Today was the music society's annual envelope stuffing ritual. Until the Chairman started emailing us with draft texts for all the things we were due to send out in the mailing I'd forgotten quite how much of it there was. There is a small but glossy brochure giving brief details of all the events, plus a newsletter, and an additional letter sent to members with their summarised copy of the accounts, and this year we were also giving out a bookmark with even briefer concert listings plus, crucially, the website address. Then we'd agreed to enclose a flier for a local music festival, and finally we'd decided to audit the mailing list. Even a second class stamp is now 55 pence, and while once you've paid the set up costs for having the brochure printed you don't save a lot by having fewer of them produced, still with the envelopes as well mailshots are a costly business.
We were quite slick this year. It helped that everybody involved did it last year, and that there were not too many of us to fit comfortably round the Chairman's dining table, and that the Chairman takes a methodical and organised approach to life. She had split the mailing list into three parts before we arrived, members, people who had been to a concert in the past two seasons, and those who as far as we knew we hadn't heard from for at least two years.
Members are simply season ticket holders, so everybody who bought a season ticket last year counted. In addition there are a few people who receive honorary membership in gratitude for their past work for the music society. Current committee members, on the other hand, are expected to buy their tickets and do not get in for free. This is a less generous policy towards helpers than some local arts organisations adopt, but I think rather admirable. And when we're asking local firms for sponsorship we can't have the committee seeming to freeload. The membership secretary dealt with the envelopes destined for members and any complimentary tickets, having to ring up her husband in mid meeting to ask him to find the cheque some ultra keen member had already given her so that she knew who to send the first paid-for ticket of the 2016-17 season to. As the Chairman observed, people think they're being helpful paying early, but at the margin it just complicates things. Several years ago after we had sealed up a great many envelopes we realised we had forgotten to put the notice of the AGM into the envelopes destined for members, which by now were muddled up with all the other envelopes, but we didn't make that mistake this time
Meanwhile, production line style, two people were assembling packs for the recent non-attenders, bookmark and festival flier tucked inside the newsletter, yellow form asking them to confirm if they wished to stay on the mailing list on top where they would see it, the whole tucked inside the glossy brochure, while a third person put address labels on envelopes, and the Chairman kept the names and addresses of those who had attended recently under her personal control, so that we wouldn't muddle the two lists up and hurt anybody's feelings. Only once all the possible drop-outs' envelopes had been sealed would she release the envelopes of the faithful to the rest of the table.
As we stuck the stamps on we made separate piles for envelopes to local addresses which could be delivered by hand. There were quite a few of those, and at 55 pence per stamp it all adds up. The stamped envelopes went in mail sacks which the Chairman had collected from the post office and is apparently how they like to receive bulk mailings. The list ran to nearly five hundred names, so I suppose we couldn't really stuff that many letters into the local post box. The final pile of envelopes was surprisingly heavy.
The whole exercise took five of us a shade under two hours, which is equivalent to more than a day's work when you think about it. The next time you hurry past a village notice board with its drawing-pinned on A4 posters for concerts. illustrated talks. novelty dog competitions, and the annual flower and produce show, spare a thought for all the kitchens and dining rooms around England where people are poring over their proofs from the local printer and diligently stuffing leaflets into envelopes with hand applied wonky labels and stamps slightly awry.