherings. That they have a particular slant is, of course, the reason they are there but do not underestimate the social function. Again, it is the members who make that social bond with someone new most effectively, usually during the interval over a cup of tea/coffee and a biscuit or two. I guarantee that a new prospective member who is not immediately welcomed into a 'friendship group' is lost. It is so obvious, but for being so, it can be overlooked or worse, it's someone else's responsibility. Being brutal, societies who take this latter view are doomed.

Of course, effective officials, do provide and channel energy, organise the programme, trying in all seasons to provide something that will interest everyone at some stage. Here again, members are crucial and should be prepared to leave individual musical comfort zones and try something new. Music is a medium which needs novelty - it is not and cannot be static and forever frozen in a particular period or genre. Membership, to my mind, is about support and the most effective way of demonstrating this is to attend. Well attended meetings mean that otherwise busy people who are happy to give a programme, are more than likely to do so again, if people 'turned-out' and enthusiastically received their efforts. It is the one worrying feature of being a programme secretary that a guest speaker should come to a poorly attended meeting with consequential embarrassment - I would be reluctant to ask them again for fear of understandable refusal.

So, to conclude my thesis, it is members and their combined energies which make a difference to a society's fortunes - it is a shared responsibility to promote and support your society. If successful all should bask in the reflected glow of quite an accomplishment. Or am I trying to teach my grandmother the art of egg-sucking.

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