Secret Guild Business

Secret Guild Business
It’s been a light blogging week because once again SCANDAL has erupted within the Knitters’ Guild of NSW. And before you get all “Teehee, isn’t it cute how the knitters argue over whether it’s ‘purl 1 knit 1’ or ‘knit 1 purl 1’!” this issue really has nothing to do with knitting and everything to do with politics and bureaucracy. For the past few years, many of us have heard the complaints about the Guild being out-of-touch, insular, and fuddy-duddy and tried to change the system from within. I’ve gone to several AGMS and Executive Committee meetings to try to educate them about the possibilities of doing more Guild business online. Others have sent letters and taken up Committee positions. Not much has changed. Last November, a discussion started on Ravelry about ways the Guild could change for the better. (Sample suggestion: They could accept credit card or online payment, instead of requiring people to post a cheque. It’s not exactly burning the Reichstag, is it?) The Guild’s response was to try to shut down the discussion. Some good came out of it though, because many new people were motivated to join and a few even dared to nominate for the Executive Committee itself. The nominations were due to close last Friday, and I was happy to hear that not only had three of the “revolutionaries” made it onto the shortlist, but that the lack of other nominations meant an election wasn’t necessary. One of the three mentioned on her blog that she was looking forward to the challenge, and a couple of us congratulated the three on Ravelry. Not long after, we were told that the nominations had not closed, that the date had been published wrong, that two more mystery nominations had been received (necessitating an election), and that the three had been “stupid” in mentioning it online. And that was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back.Here’s some text from an email that I sent to my group Convenor this morning:

“…In
the past four months, I have wasted probably an entire day of my life talking about the Guild. Every time I’ve been at a gathering of more than 2 knitters, it’s all we can talk about. And not in a positive way. I’ve heard non-members gripe about the hoops they have to jump
through to register. I’ve heard from new members who were not welcomed when they attended their first meetings. I’ve heard from people who’ve sent emails and phone calls and never received responses… And though I have never had anything but politeness from those in charge, I’ve heard from many people of curt responses, of being made to feel unwelcome, of censorship and attempts to silence critics, and finally this week, of actual personal insults from a member of the Executive Committee. And who knows if this election will even be allowed to stand? Now I’m hearing that the whole bungle about the nomination
closing date might invalidate it all together. At best it looks like incompetence; at worst I’ve seen a few people – non-members, even! – say it looks like a deliberate attempt to influence who gets on the Executive. That’s the image we’re projecting to everyone else.

“And none of that has anything to do with knitting! It’s all about bureaucracy and politics and rules and secrecy and people needing to find ways to make themselves feel important.

“So for all that, what do I actually get in return? A stitch and bitch every month… though I see the majority of those people at other non-Guild knitting events too. A newsletter that rarely has any content I’m interested in, and which would be better delivered via
email. A library that I don’t use, certification that I’m not particularly interested in, and workshops scheduled where and when I can’t attend. Really, camp is the only highlight there, but that was more about a weekend away with my friends and focusing on our knitting. We could arrange something similar independent of the Guild…

“The return just isn’t worth the emotional investment. I really only see three options. 1. I can quit altogether, and find alternatives to supply those few things I would miss from the Guild… 2. I could remain a member and disengage emotionally, attending the meetings but not caring about anything Guild-related beyond what directly affects me. 3) I could keep working
to try to change things. #3 is what I’ve been trying to do for some months now, but I’m worn out. I no longer have faith that a change of Committee is going to fix things, especially as the election now seems compromised. To be honest the only reason I’m hanging around is
because a few people who still have hope have asked me to. If the new Committee manages to make some changes, they’ll probably need some help on the website.”

So that’s where it stands. I actually posted on Ravelry yesterday about possibly starting a new official organisation for knitters and crocheters in Australia, and the response was pretty overwhelming. We’re forming a Steering Committee to look at the legal issues surrounding incorporation. It’s exciting.

Now I’m just waiting to hear whether I’m to be rapped on the knuckles for daring to complain about the Guild in public. After all, the first rule of Knitting Club…

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8 Comments

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  1. You should come to our SnB camp in Wollongong. All of the knitting and fun, none of the politics 😉

  2. mmm, I’d be interested in an alternative if things don’t work out with the election & new EC.

  3. after reading the stuff on rav, I was gonna ask you what the guild might say about you daring to speak about them in public. Knitting Camp, August 2009 anyone?

  4. I’d totally come to Knitting Camp 2009!

  5. We’ve set up a Steering Committee for the new group to look at the logistics of incorporating, etc. Stuff is happening.

  6. Keep me updated. This is better than the book I’m reading at the moment.

  7. for what it’s worth, the model train group I was – oh, wait i rejoined this year, so the model train group that I am in has the same politics. I spent two years on their executive committee based on the same sort of ‘I can change things’ ideas but I couldn’t. There are just too many people who LIVE to stir it up. I took a few years off and rejoined mostly because it was the best way for me to see a lot of these guys who I call friends.
    I wish you (and Barack) lots of luck

  8. Has Barack joined the Knitters Guild? That’s great news.

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