On December 9th 2017, Clare Scott, Chair of the Lapidus International board, delivered the following report at the AGM in London:
In the previous year, 2015 – 2016, we brought together the team of the board of Lapidus. The loss of Victoria Field as treasurer after contributing for so many years meant that we had lost a sense of connection to the organisation’s origins. She was, however, replaced by Annie Bell-Davies, who has brought great financial expertise to the role. This change meant that we had to look forward rather than back, which helped us bring in fresh ideas and solutions. We needed to put new systems and procedures in place and to improve communications between ourselves and with our members. When Caleb Parkin stepped down, we became a completely new team and it was wonderful to see how his decision to focus on new pastures led to a variety of successes for him, (including some notable poetry prizes). We also became aware that we needed to look for other sources of funding beyond membership fees if we were to grow the company.
We have, all on the board, worked voluntarily and, moreover, over and above the call of duty this year and to the detriment of our personal and professional lives. I would like to thank everyone for their contributions and for sharing their talents, their skills, their knowledge, their enthusiasm and their expertise. I feel that Lapidus has benefited hugely from this. I am also aware that we would not be here if it were not for the efforts of the board led by Christine Hollywood some years ago.
As chair, I have attempted to promote our organisation in the global field, to build good working relationships with a range of organisations and to make our voice heard on the platforms that matter. At the same time, I consider it to be very important that members’ views are listened to and that we provide value for money. I have listened to feedback and we became concerned that some expressed uncertainty about what they would get from membership. Our first move to address this has been for Barbara Bloomfield to lead a task group to create a ‘welcome pack’ for new members which describes what is available and how it can be used.
We updated our logo and design style to make a more contemporary statement about Lapidus International and did this as part of the re-design of the website which had become no longer functional. We recognised the global perspective that we take and having members all over the world, with the addition of ‘International’ to our name. We have shifted to ‘words for wellbeing’, in order to encompass the spoken word as well as the written, which was inspired by the performance poet who came to the Creative Bridges Conference and what he shared about his experience of dyslexia. We have worked hard to keep our vision of our aims as an organisation that are encapsulated in our strapline: In Pursuit of Gold | The Strength of Stone | The Light in the Dark.
We launched the new website successfully and according to timescale in July at the Creative Bridges Conference. We have received very positive feedback about the new website and note that it is now a strong tool for communication, community development, and professional identity. Thanks to Perfect Hosts for their excellent work and ongoing maintenance and support.
As a result of these changes, we re-visited the journal and this too has undergone a comprehensive re-vamp and is extending beyond the product that was such a pleasure when Lisa led it. The new infrastructure injects increased diversity, vibrancy and ideas for members. We have had positive feedback with the first issue under the direction of Francesca and supported by Barbara. My thanks go to everyone who has worked on the journal.
We now have two new self-employed support contractors, Richard Axtell and Francesca Baker. They are executing their roles along the lines of new emphasis and division of areas of development as decided upon by the board, i.e. Richard is focusing on our internal voices (members) and Francesca on the external. Their enthusiasm for the work and commitment to our organisation has made a significant difference to all of us.
We realised from the start of the year that it was essential to improve communications, systems and procedures in all areas. Record keeping and security needed to be tightened. The treasurer was key in resolving our issues in terms of record keeping and security. I was very concerned to learn that the membership database was out of date and this had to be rectified as a priority and I am very grateful to Annie and Richard for resolving the problems that we had. We have set up a more formal communication and support process for Richard and Francesca. The board now has better procedures for board meetings and the allocation of specific areas of responsibility for each Director has made a significant difference. Strategic planning processes are now included as a central dimension of the work of the board.
The Directors are bedding down into their respective areas of responsibility: Clare – collaborations and communications, Annie – finance, Barbara – groups, Tony - education and research, Lisa – stories. We co-opted three non-executive members: Simon Poole from Storyhouse and leading projects, Frances Ainslie from Lapidus Scotland and Dani Pesconi-Arthur from Lapidus Wales. These three new voices have been a welcome addition to our work.
The new newsletter infrastructure, that includes monthly reports from members of the board, has improved our communication with and between members. It fits well with the hub on the website that is now a focal point for all of us in Lapidus International. The introduction of the advent calendar by Francesca this year is an innovative addition to our offerings. We are creating a members’ directory page to be used by practitioners of words for wellbeing.
We have increased our platforms in the writing therapy practice field with meetings to discuss partnership and multi-agency activities, eg Mslexia which led to a, sadly, unsuccessful bid to Arts Council England. We have increased acknowledgement and participation in policy spaces – e.g. NHS Scotland, The Good Governance Institute. The all-party parliamentary culture, health and wellbeing strategy group bid to ACE has been successful and will begin in 2018 and includes Lapidus representation. NAWE has agreed to work with us on the development of a training package for practitioners and university teaching staff (and there is the continuation of the chair’s regular article for the NAWE Journal). In July, we delivered a profitable two-day partnership conference with Metanoia, Creative Bridges. This joint conference received outstanding feedback and contributed towards good networking, positive energy, community feel, and learning. Short video interviews from the event are being made available to view on our website. We are working to ensure that our practice is inclusive and presenting information in a range of media and styles to suit all kinds of communication requirements.
We worked with iaPOETRY on possible developments and quality assurance. There has been exploration with George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling and the TS Eliot Foundation into possible joint projects. We have just heard that we have been successful in a project bid for £20,000 to the TS Eliot Foundation: - ‘The First International Consultation for A Creative Practice for Wellbeing Framework’, (to be led by Tony Wall and to be open to contributions from other members). There are also possible partnerships with Kiel in Germany and with Lithuanian members.
We have revived the research arm of our community and members of the board have written four articles for an academic work management journal in a special issue on research impact. Lectures and workshops have been provided at conferences UK-wide and abroad for poetry therapy organisations and Higher Educational Institutions, including Newcastle, York, Snowdonia, Lithuania. We have launched the Lapidus International Research Award to recognise and promote the latest research in the field.
There have been multiple board member achievements – Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellowship, Andrew Miller Medal for Poetry in New Zealand, Purbeck Literary Prize for Short Story, numerous poems published.
Regional groups have become more active and we are very aware of the importance for members to feel connected with others in their region. Barbara has been very active this year in attempting to facilitate communication between members, as well as supporting regional groups. We now have groups all over the world and financial support to new groups is being offered for a launch event or activity. This increased focus means that Lapidus communities have become more integrated and are influencing collective strategic developments. There has been the official re-launch of Lapidus Wales/Cymru. Lapidus Scotland and Lapidus Southwest have successfully won National Lottery project funds. Humber Ouse and Tweed (HOT) has had a successful year; their report is being made available to members. There are moves to form a group in the Chester area. Derbyshire and Sheffield members are coalescing into a new group. Cornwall has an interesting report for members to view. London Lapidus is hosting the AGM and they report that it has all gone very well this year, that they meet once every two months and invite speakers and had a visit to the Tate Britain in September, which was a successful new venture for them.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, in July 2017 the government report: ‘Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing’ was published and this has raised the profile of our work, increased the potential of work developments and given us a reference point for demonstrating the value of our work, its effectiveness and what is required for good practice.