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The Annual Dinner Referendum

Eighteen responses out of how many members?  Two hundred odd?  Not that good.  Folk obviously don’t really care about the Dinner.  The Committee decided to consult the membership about the Dinner to see if any useful comments came out of the exercise.  Rumblings of discontent had been noticed in the past, particularly since last year, so we made up the questionnaire just to see what the reaction would be.  Since only eighteen replied, the results are hardly representative but here goes anyway.

I do not intend to set out vast columns of statistics but rather I have gone though the returns, picking out the various trends and salient points and adding them to the ideas I’ve received just chatting to people.  The comments and conclusion are not necessarily mine or the Committee’s.

The basic conclusion noted was overwhelming - the vast majority of people were not satisfied with the last dinner.  This is not due to any particular aspect, rather the "whole".  It transpires however that if one or more aspects were better, then the "whole" would become, or seem to become, more enjoyable.  So for example, if we had good entertainment or riveting speeches then peoples’ minds would be taken away from an indifferent meal or a dreary restaurant.  People tend to remember the good times.

a)                  Taking the Meal first. Most require a £12-13 maximum.  This obviously provides a constraint to amount, choice and quality so it will have to be up to the Organiser to get the best value for money as possible. Nobody expects an amazing spread, just value for money nosh - hot, tasty and quick.  Cavers are not rich?  A sit down meal is almost unanimous.

b)                  The Venue.  I thought most would probably want to stay on Mendip but many say they wouldn’t mind going much further a field if we get a good meal, a good atmosphere (which we would generate ourselves) and enough room to play about.  The Caveman is pretty dreary but we can’t please everyone and get all aspects of the Dinner right and at least its convenient. Sitting 100 or so is a constraint in itself but the organiser this year will perhaps widen his horizons a little. In any event, if we’re going to mess around and play about as is inevitable then we need room, i.e. a Caveman type place or a Village Hall that doesn’t mind getting dented a little.

c)                  Guests. Nobody seems to have any particularly strong views but most would rather leave it to the Committee or Organiser with perhaps a hint that it’s no more than two from each Mendip Club.

d)                  Entertainment and Speeches.  This naturally provoked much discussion.  Discos, Fancy Dress and Bands are certainly out.  The consensus is a play or plays, say made up of three or four groups of friends of say three or four each, interspersed with speeches and awards. This would have the effect of eeking out the speeches which invariably get dreary.  There is little doubt that speeches must be better considered and planned so that they mean something (a guest speaker? - Sid Perou?) not just a tipsy body standing up and spouting forth.  Plays must not offend.  One returnee hinted that a play some time ago deeply offended some people so they should not be too personal (unless previously agreed) or slag the Wessex too much.  We're all reasonably intelligent and can sense when our actions are likely to offend.  We don’t want to be seen to be louts.  Perhaps a play(s) every other year?

e)                  Wine. Apparently most request it to be ordered separately.

f)                    Two Dinners.  Some have suggested two dinners.  One formal sit down affair and one less formal, fancy dress mad affair.  I feel most reject this.  We are one club, despite the age groups represented, and it’s the only function in the year where everyone can get together under one roof. The older members may prefer the formal do, while the younger ones a disco or fancy dress but this will only serve to divide the club.

g)                  A few pertinent points made by some people:

1.                  "Speeches, awards etc. (except guest speakers) to be made at intervals during the meal."

2.                  "Any radical change to the format, will probably lead to the fall off of older members attending."

3.                  "Other clubs (eg .... ) have Xmas Dinner, Diggers Dinner etc where fancy dress is the theme."

4.                  "No smoking (I really suffer)."

5.                  " .... last year some of us couldn't bear it (a speech) and had a good pee instead."

6.                  "Best BEC Dinner, excluding 50th, in recent years was at Croscombe Village Hall in 1984 because the food was excellent."

7.                  " re: "wine included".  This means wine on table prior to meal and a general grabbing of reds by early arrivals leaving unspeakable and virtually undrinkable whites for those unfortunates who arrive late."


I get the impression that the style, format etc. should not be radically changed.  We cannot hope to suit everyone and in a way the present style has probably endured naturally over a number of years.

How about?

a)       £12-14 (increase from popular £10-12 bracket due to inflation since last year).

b)       Mendip venue, but widen horizons slightly and not necessarily the Caveman.  Something a little original within the obvious constraints.

c)       Plan and restrict the speeches and get a guest speaker (not necessarily to do with caving) - during meal?

d)       Provide our own entertainment with sketches and plays during the meal?

e)       Make sure the bar doesn't run out

f)        One Dinner only a year - although the "Diggers" etc. could hold their own additional do if they want.

Mike (Trebor) McDonald.