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One consequence of spending my days in the garden is that I have a lot of time to think. Today I have been pondering an issue which must affect many exhibition managers and club committee members such as myself. We need guidance. When and how can clubrooms reopen? When and how can exhibitions resume?


There have been many comments on here, especially concerning the latter issue, but very little by way of a definitive answer. That's when my thoughts turned to the local sports clubs. What do they do?


The cricket club has closed but will reopen for training soon, following the guidance issued by the England and Wales Cricket Board. The tennis courts are now open again following rules set out by the Lawn Tennis Association. Football will resume, once the Football Association advises that it will be safe to do so.


Where are our guidelines? Model railway clubrooms are not factories or workplaces. Exhibitions are not shops or museums. Each have their own particular circumstances, yet none of the Government guidelines seem to mention model railways. I wonder why not.


There are, of course, many model railway societies and associations. The majority are specific to a particular gauge, prototype or geographical area. Who speaks for the hobby as a whole?


Bentley MRG have been trying to work out when it might be safe to resume use of the clubroom and we don't really know. I would love to have some advice from an organisation which had studied the matter and produced a general set of guidelines which are specific to model railway clubs.


Likewise, I don't know whether or not Trainwest can be held this October, next April or even later. As for any changes I might need to make, I wish I knew. One exhibitor has already asked for single rooms instead of twins. I hadn't thought of that. Where is the specific advice for model railway exhibitions?


It's obviously too late to do anything during the current crisis, but maybe when this is over the time might be right to think about how such guidelines might be produced in future. I for one would certainly welcome them.

 

Geoff Endacott

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Speaking as one who organises another finescale show, I can fully sympathise with what you are saying Geoff,

 

Indeed some of the items uppermost in my mind are

 

Social distancing-how will this work at an Expo?

Do you have hand sanitizing stations at the entrance and if needs be all other rooms including WC's?

Wearing a face mask? Or not?

Do you give a limited time or slot in front of a layout then ask people to move on?

How would you recognize one that might be ill?

 

Etc etc

 

Far more questions than answers, and no one able to clarify!

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A lot of shows/exhibitions in other areas of interest

seem to be writing off this year completely.

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4 hours ago, Geoff Endacott said:

Where is the specific advice for model railway exhibitions?

 

There isn't any and there won't be. What will happen at some point is that our exhibitions will fit within a yet to be defined category (say indoor events for more than 100 persons) which will be permitted with caveats yet to be determined.

 

Whenever that may be it will be your responsibility (not any advisory body) to ensure compliance and a moral responsibility to minimise risk to all. You can create your own risk assessments and plans how that can be achieved based on anticipated variables and how you will execute them now or wait until you know more.

 

The same applies to your club environment. It's your responsibility.

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Posted (edited)

I see your point about guidances and speaking for the hobby as a whole, but many  of the examples that you have cited above are ‘governing bodies’ to which the affiliate clubs subscribe, contribute to the running costs of  and agree to be bound by their rules, sometimes as a condition of actually existing.  I can’t see that ever existing in ‘our world’ and even if it did people would still cherry pick guidance to suit themselves.

 

Potential liability must be a minefield and I sympathise with the likes of yourself with decisions to make. 

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1 hour ago, AY Mod said:

 

There isn't any and there won't be. What will happen at some point is that our exhibitions will fit within a yet to be defined category (say indoor events for more than 100 persons) which will be permitted with caveats yet to be determined.

 

Whenever that may be it will be your responsibility (not any advisory body) to ensure compliance and a moral responsibility to minimise risk to all. You can create your own risk assessments and plans based on anticipated variables and how you will execute them now or wait until you know more.

 

The same applies to your club environment. It's your responsibility.

Tell me about it..currently working on safe practices for a rowing club....don't ask

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I don't have an exhibition to think about, but as the secretary of my local model railway club I also find myself pondering the way in which we might be able to safely reopen the club when we are allowed to do so.

 

Prior to the committee's decision on 17 March to suspend all forthcoming meetings, we met two evenings a week.  A typical club night at the Edinburgh and Lothians MRC might have seen a dozen members in the club room at the same time.  However, if we are to insist on members remaining at least 2 m apart whilst in the premises, I think we need to restrict the number of members to a maximum of six, but a maximum of four or five members per session would be better, as our club room is not big. 

 

The simple answer would seem to be that we open the club room more often, so that everyone could be allocated an evening that they would be allowed to attend with three or four others or even have day and evening sessions.  However, I understand that the virus can survive on surfaces for several hours or even days, so who cleans the club room after each visit?  If a member with Coronavirus comes down to the club room and leaves the virus on a surface within the club room, how many groups of people are exposed to the risk of contracting Covid-19?  If there is a few days between anyone being in the club room, the risk might be low, but if we have afternoon and evening sessions on consecutive days, then the risk could be a lot higher.

 

Then there is the question of should members have to wear face masks whilst in the club room?  Might it be better to simply accept that proper social distancing would be difficult and instead we should work with the concepts of social bubbles?  That is, if we divide the membership up into small groups of four or five individuals, then we simply allow these people to meet up at a specified time, but keep them separate from the rest of the members.  That's effectively the approach that I understand is being used in Danish Primary Schools.

 

Of course, that doesn't solve the issues around holding our Annual General Meeting, which our constitution states will be held in May each year.  That has been postponed for now, but most members try to attend our AGM, which means we usually squeeze 20+ people into the club room.  We simply cannot accommodate that number in the club room with social distancing, even if all our layouts were removed and stored elsewhere (which isn't practical).  We could have a virtual AGM on MS Teams, but since three of our members don't even have internet access, I don't see that working.  If we need to wait until social distancing restrictions are removed, then we run the risk of having our next AGM two years after the last one unless we are able to hire a hall somewhere specifically for that purpose.

 

I think my start point will be to try and arrange a committee meeting via MS Teams (a first for the club) and try to thrash out what our options might be.  It might then be necessary to conduct a poll.  Guidance would be good, but ultimately, I think it's something that will end up being a bespoke agreement between club members.

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With my football Secretary hat on - our AGM would usually be late June;

 

I had an email today from our Vice Chairman as follows, which I'm sure he won't mind me reproducing here;

 

Quote

On Wednesday, the Government has published a Bill to relax various corporate governance requirements during the coronacrisis.  When passed by Parliament, the legislation will permit government to relax the statutory requirements for companies, charities etc to hold AGMs in person.  See following extract from the Explanatory Notes to the Bill.

 

This ought to influence the FA in relation to football club AGMs...

 

Ian

 

 

Meetings of companies and other bodies

 

47 A company may be required by legislation or its constitution to take certain key decisions by passing a resolution of the members of the company (for example, a change to the company’s articles of association). Public companies can only pass a resolution of the members by holding a general meeting (section 281 of the Companies Act 2006 (“the CA 2006”)), and other companies may be required to do so as a consequence of their articles.

 

48 Members also have the right to require directors to call a general meeting (section 303, CA 2006). Public companies and certain private companies have a statutory duty to hold an annual general meeting (“AGM”) within a specified period and failure to comply is a criminal offence (section 336, CA 2006). Mutual societies (including registered branches of friendly societies) and charitable incorporated organisations may also be required to hold an AGM or other meetings by legislation or their own constitution or rules.

 

49 The constitution or rules of companies and other bodies may also require that AGMs and other meetings are held in a particular way. For example, it may be required that meetings be held in person or at a particular place. The Government has introduced temporary emergency measures across the UK which require certain businesses to close, which prevent anyone leaving the place where they live without reasonable excuse and which ban public gatherings of more than two people. These emergency restrictions have been put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 but may have prevented, and may continue to prevent, companies and other bodies from being able to hold AGMs at the time required by, and in a manner consistent with, legislation or their constitutional arrangements.

 

50 These measures are intended to introduce temporary relaxations to enable companies and other bodies to hold AGMs and other meetings in a manner that is consistent with their constitutional arrangements and the need to limit the spread of COVID-19. During the temporary period in which these measures are in force, companies and other bodies will be given greater flexibility as to the manner in which such meetings are held. For example, they will be able hold meetings, and allow votes to be cast, by electronic means.

 

51 The measures also make provision to extend the period within which companies and other bodies must hold an AGM, in order to offer further flexibility if required. Those bodies with a deadline for holding an AGM expiring between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 will be given until 30 September to hold their AGM, taking advantage of the more flexible arrangements for holding such meetings which are introduced by this Bill. There is also a power to provide for further temporary extensions of any deadlines for holding an AGM.

 

52 These measures will only apply in respect of a temporary period which begins on 26 March 2020 and runs until the end of September. There is a power to extend that period by up to three months at a time, but the temporary period cannot be extended beyond the end of the current financial year.

 

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