As BMC President one of my resolutions this year is to try to strengthen relationships between climbing and hill walking clubs and the BMC. Ambitious, perhaps, but the BMC and clubs have a long and intertwined history. After all clubs were largely instrumental in setting up the BMC back in 1944.
Clubs are one of the strong veins, arteries I should say, carrying the lifeblood of mountain activities in the UK. They remain a unique resource, unmatched for introducing and fostering those interested in heading out to our crags and mountains. Some have club huts, some produce guidebooks, others are very proactive on a local scale – organising crag clean ups and hosting area meetings.
Recent decades have seen the rise of the web and the age of cheap transport (well, for now at least) and clubs have slipped off the radar of younger climbers and walkers. Yet at the same time, individual membership of the BMC has risen, and the BMC is currently doing more work than ever before. Having been a relative outsider to the BMC until recently, I’m very impressed by how much we do on Access and Conservation, in liaising with central government and in many national initiatives. The new BMC guidebooks are excellent, the new maps superb and Summit goes from strength to strength. There’s also an excellent working relationship between the paid BMC staff and the volunteers – of which, of course, I am simply one.
However it also seems to me, that for no good reason, and it’s certainly not deliberate, that clubs have become somewhat isolated from the loop. We need to tackle that. The BMC values and needs the support of clubs; we want to see any difficulties resolved, and a greater mutual understanding. Right now there seems to me to be several key topical issues:
Administration of club membership
First, there are some matters of detail, such as administration of clubs membership lists. The BMC has reviewed all of the club renewal literature this year, but some clubs (particularly the larger ones) are still finding it difficult to provide updated membership lists in the required format. It’s very important that the BMC holds definitive membership information on club members so I’d ask you to work with us in this regard. We need accurate data as part of our agreement with our insurers, and to ensure mailings (like this issue of Summit) reach your members. It’s simply not possible for the office to re-input the names of 24,000 club members each year.
Second, there’s the knotty issue of annual subscriptions. We aim to be transparent about the subscription levels, why we need them and how they are spent. We are lucky to have excellent financial services within the BMC and our honorary treasurer has done his level best to keep subscriptions to a reasonable level. There is however a rumour circulating at the moment that the BMC intends to bring club subscriptions in line with individual member subscriptions. This just isn’t the case - the emerging view is that over the next five years club subscriptions should end up at 50% of the rate of individual subscriptions. This would provide a reasonable balance but even this is not set in stone; the BMC is after all a membership organisation and ultimately it is up to you to decide the levels you are prepared to pay.
Refunds for multiple club members
We’ve gone some way to solve the issue of multiple club subscriptions by introducing a new refund form. This form was issued to all club secretaries before Christmas, see www.thebmc.co.uk/refund for more information.
Third party liability insurance is an extremely important part of your BMC membership. This civil liability insurance (as we call it) provides comprehensive cover for all club members, officials and post holders against any cases arising from club activities. The BMC has been instrumental in establishing this scheme and we believe we’re both well advised and dealt with fairly by our insurers. Having put this contract out to tender in 2006 we can confirm that it is simply not possible to get comparable cover anywhere else in the UK insurance market.
Recruiting new club members
We all know that clubs have difficulty recruiting members and volunteers, reflecting various changes within society, ease of travel to the hills and time pressures. We can help here, by advertising your aspirations and what you can offer. Summit, the BMC website and the wider outdoor media are all available for us to use, and we’d welcome your views on how we can help.
Engaging with the BMC
We’ve had several very successful club seminars in recent years at which there has been an opportunity to air views – and grumble if you wish - but above all they’ve led to greater understanding between clubs, the office staff and the local BMC Area Committees. Many of which are thriving. The last one was at the beginning of March and we’ll advertise the next one widely.
So, it’s over to you. Help my resolution be successful this year. The BMC wants to help clubs and needs your help in doing so. If you’ve got any suggestions do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Clarke is the President of the BMC and a long-standing member of several mountaineering clubs.