A ZOOM truth we have all probably experienced - The Curse of the Zoom meeting strikes again
A ZOOM truth we have all probably experienced
- "With Zoom meetings, the people who talk and talk and talk will talk and talk and talk.
- The people you really want to hear won't have their say. You can't catch their eye and raise a finger and say what do you think.
- That was the time the divisions started in the council. It just got worse and worse.
- I put a lot of this down to Zoom."
THE Curse of the Zoom meeting strikes actors' fund council –
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Dame Penelope Keith has blamed Zoom for the implosion of an actors' charity after a rift formed during meetings held by video during lockdowns. She was ousted as president of the Actors' Benevolent Fund, along with nearly half its ruling council.
The Charity Commission has opened a case following complaints about the validity of a decision to remove trustees by a show of hands.
Keith had also been the chairwoman of the charity, which helps actors who have fallen on hard times, for an unprecedented 32 years.
A showdown at its ruling council on February 24 ended up looking like a 1970s sitcom scripted by Quentin Tarantino. The carnage of ousted trustees included Keith, 82, who immortalised suburban snobbery as Margot Leadbetter in The Good Life; James Bolam, 83, the lugubrious Geordie Terry Collier from The Likely Lads; and Brian Murphy, 88, who played the henpecked husband in George and Mildred.
Other casualties included Dame Siân Phillips, 86, of I, Claudius; Barbara Whatley, 83, a hostess in Hughie Green's Double Your Money; Dawn Keeler, 87, a former Play School presenter; and Rosalind Shanks, 79, who headlined the series North and South. John Burrell, 68, a trustee and solicitor, had tendered his resignation a few days earlier.
Keith said harmony among trustees had been destroyed by online meetings during lockdown.
Her woes echo the notorious Zoom meeting of Handforth parish council, during which Jackie Weaver, who was there to offer support, muted and ejected councillors.
"The dreaded Zoom was a great problem. I loathed it," Keith said last night.
She explained that the group had always met on the last Thursday of the month in their offices, but moved to "terribly difficult" Zoom meetings during the pandemic.
"With Zoom meetings, the people who talk and talk and talk will talk and talk and talk. The people you really want to hear won't have their say. You can't catch their eye and raise a finger and say what do you think. That was the time the divisions started in the council. It just got worse and worse. I put a lot of this down to Zoom."
Previously the trustees used to hold a private 15-minute gathering at their headquarters before a meeting formally began.
"If we had any concerns we could have a chat and say by the way, I think this has happened. If there was nothing, we would have a chat about the latest play. It's actors getting together. One of our council members said he felt the atmosphere was like going into a green room."
Keith said she had alerted the charity's patron, the Prince of Wales: "I wrote to him that there was a bit of trouble at mill."
The dispute centred on a formal complaint by Jonathan Ellicott, the general secretary, about bullying. An investigation by an outside human resources expert cleared Keith and the trustees. Ellicott left last month.
Keith said her main concern was about the £31 million fund's 200 beneficiaries, who receive help with essentials such as household expenses, mobility aids, therapy and nursing home fees.
Keith inherited the presidency when Sir Laurence Olivier died in 1989. Past presidents have included Sir John Gielgud. The fund was created in 1882 by Sir Henry Irving, renowned for his portrayal of Hamlet at the Lyceum.
"When you look at the people who went before you, it's wonderful and fascinating," she said. "One wants to hand over to someone who will keep it in good hands."
Another professional familiar with the charity said: "Penelope Keith is a good woman. She has devoted her life to a lot of good causes."
Bolam, who chaired one of the trustee meetings about which Ellicott complained, declined to comment while the Charity Commission was looking into the fund.
A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We are assessing concerns reported to us about the charity's governance."