Thursday, 23 September 2021

Town councillors told ‘don’t mumble like Brando’ in meetings

A TRIAL of a new sound system for Henley’s council chamber has received a lukewarm reception from councillors and members of the public.

Microphones were used for the first time during last week’s town council meeting with speakers around the chamber in the town hall.

But several people in the public gallery said there was little or no improvement compared with having no sound system.

The council says the previous system was old and no longer worked properly.

It received a grant of almost £15,500 from South Oxfordshire District Council towards the cost of a new £62,000 system.

Residents at the meeting complained that some councillors spoke more clearly than others and that when they stood up to speak they were further away from the mics on the tables. One man said: “Some of you speak much too rapidly, you speak much too softly, you forget you’re here to talk to the town as a whole, not among yourselves.”

He said members didn’t sound like Laurence Olivier but added: “You mumble like Marlon Brando and you must not do that.

“It’s us you should be talking to and you should remember that.”

David Feary, of Walton Avenue, said: “I’m sitting here having a rather unpleasant echo on everything everyone is saying.”

Former mayor Gill Dodds, of Greys Road, said: “I actually have quite good hearing and I didn’t notice much difference at all.”

Ian Clark, of Cromwell Road, suggested that rather than having one microphone for pairs of councillors each one should have one.

Mayor Glen Lambert said: “The sense I’m getting is the problem is us, not the technology.”

Councillor Sam Evans said the acoustics in the room were so bad that she could hear everything that was being said in the public gallery even when it was not directed at councillors.

She suggested changing the layout of the room to see if this made a difference.

Councillor Ian Reissmann said the room had good acoustics as a voice carried across it.

Councillor Laurence Plant, who was sitting nearest the public gallery, said: “I probably found it harder to hear what’s going on. I’m definitely getting an echo on everything.”

Councillor Jane Smewing added: “It’s the hard surfaces all around this room which is partly why we’re getting this echo.”

Councillor Lorraine Hillier said she didn’t think the new system was worth having, adding: “I haven’t noticed any difference.”

Councillor Will Hamilton said: “We have got to get this right because if we don’t have this system then the money from the district council has to go back.

“We need to investigate a bit further.”

Members agreed to trial lapel mics at other meetings.

The new system will be installed in the council chamber and the Queen Elizabeth II Hall and will be provided by Henley Theatre Services.

The council says it should improve the experience of users and encourage more people to hire the town hall for events such as weddings, conferences and meetings.

The project already has planning permission.

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