Chairman's Annual Report 2019
I am pleased to report that our Council of Management (COM) has fulfilled its role as a Board of Trustees most professionally during the course of the Year, having regard to the fact that the Civic Society is both a Registered Charity and a Company Limited by Guarantee. Of course, unlike certain other civic societies, Shrewsbury Civic Society carries the responsibility for the management and upkeep of a sizeable historic building, known as the Bear Steps Hall. The building itself was renovated back in the 1960s, following a successful public appeal, and is now owned by Shropshire Council. Members will see from the draft Accounts that many of the items of expenditure are thus associated with the Bear Steps Hall itself. in that context, I must give especial thanks to our Treasurer David Shepherd, who has kept a close eye on this expenditure, and particularly in dealing with Utilities.
David, together with Bibbs Cameron, has also made the necessary arrangement with which to obtain Gift Aid from HMRC, and this source of income has obviously made a difference to our financial situation at a time when costs have been significant.
I must also thank my COM colleagues for their invaluable input as Volunteers, in furtherance of the Society’s Objectives. The highly creative work undertaken by Russell Game in respect of our Website and our Newsletter has made an appreciable difference to our public image. Likewise, our Membership Secretary, Bibbs Cameron, has communicated extensively with our Members, often in relation to events and lectures taking place at the Bear Steps Hall.
Changes to the Council of Management during the Year have mercifully been few in number. At the last AGM, I reported on the sad loss of Richard Jaboor, who was one of our most loyal and dedicated Trustees. This year, we have very sadly lost the input of Bob Oak, a retired architect who represented the Civic Society at the Mount House Partnership and who had already promulgated various proposals as a means to utilise the birthplace of Charles Darwin.
Work undertaken by our Standing Committees (Gallery, Planning, Finance, and House) will be outlined at the AGM, by its respective Chairs, namely John Brown, Mike Carter, Myself, and Mike Dinneen.
Throughout the Year, our Gallery Committee under the direction of David Lupine and under the Chairmanship of John Brown hosted a series of fortnightly Art Exhibitions – and in addition hosted a most popular International Cartoon Festival, held during the month of April. The Halloween Exhibition was as popular as ever, with amazing array of eccentric paintings and other objects on display.
The Planning Committee was engaged in scrutinising the many Planning Applications submitted to Shropshire Council – on average these are about 50 per month in number! Such scrutiny is then followed by discussion and where necessary by a written submission (whether an “approval” or “objection”). From time to time, too, the Committee Chairman has been involved with major projects e.g. the Stew renovation, and has also represented the Society in advocating “accreditation standards” with which to improve the quality of new house-building in the Town. This last aspect is of great concern to the Civic Society, given the housing numbers to which Shropshire Council is currently committed.
As a means to fulfil its role in protecting the “historical architectural, constructional or natural heritage of Shrewsbury and its surroundings” – to use the words of our Articles of Association – the Society has instigated a greater degree of co-operation with certain other organisations which have complimentary objectives, notably the Shrewsbury Town Centre Residents’ Association, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (C.P.R.E.) Shropshire Branch. In addition, the Society collaborates with the Business Improvement District (B.I.D) on specific projects, including the Darwin Festival held in February.
During the Year, various events were promoted by the Society for the benefit of our Members, and all were very well received. These included a talk by Alastair Godfrey on the development of the Flaxmill, a talk on “Changing Shrewsbury” by John Brown, a Quiz led by Russell Game, a Lecture on Sustainable Transport by Professor John Whitelegg, and a Lecture by Dr. Nigel Baker on the archaeology of the medieval Town.
All in all, the Year was a busy one for the Society, and its membership continues to grow steadily – a measure of its success in achieving its Aims and Objectives. That said, we always welcome new members, either as individuals, families or “corporates”.
Byron Grainger-Jones M.A.
Chairman, Shrewsbury Civic Society