Penny’s Blog: The AGM

 Equal Lives AGM – Penny’s Blog

whole room at AGM

So the AGM is over for another year. I arrived about 12.30 to register those attending. Some new and old faces which was great. (Not old as in age but old as in they have been involved with our groups and Equal Lives for some time.  Just digging myself out of a potential hole!)

agm panel

Roger from the Black Dog Music Project ( tells me they are going to play my favourite song later “Wild Horses”, it’s been my favourite of theirs since I met and worked with the group about 7 years ago and they always make the effort to play it.
Anyway, Black dog goes off to entertain in the café area for the next hour and we really appreciate them giving their time to perform at our AGM.

black dog project
Back at the registration table, people are arriving to set up their stands and Matt is flying about trying to ensure the IT is all set up ready to go.
Teas and coffees are flowing although not in my direction until a bit later when Roberta rescues me by coming to see if I want a cuppa.

Board of Trustees Voting

johnathon moore

kate wyattrick cotton

Just after 1.30pm the Business of the day begins, the voting takes place for our Board of Trustees and re-elected and newly elected are as follows:

Jonathon Moore has been re-elected as Chair

Kate Wyatt as Vice Chair,

Rick Cotton re-elected as a Trustee.

Two new Trustees join our board this year, Fraser Bowe and Rachael Lester.

fraser bowerachel lesterOpen Forum

There is plenty of time for Members questions and this chance to have an open and informal discussion is appreciated by all, whatever someone wants to say or ask is welcomed and it’s the chance for Members to have their say on what Equal Lives should focus on in the coming year.

Some of the areas raised for concern in the Q&A sessions were Universal Credit, Housing, PIP, Environment, Campaigning, benefits but also praise and thanks for the Peer Support work done at Equal Lives. There were very strong feelings about the topics above and frustration at the impact they are having on disabled people. Many people spoke on these issues including Mark Harrison, CEO. Johnathon Moore said he would be taking many of these issues into account.  Everyone has their say ending with our President Bill Albert.

photo of tom shakespere

Tom Shakespeare

Our speaker for the next section is Professor Tom Shakespeare who has recently been to Africa researching Disability and Development in Four African Countries. It’s a really informative and interesting talk. Tom has kindly sent us the link to the Programme of work so you can all read it – so do click on the link below:

Vince Law

Vince Laws

Bringing the AGM to its finale is Campaigner and Poet Vince Laws. An independent campaigner, Vince fights for what he believes in and encourages others to get their voices heard. Vince delivers a dramatic, thought-provoking, evocative and engaging session captivating you by his knowledgeable and passionate delivery.

“I feel like I am an enemy of the state because I have disabilities. And that’s not right. When I first started campaigning against Coalition cuts in 2010, I thought they had made a mistake. The system was cruel, and people were dying because of it. I campaigned to change the system. Now after 7 years of cuts and more cuts, I realise this is not a mistake, this is deliberate policy under this Tory government. They refuse to conduct an impact assessment into how the cuts have hit disabled people disproportionally, although they have all the statistics. They dismiss the United Nations despite being found guilty of “grave and systematic abuse of disabled people’s human rights”. And they are intent on continuing with more ideological cuts, and the roll-out of Universal Credit, and I feel the need to oppose them in every way possible.

It was great to speak at the Equal Lives AGM. I live on disability benefits, and Equal Lives has helped me personally fill out ESA forms, which I couldn’t cope with on my own. I understand Equal Lives is a charity and has to be mindful of its stance on certain issues, none of us want to jeopardize the vital work you do.

I’m starting to feel we need more direct action. No More Business as Usual. If any individuals want to join me in more up-front political work, feel free to get in touch, email MPs, sign petitions, go to protests, block roads, hold a die-in, do whatever you can do, when you have the energy to do it. I give away my artwork to help my protesting, so get in touch and I’ll find something to suit any size donation!”

Vince Law’s website is
Blog at
Email address is

And then Vince ends the day with some of his wonderful poetry:

The dog and I leave the door unlocked
and walk out where plums litter the pastry lane,
where tractors edge the verges
into an endless homemade pie.
The dog looks up as thunder boils like custard in a pot,
“Onward beast!” I cry.
“If David Hockney can stand outside and paint at seventy – pah! So can I!”
The dog wants to turn right, up the track where daydream rabbits lie,
instead we head straight over, and sight a constellation of pink campions
flung across a universe of green – ah, breathe that in…
the scent of treetops,
descends as raindrops,
hits my brain stops –
trickles down my throat, dot, dot, dot…
This is what I wanted you to see,
a picture-postcard cottage with a postbox in the wall.
Come on in, the door’s unlocked,
this is where I live, this is where I call home.
There’s a plum pie in the oven, and instant custard won’t take long.
Come on in…

john moore laughing


It’s was great to catch up with people and enjoy an AGM that is about electing new Trustees. It is also an event where our Members join in, have their say, promote their groups. Members can also perform and deliver Presentations. Our Membership is a vital part of our Organisation and we value the work everyone does across Norfolk and beyond. Many thanks to everyone who was involved.


“First of all the AGM was the best I’ve been to. I’ve been to many in my time, the openness and interaction were impressive. Normally, AGMs are so controlled and boring but I felt fully included.”- Eddie Pleban from Norwich Different Strokes (
Another piece of feedback relating to the heated and passionate Q and A section:  “It was rather thrilling though”
A Member told me on the phone that they wanted to praise Equal Lives for the way that the session was run, and for the handling of difficult issues. Another Member emailed me to say “I really enjoyed the AGM”. It has also been wonderful to have members ask to try and put them in touch with a fellow member who they met at the event. It’s nice to know that lots of networking comes out of our events.

shaun mcgarry penny holden

(Professional photography courtesy and copyright of Natasha Lloyd, Equal Lives Marketing Officer)


Leave a Reply