Meeting House Care FAQs

Some basic questions

Redland Bookings Administrator (Judi Brill, separately employed in this role alongside her post as Horfield warden)

Redland Bookings Administrator and Redland Premises Assistant (Gemma Cant, employed 15 hours per week), with some additional help from Friends.

The Meeting House belongs to Bristol Area Meeting and its maintenance is overseen by the AM Property, Health and Safety Committee as well as the Redland Resources Hub. There are quinquennial reviews of the building. Gemma Cant organises repairs and routine maintenance, in consultation with the Redland MH management group (Judi Brill, Julia Bush, Gemma Cant, Mark Smalley, Michael Tuckwell).

Totol Cleaning Services are contracted to clean the Meeting House on a weekly basis. Caja does four hours’ cleaning every Friday. Gemma checks the weekly clean and supplements if required during the week. Meeting House users are asked to leave the premises in a clean condition.

Esther Giles is contracted to care for the Meeting House Garden, for approximately 24 hours per year.

Friends help to care for the MH in various ways: as members of relevant AM and LM committees; as members of the Redland MH management group; as Friends using the Meeting House and cleaning up after their activities.

Judi Brill has volunteered her phone number as an initial contact point for emergencies (number in every room and on the MH front door). She passes on problems to relevant staff and Friends, as required.

MH management group members back each other up, and would make recommendations to Area Meeting on longer-term cover if required.

Questions from Friends

Specifically and in detail – what tasks are undertaken by Friends in the care of the Meeting House, and in what capacity?

The ‘Meeting House Jobs’ paper, circulated with Redland Notices in June 2021, gives a detailed answer (latest version here). Specific tasks for paid staff are listed in full, and are being delivered. Potential tasks for Friends are listed in a more general way, and are not yet being fully delivered.

Judi Brill is Gemma Cant’s supervisor and works closely with her (weekly contact). Both Judi and Gemma work closely with Friends in the Redland MH management group (monthly meetings, and informal contact at other times). Management group members are all members of the Redland Resources Hub (quarterly meetings). This Hub is represented on the AM Property, Health and Safety Committee, which reports to AM Trustees. There is also a Redland Meeting House Care Group, set up during discussions of MH care arrangements in 2020 to act as a ‘bridge’ between Redland LM and AM Trustees (who have legal responsibility for AM staff and properties). Trustees require Area Meeting approval for major decisions related to Quaker property.

Room-users are responsible for setting out furniture and other equipment and clearing it away. Reem can give some assistance for large events, by arrangement. Hirers are asked to book a technical rehearsal, if they want to use the IT equipment in the Meeting Room or Library. Full written guidance is available on how to use of Meeting House IT. Reem (or management group Friends) will give an IT induction if required, but we cannot provide an on-site technician during events. Friends help out at all Quaker events, including Meeting for Worship.

Fire: follow the fire instructions posted in every room and next to the fire extinguishers. Intruders: much reduced risk, as we no longer have an open-door policy; hirers are instructed not to admit anyone who is not part of their groups; new doorbells are used to control entry. Floods: alert Judi Brill, who will take appropriate action such as instructing another member of MH management group to close down water supply. Smell of gas: alert Judi Brill, who will instruct a member of the MH management group to close down gas supply.

Supplies are checked weekly and therefore do not normally run out. The cleaning cupboard on the main staircase is well-stocked with all essential supplies, and both hirers and Friends are encouraged to use it. The locked storeroom on the downstairs corridor is used to store a few bulkier items and hazardous chemicals. The storeroom key is kept in the keysafe (front lobby).

Phone Judi Brill, who will give advice/ arrange assistance as required.

The Meeting House is permanently locked, unless there is someone on duty welcoming a particular group. Hirers are given clear instructions about the need for locked doors, in the interests of everyone’s security. There is therefore no nightly lock-up time.

The Meeting House is available for booking at any time. There is a register of hirers who have the entry code but must not to pass this on to their groups. The door code is freely available to Friends, but we also should not share it with others for security reasons.

Each week’s room bookings are posted in advance on a noticeboard in the front lobby. Gemma is usually present in the building on three days a week (often Monday, Tuesday and Friday, at varying times according to her engagements). Caja (cleaner) is usually present on Friday mornings. Julia visits every Thursday to put out the bins, and often calls in on one other day. Friends are present on Sundays (covid permitting).

The MH management group has agreed to channel phone enquiries through Judi Brill, and so far this has worked smoothly. Friends have access to the AM Directory with a full list of Quaker contacts, including members of the MH management group. Members of the management group have access to a digital MH Handbook, which includes contact details of approved AM contractors.

Meeting House users are required to show consideration towards each other and towards our neighbours. Amplified music is not allowed at the Meeting House.

There is a Lost Property box in the cleaning cupboard on the main staircase.

Under current arrangements most of the previous wardens’ role has been divided into three jobs, done by three different people. Gemma’s job as Premises Assistant does not include responsibility for administering bookings, nor for most of the cleaning. She does not do decorating, nor any of the larger maintenance jobs (now undertaken by approved contractors). She does have an important role in inducting and supporting Meeting House users, but this role is on a smaller scale than it was for resident wardens.

A small number of Friends have taken on some of the Quaker welcoming role which is an essential part of resident wardenship. There is scope for expanding Quaker hospitality and involving a larger number of Friends when covid permits. The attached paper on ‘Meeting House Jobs’ gives suggestions on how this work could develop. The amount of time involved varies from person to person, and from week to week.

The current arrangements already have some built-in resilience because they depend on teamwork, rather than simply on individuals. Resilience increases as a larger number of Friends learn how our Meeting House functions. In case of a breakdown in the current arrangements, the MH management group and Resources Hub members would need to consult with Area Meeting committees and Trustees over possible options. These options would vary according to the identified cause of breakdown.

The pandemic over the past two years has made it impossible to expand the ‘local community-building role of our Meeting House’, as we intended in our minute LM 18/79, December 2018. Some Friends and some of the larger local MH user groups still feel unable to return and we are now in the midst of new uncertainties. It is obviously quite difficult to separate out the impact of covid from the impact of new Meeting House care arrangements. However it is clear that we can no longer aspire to be an informal ‘drop-in for people needing a peaceful and supportive place to be’ (LM18/79). None of the Bristol Meeting Houses is now operating on an open-door basis for reasons both of security and of health security. This does not mean we have given up trying to provide a Quaker welcome by other means. Our welcome becomes more, rather than less, ‘Quaker’ when a larger number of Friends are directly involved in running the Meeting House rather than delegating the ‘welcoming’ to wardens. Broader Quaker involvement in the day-to-day care of our Meeting House is still a work in progress. Meanwhile it is inevitable that some members of our Meeting, and other MH users, miss Bill and Louise Thatcher for their kindly, listening ear and practical helpfulness.