Friends of Royal West of England Academy.

There is concern at recent developments at the Academy. The Friends of RWA are independent of the Royal West of England Academy.

The future of the Friends is in jeopardy.

An EGM and AGM was held at the RWA in the Fedden Gallery on 17th March 2012.

Why an EGM ?

The FRWA is a charity independently registered with the Charities Commission but since 29th October 2011 its members have been instructed to pay their annual subscriptions direct into the RWA bank account. The Friends database has also been passed to the RWA and used to acquire these subscriptions.

As a result of the announcement in mid October in two letters to the membership from Norman Biddle (Chairman of the RWA Board) and Maureen Fraser (Chairman of the Friends Committee) that the two separate charities have been merged, a number of Friends have objected to this action being taken without consulting the membership and have formed a group to investigate these events. Some 30 members so far, including some Academicians, have written to the FRWA Committee to request an EGM.

The purpose of this EGM is to put forward two Motions which will reverse this situation and ensure that the Friends remain an independent Charity according to their Constitution. The Committee agreed to call an EGM on the 17th March, the same date as the AGM.

You may be wondering why you have not heard anything since October last year. The Committee wrote an update on the situation, with the RWA Director’s approval, to be included in a Friends mail-out in November but at the last minute Simon Baker, one of the RWA Trustees, refused to allow it to happen and ordered that the paper be physically removed from the envelopes. As a Trustee of one charity he has no authority to censor how another charity communicates with its membership. It is unfortunate that our Committee accepted his veto.

Since November 2011 the Friends database has been administered by the RWA and the annual membership renewal form has been altered. The form is still headed Friends of the RWA but beneath this the FRWA Charity Number has been replaced by the RWA Charity Number, without consultation. The form requires that you now pay your cheques or standing orders directly to the RWA. By October 2012 the main income for the Friends will have been systematically diverted. There is no financial benefit to the RWA from this move.

The reason given by the Chair of the RWA Board for these actions is that the RWA is in a perilous financial position and they need the Friends’ subscriptions (circa £40,000 pa collectively) to provide cashflow. As subscriptions are paid over to the RWA on a monthly basis anyway along with the net profits from Friends events, this is not a valid reason.

The time and effort being put into restructuring the Friends and absorbing their assets would have been better spent in organising an Appeal and/or other fundraising activities to generate additional income. Other Academies, including the Royal Academy, value and cherish their Friends organisations but, it seems, the RWA is intent on destroying theirs.

It is not true that these two charities have already been merged which implies that the FRWA has been absorbed into the RWA and therefore ceases to exist as an independent charity. This cannot happen without a change to the Constitution of the FRWA. This requires an EGM or AGM and a change can only be made by a two thirds majority voting in favour of a change. We do not seek this change.

We strongly urge you to come to the EGM on March 17th and have your say to ensure that we have a fully informed debate and restore the organisation of the Friends charity, which has contributed so much to the life of the Academy over many years, to its former independent, efficient and co-operative status before it is too late.

Motions for the EGM

To maintain the FRWA as an independent charity with its objects, powers and responsibilities as set out in the Constitution dated February 1999 and revised in September 2004.

To maintain, or seek to regain control as the case may be, of the future subscriptions, database, computer and software all of which rightly belongs to the FRWA as an independent registered charity.


For further information:

Tel: Ann Fawcett 01275 33 25 74 or Roland Harmer 0117 924 5638

Mail: Roland Harmer, 12 Eastfield Road, Cotham, Bristol BS6 6AA


We have received this e-mail from Naomi Alvarez :

Thanks for the email. I must confess I had become increasingly concerned about the new arrangements at the RWA and the dictatorial attitude of the new regime. They also seem to have lost a good many excellent staff. I suspect that things on the financial front must now be dire or they would not be trying to swoop on every bit of money they can lay their hands on and transfer it into the general maw. Changes to the constitution also seem questionable.

Good luck with the EGM, which seems a good idea, though I don't think I shall be able to come down from London for it. Please count my vote in on whatever you are proposing.

On another topic. They have have been very mean about the Friends exhibition space for the last two years and the corridor gallery is a farce. Also they have ruined the Friends' room with the unsightly wall and now taken the room away altogether. This is hardly the way to encourage support !

Every good wish,
Naomi Alvarez.