Mary-Ann Ochota: what does the BMC mean to you?

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 11/04/2018
Mary-Ann scrambling on Tryfan
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Globe-trotting archaeologist turned adventurer Mary-Ann Ochota explains why it's important to vote in the upcoming BMC AGM.

It’s fair to say Mary-Ann has a diverse CV. Among other things, she has studied at Cambridge, been quizzed on University Challenge, been a model for Special K and presented Time Team. She’s also a keen outdoor enthusiast who has walked and bivvied across Britain, often accompanied by her loping pet Labrador. Last year she presented the five-part Great Walks series on BMC TV.

It’s fantastic that the BMC are reaching out to the huge community of people who love walking in our hills and high places. The mountains are for everyone, and I’m honoured to be asked to do my bit to get that message out there.

The BMC is a membership organisation that brings people together, united by their love of climbing, mountaineering and walking. It’s also a resource for training, skills and campaigns to help protect and preserve our mountain landscapes and people’s access to them. It’ll also be instrumental in helping introduce climbing to a wider public in 2020 with the Olympics.

The BMC is a broad church – both its strength and its challenges lie in this fact. Someone who competes in indoor climbing competitions might not share that much with someone who goes hill-walking on a weekend for pleasure. The reasons we join might be very similar, very different, or somewhere in the middle, but the thing that unite us is that a strong and competent BMC benefits everyone.

United, our voices are heard in the corridors of power, the projects that are important to us get funded, and we can carry on enjoying our passions – whether that’s at the end of a colourful rope or up a Munro.

I don’t want to get stuck in the nitty gritty of how the organisation works, I just want to know that it’s doing a good job. AGMs aren’t always top of my excitement list, and there’s been more than the average number of structural-organisational-constitutional amendments, surveys and reviews dropping into my inbox over the past year.

Despite the fatigue, this time it’s really important. The BMC needs to vote in a new constitution at the coming AGM. There are two options for the changes, A or B. And the ‘winning’ option needs 75% of the vote in order to be passed.

Option A means the BMC can access Sport England funding, carry on as the national body for climbing and represent and support all the partner organisations like Mountain Training with funding and a united and professional voice.

Personally, as a hillwalker, I’ve benefitted from the information available on BMC TV, from skills courses and the partnership with Mountain Training, the Mend Our Mountains campaign, and the work of the Equity Officer. These things were all possible because of Sport England cash. The funding landscape might change in the future, but we shouldn’t burn bridges to money that could be ours if we structure the BMC right.

I can see why some people think we shouldn’t bother jumping through the compliance hoops required to qualify for Sport England funding. But I don’t think having a rigorous structure, organisational transparency and best-practice compliance is at odds with the members’ interests. It’ll help make the BMC work and act professionally and our sports be taken seriously.

I think if we’re going to sort out the BMC, we should do it in a way that makes it fit for purpose for a generation. Let’s get it sorted, allow our sports to benefit from any national funding that they can, and allow the volunteers and staff to get back to running the comps, working for equality and diversity, access, conservation and all the other good stuff.

If you can’t get to the AGM to vote in person, you can vote online. You have until 1pm on Thursday 14 June to have your say. It’ll take a few minutes to read the options and vote. Do it.

This is an article promoting Option A. The recommended option from the BMC National Council (supported by the Organisational Review Group, BMC Board of Directors and BMC staff) and Mountain Training.

Please do vote in our upcoming AGM
We need 75% of the votes to be in favour of one option in order to adopt a new constitution. If you're a BMC member, please check for an email from ERS for your personal URL to vote. It's quick, simple and only takes a minute. 

WATCH: Mary-Ann explain why we need your vote on BMC TV

WATCH: Mary-Ann Ochota in Great Walks: Catbells on BMC TV

WATCH: Scafell Pike and all of the Great Walks videos on BMC TV


Your AGM: Thanks for your vote!

This year's historic AGM had a record voting turnout, with 6,796 of those votes being made online. We want to thank everyone for having their say and helping to shape the future of the BMC. 

READ THE FULL REPORT: The BMC's historic 2018 AGM

Detailed info on the BMC AGM 2018

Find out more about the last AGM. It's a complicated topic, so start with this one:

READ: It's your BMC, and we need your vote

We were asking our members to vote on some significant changes to the BMC's constitution. Part of the discussion was the relationship between the BMC and Sport England. 

READ: What are Sport England Tier 3 and Tier 1 relationships?

There were two constitutions to vote for: Proposal A (as recommended by National Council) and Proposal B, proposed by a group of members. To learn more about the two proposals, you can read a detailed comparison written by BMC honorary solictor Martin Wragg.

READ: A comparison of alternative constitutions

How did the recommendations get decided? Read more about the process that lead to this stage, including the reports from the Organisational Review and more. 

READ: BMC Organisational Review reports

Watch the Open Forum debate

We held a debate in Manchester on 15 May for both options to be discussed. You can watch the livestream here:


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