York Guild - Our Experiences of Zoom
It is early March 2020, the York Guild February meeting had been held at our Murton Park base as usual, it was a skill share day with no formal meeting or speaker, and we all went home happy after a good day with friends. All looking set for another good year.
How quickly that changed! The March meeting was cancelled, the AGM went virtual by e-mail and post. Unable to do much about new appointments to the committee, the members due to retire agreed to continue pro-tem.
So, how do we go about keeping the Guild together and functioning? The committee were firm that doing nothing was not an option. Inevitably we would have to lean heavily on some form of virtual meeting, as for at least 6 weeks as face to face meetings were not permitted.
Our Chair, Cath Snape, and some others were aware of the Zoom platform and had used the free version for various purposes. So we resolved to try it. A link was sent out inviting members to join the first meeting on the 25th of April. About 10 people joined that first meeting, most of us not quite knowing what to expect, but after the inevitable stumbles over starting your audio and video feeds it worked quite well. We were using a free account at that point, but we managed to establish that the platform worked and some work was shown.
Buoyed up by this initial success we raided the treasurer’s piggy bank and signed up for a paid account allowing us to host meetings of up to 100. Using this account we re-established our monthly programme as one hour Zoom meetings, held on the usual third Saturday of each month at 2.00pm.
The early meetings were more social events, with show and tell taking up a large chunk of the hour, but it became clear that normality wasn’t about to be restored any time soon we began to look at other possibilities. A short presentation by one of our members, who had been due to speak at a meeting, was well received and prompted discussion among the committee – on Zoom naturally – about the direction we might take for meetings. This led to a questionnaire being circulated to the membership to canvas views on how to proceed.
The upshot being that the regular day was preferred, but could we do something other than rather lengthy skill shares (numbers had increased somewhat by this time). Our programme secretary set about finding out who of our programmed speakers would be prepared to do a zoom presentation. Step forward Lesley Horden of Skyrack Angoras to do a feature on history, development, care and spinning of ‘wool’ from the British Angora. Over 50% of the membership signed in for this one, and we were not disappointed, being treated to a good professional talk which allowed the speaker’s personality to come through.
On the back of this we resolved to revert to our correct schedule of meetings with alternate speakers and skill shares; with one exception - 2020 was the diamond jubilee of the York Guild and everything had been cancelled, but we thought, why not a virtual party? So on Saturday 5th December we scheduled two one hour sessions, but with the meeting left running in the two hour gap for members to chat and look at archive photographs collected for the Jubilee exhibition. Again more than 50% of the membership signed in and much fun was had, including fancy dress and the results of two lock down challenges being presented.
Inspired by the success of the early Zoom meetings, we decided to try moving our Evening Study Group onto the Zoom platform – well we had paid for it, so got to get our money’s worth, it is Yorkshire after all. So from May 20th on one Wednesday a month we met virtually to consider and discuss various topics relating to spinning. What emerged was that for a number of people who were having limited social contact, these meetings were a welcome opportunity to chat to old friends and learn about something at the same time.
Our weaving group then decided they weren’t going to be left out and they started a bi-monthly programme, initially mostly conversational, but moving on to discuss the On-Line Guild Echo and Iris workshop, and to work on Krokbragd weaving.
As the summer wore on, it became obvious that we were going to be Zooming for a good while to come, so from the 22nd of September we took the step of making the study group weekly, rather than monthly, under the title Wednesday Workshops; each week on a different topic. These have proved popular with a recognisable core of faces, joined by others as time and interest dictated.
To make all these sessions more accessible to the membership, we started recording them using the Zoom app, then shifting the recordings to our Google Drive storage and publishing links to the recordings in our (now monthly) Newsletter, on our website members area, and in a weekly email digest of upcoming events.
The good news is that this and other social media activity has yielded several more new members for the Guild as people look to crafting as a way to help them through these difficult times. In future we will probably discuss the role of Zoom going forward beyond the current situation. as we have a large catchment area and some members face a significant journey to attend meetings.
York Guild WSDby