Each year the president must report on the Society's activities; so in one of my last tasks I stand before you to justify what your exec has done over the past year; to look at our aims, our achievements and even our failures. To do this I'm going to use a kind of profit and loss model; where we succeeded and where we failed, comparing the highs with the lows.
Statistically, membership is up - we currently have some 4,200 members; up by about 400 on this time last year. Ticket sales are slightly down, but this term's got a strong set of films so hopefully high sales figures will counterbalance last term's results. All this is very well and good but these are the makings of a set of company results, and yes we are a good business, but that's not what we're about: we're a society. Finding a balance between running a reliable business and a fun society is what every exec tries to achieve. The question I must answer is whether this exec has achieved the correct balance. The business side of things is definitely on the profit side of the equation and I want to look at it in a bit more detail.
Firstly, finance is an area of the Society in which vast improvements have been made with punctuality restored and now a bulwark of the society. The Finance Committee has found new vigour and become an effective body, maintaining a sound financial base. Its overarching monitoring has enabled us, quite paradoxically, to allow individual teams to manage their own budgets. The example par excellence of this philosophy is indisputably the Technical Team, whose tendency to haemorrhage money I shall come back to later. In addition this year saw a renewal of our sponsorship deal. A team went down to London and managed to negotiate a £19,500, three-year commitment from Accenture. However, our negotiators' task was still uncompleted and there followed several hours of arduous negotiation in, I think, The Slug and Lettuce, followed by some pub next to their office. A very fruitful evening.
Moving on from finance there has been a few more organisational profits that warrant more attention. One of these is been in the area of projecting. In order to improve projectionist training the previous exec created the role of Advanced Projectionists. However, we have been slow to implement these changes but our first Advanced Projectionists are now in place and hopefully this system will start to bear fruit. The other two areas where we have had huge profits are ones that I am most proud of, though I can take absolutely no credit for them. The first of these is the Publicity Team. When I first joined the Society, back in the last millennium, the publicly machine consisted of one very talented, hard working, if not a tad intimidating, lady with a penchant for wielding iron bars. Under the previous Publicity Officer, Jonny Corfe, a publicity team began to take shape and has truly come into its own under Sophie's guidance. Along with the usually plethora of publicity we now have a five strong editorial board striving to improve our already excellent publicity machine including a brand new newsletter. The other profitable entry on the accounts was quite difficult to decide on. At times it filled me with immense admiration, at others it drove me to absolute despair. This is, of course, that strange amorphous being that is the Technical Team. Matt, the Technical Officer, though a demure kind of guy, comes alive when messing around with something electrical, and usually expensive. His dedication, addiction to pints of black coffee, and a quiet management style, has led to an effective team which I am sure will continue under the direction of our new Technical Officer.
Now I want to turn our attention to what we've done this year above and beyond showing films. The most ambitious project we attempted was the second phase of the projection suite refurbishment; a complete redesign and refit of the behind the scenes facilities. However does this ambitious scheme fall into the profit or the loss side of this year's accounts? On the negative side, the project was extremely expensive. Originally budgeted to cost £10,000 the cost so far has been in excess of £12,500, equivalent to twenty percent of our annual expenditure. In addition the project is significantly over schedule, due to be completed by October 2001, the finishing touches are still be added. However, these problems are not a reflection on the technical team, whose efforts have been truly Herculean, they are merely a manifestation of the task's magnitude. On the positive side, the finishing touches are still being completed but the bulk of the work was completed on schedule and we were able to show our first film on time, and to our high standards. What is more the rationalisation of the wiring and electronics, though time consuming, is an immense improvement. The redesigned room has already received acclaim from a variety of sources including other student and commercial cinemas. One feels compelled to conclude that once the aesthetics of the project are completed we will be left with one of the most modern facilities of any student cinema, and definitely a long-term profit.
The year has also seen several other ambitious events. One of the first of these was to be our crescendo for the Summer Term; an outdoors showing of the classic Rocky Horror Picture Show. However, we ran foul of University bureaucracy and the event ever took place, a disappointing end to our first full term in office. The new academic year saw no such disappointments. Our 25th Anniversary Top Banana was a great success, receiving praise right across the board. It may well be worth making a WSC Top Banana an annual event to eclipse all other themed Top Bananas. By far the hardest event of the year to organise has been the BFFS Student Conference, which we hosted over the weekend of the 9th November. Literally months of planning went into conference. Though there were a few hitches, these proved minor and the weekend was a great success. The positive responses and a hint of envy that we received from the delegates was a testimony to the event's success.
So far we are left with a predominantly profitable account of the year. However, I haven't really tackled the 'fun' part of the question I posed at the start. The reason for this is that it is such an intangible concept to quantify; is there such as thing as a 'Fun' Index? Unfortunately I was unable to find it before I finished writing this. I hope, no, I'm sure, people continue to become and stay involved because it 'fun' and they get to meet such interesting people. However, I feel that the organisational and financial problems that had to be overcome, the ambitious projects and events that were successfully planned, monopolised too much of the exec's energies; to the determent of a more jovial and active approach. This said, we have not been blind to these deficiencies and recently we have directed our energies into improving the social aspect of the society. Key here is the decision to make sure our fortnightly General Meetings are always followed by a social. Just as importantly at the end of last term we resolved to hold one 'Associate Party' a term entirely paid for by the Society. The first of these held in week ten was a marked success. Hopefully, these parties will become an integral lynchpin in the Society's social calendar and become a massive and regular profit to the Society.
So on balance what does our profit and loss model total up to? Well, it's been a successful year. A major technical renovation has been successful and administrative and organisational deficiencies have been replaced by a more efficient, open, system. Hopefully these firm foundations will enable the new exec to concentrate more on the society rather than the business side of WSC. If there is one underlying principle that must guide the next twelve months it is to remember that our members are not customers.