Annual General Meeting 2020: Chair's Report

Charlotte Pike, Chair


Good evening. I’m delighted to see you all here this evening in our very first virtual AGM and indeed my first as your Chair.


The last nine months have seen extraordinary change in all of our lives. There is no doubt that some members will have experienced deeply challenging circumstances over the last few months, professionally, financially and personally. I'd like to reassure members that the Guild committee is working away on everyone’s half, all guns blazing and whatever life brings us in the months ahead.


I have served on the committee for the last five years, my first as a special officer, looking after our Sponsorship activities, most recently with Polly Robinson, to ensure our Awards can take place each year. Most recently, I have served as your Vice Chair, supporting co-Chairs Angela Clutton and Genevieve Taylor, and then Genevieve on her own as she took over as Chair. It has been a privilege to serve during this time.


In mid-August, I took over the Chair role as Acting Chair, upon Genevieve’s resignation, and then I served as Chair in September, following receiving the support of the committee to take over as Chair with immediate effect.


I would like to take the opportunity to thank Genevieve tonight for everything she has done for the Guild and also to thank the committee members and special officers who are leaving the committee now.


Everyone on the committee gives their time for free to support our activities, alongside paid work and juggling busy lives, and it’s fair to say it’s been a big team effort for us all over the last few months, keeping everything running for you all, and in our careers and at home lives, too. I’d like to thank everyone on the committee for their tremendous efforts in supporting our activities. We’ve had to adapt quickly, but I am very optimistic about the future of the Guild and the changes we have made to our business and activities.


Since the start of lockdown, we have striven to ensure that we adapt to meet the current circumstances as best we can, and I’d like to thank everyone on the Committee, our special officers and of course Jonathan, Orlando and Felicity for all their support in this.


We have offered an opt-in 50% reduction in membership fees, taken all of our events online and made them free to attend, our Forum and Newsletter are busier than ever, and here we are with our first virtual AGM.


The response to our online events has been very positive, and we have been pleased to see so many members offer to run events for us, and I’d like to thank every member who has run an event for us and those who continue to write with offers…please do keep them coming!  It has also been very positive seeing so many members join our events from all parts of the country and indeed further afield.


We had all worked so hard on planning and fundraising for our 2020 Awards, but were left with no choice to pull the in-person event in March, and re-think what we do.


We have also come to the conclusion that our 2021 Awards will have to be held virtually again. However, given the success of our online format in 2020, I’m confident we can put together another great awards presentation. The judging for 2021 will commence soon, and we are able to undertake this with relatively few changes to usual, and with the rigour you all know and expect. We will be contacting judges soon to start the process, and I’d like to thank everyone who will be helping us over the coming months.


The Guild of Food Writer’s Young Food Writer of the Year competition was a tremendous success too in 2020. We partnered with The Week Junior magazine again this year, and it was our first without a commercial sponsor in a few years. We were delighted with number of entries and quality of material submitted and we are currently working on our plans for next year here, as well.


In other business, you will have seen two important communications from us over the last few weeks.


We have launched our 2020 pay survey, which will be our first review of this important document in four years. The deadline to reply is on 9th November if you’d like to take part.


We also launched our new mentorship scheme last Friday, which we hope will offer the opportunity to learn and share knowledge with our fellow professionals. That is now open for registration from those who may wish to mentor or become a mentee.


In the new year, we will also send you a Chair’s survey, which will hopefully provide an opportunity to have your say about what you would like to see from the Guild in the future.


With such profound change affecting how we work, if we can work, and indeed if we can earn enough to get by, I think it’s imperative that The Guild of Food Writers offers members as much support as possible and makes its activities as useful and appealing as we can. We are finding that the Guild is bigger and busier than ever, which is why we propose to enlarge the committee, so that we have enough people on board to deliver for you all. There are often times where we need additional help, and I’d welcome anyone who may have some time to offer us to come forward at any time: whatever your ideas, whatever your skills, we’d love to hear from you.


In addition to our usual committee roles, the committee has decided to appoint a full committee member to look at the issue of diversity, with immediate effect, to ensure that everything we do represents all of our members.


Finally, I’d like to thank all of you for sticking with us this year, and again to everyone at the Guild of Food Writers for their extraordinary efforts.  Thank you.