The Chairman's Annual Address
This is the text of Chris Barber's introduction to the 2019 Annual General Meeting. The talk was accompanied by a short illustrated slide deck and presentation, which is available to members on request.
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the 2019 AGM of the Musical Museum.
It has been a busy and productive year. Critically, we have reshaped the Museum’s charitable objects to better represent what we do: “advance the education of the public through the operation of a museum which conserves, preserves, and develops nationally important collections related to the history of music reproduction”. This was the first step in developing a new strategy for the Museum’s future – in the main it is a financial recovery plan, which focuses our efforts towards making the Musical Museum a stable, sustainable operation that can support our charitable aims.
A recovery plan is necessary because, without any form of public funding or private financial underwriting, the Museum runs at a serious and substantial loss each year, as it has done for the past 50 years. This is not always apparent in our raw balance sheets, which show fluctuating profit/loss from year to year. This is due to the unpredictable nature of donations and bequests which are key contributions that have kept the Museum “afloat” and operating.
The recovery plan has 7 key elements to it:
• Realisation of the current situation; we are running at a significant annual loss
• Planned future state - the definition of our strategy and operating model
• People – re-engage with our existing staff and volunteers and engage new staff and volunteers. A lot of work is being done on the volunteer life-cycle and engagement by Mike Wood in conjunction with Ginette Kentish. Also a lot of work has gone into attracting new volunteers and paid staff – resulting in 2 new tour guides as well as new front of house staff and duty managers, and it is a great pleasure to welcome them and to wish them every success in their time with us. I would also like to draw attention to the Tuesday Work group who do a lot of the restoration work as well as general maintenance around the MM. Since David Goddard has taken over leading this group, the number of volunteers who have returned to the Museum has reached the point where we can no longer take anyone else right now, and the work they have done has been superb, including working alongside a master organ builder to learn and transfer critical restoration skills. My thanks to David and the team for their marvellous contribution to the on-going success of the MM.
• Innovation – the Museum does a lot of things well and building on these established strengths in innovative ways will take us forward without the need for a complete rethink of what we deliver. Examples of this work have been the new tours being developed by Marcus Harborne, and the extension of the collection with the addition of significant contemporary exhibits, my thank to Simon Hill for leading this on-going piece of work.
• Branding, marketing and business development – plans are being developed to implement a brand refresh as part of an overall marketing plan, and we are looking to employ a business development manager to drive the corporate hires and event sales, as this is a significant growth opportunity for the Museum
• Finance and cash flow – this is an area where there is still much work to do but outline plans for revised financial procedures and management have been approved by the board. There remains a strong need to get a real grip on the finances of the MM in terms of such things as financial planning and forecasting, budgeting and variance reporting
• Digital by default – like it or not the digital age is with us and we need to embrace this to communicate effectively with our customers and to manage workflow within the Museum. As well as more modern and secure systems and equipment we now have a digital strategy which encompasses all aspects of our IT, and which will increase the efficiency with which we operate as an organisation. My thanks go to Simon Hill for the work done here.
• Tough decisions and implementation
The Musical Museum is grateful to have received a number of generous bequests over its lifetime, for this financial year in the form of a bequest from the estate of Bill Thornycroft, and recently from the estate of George Pickstock and from the very much alive (!) David Blackburn, one of our volunteers. These gifts will appear in next year’s accounts. We are eternally grateful to Bill, George and David, and more information about these bequests can be found online in the Chairman’s blog. All the proceeds from these bequests are re-invested into the care of the collection and making our museum a better place for our visitors. If you would also like to make a donation to the Museum, I encourage you to use the Museum’s website, and please contact the Museum or myself directly if you would like to discuss leaving a lasting legacy to help us preserve this unique institution.
At our heart, we are a Museum open to the public, and a significant portion of our income is derived from admissions to the collection and the live tours that take place. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of our volunteer teams, who invest thousands of hours to keep the collection operating, conserve the exhibits, manage our administration, maintain the building and act in countless ways (far too many to list) to support the board and staff in running the Museum. Keeping our instruments in working condition, and the lively demonstrations and tours that we give really sets us apart from other attractions. We have gathered some fantastic feedback on our visitor experience, particularly through Trip Adviser, who have awarded us their “certificate of excellence” for the last 5 years in a row, thanks to over 700 “5 star” reviews. Income from visitors has grown by 14.5% since 2018. However, it should be noted that this is primarily driven by pricing changes, as well as a change in volume of different types of admissions.
In total for this financial year, just under 10,000 people (9,341) came through the Museum’s doors. A large number of these chose to come to one of our concerts, films and other events, which represent a substantial portion of the Museum’s income. Our Christmas Concert series has proven to be a real engine of growth, despite the difficult Coach & Tour Operator market, culminating in our public concert on the 16th of December 2018 , which for the first time, in its new format, was completely sold out.
Our in-house concerts now represent over 30% of the Museum’s total income, and as well as providing an excellent platform to showcase the Cinema Organ and other aspects of the collection. This format has significant potential for future growth, and is therefore an area on which the board will focus in the year ahead.
One important income stream is that of grants. In F/Y 2018, the Museum employed Ben Filmer-Sankey as a part-time fundraising officer to seek new funding opportunities and establish the potential viability of this post in the long term. I’m pleased to say that this directly resulted in the award of several grants, the most significant of which is from the Heathrow Community Trust and which covers the installation of solar panels on the Museum’s roof. Not only will this make an enormous contribution to the Museum’s environmental sustainability goals, but will also reduce the ongoing cost of electricity, one of our biggest expenses. Our thanks go to Ben who although he left us in October to pursue a full-time career in Museum Conservation, will continue as an occasional volunteer with us, and we wish him well in his new role at the British Museum.
Our attraction as a Museum is not just in terms of visitors who walk through the door. The Museum was featured last month on the BBC’s Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, and played host to “Naughty Boy” a record producer most well known for his work with Emili Sande and Beyoncé. The BBC also filmed a short segment of “Newsround” here, and last year our trustee Michael Ryder was seen with a collection of our music boxes on Bargain Hunt. We have also hosted independent film crews from documentary producers and YouTube content creators.
Looking to the year ahead, the board will focus on the continuing development and execution of our recovery strategy. We have a new Chair Elect - Vicky Yannoula, who is highly experienced in both the arts and the voluntary sector. Vicky takes over as chair on 6 Jan 2020. We also have a new FD starting next year as well as another new trustee with a background in sound recording and entertainment. We continue to seek new Trustees to broaden the mix of individuals who make up our board of Directors, and encouraging a broad spectrum of applications to our volunteer positions, and we will continue to seek new ways to bring the Musical Museum to the attention of more visitors and attract larger audiences, while continuing the essential work of conserving, restoring and maintaining our historic collections.
Finally, I would like to express my thanks to my fellow volunteer directors and trustees, and to all our staff, especially Ginette, Noeleen, Nathalie and Nicola, for their steadfast loyalty, perseverance and hard work, and to all our Members for their continuing and valued input and support.
Chris Barber MBA, MCIPD, ARCM
Interim Chairman and Director of Music