Last May, the Civic Trust (the national voice of civic societies across the country, to which our society was affiliated) went into liquidation. The Trust, which represented a network of over 1,000 local societies with over 250,000 members, had become financially reliant on administering a number of schemes for the Government and, when these were awarded to other organisations, the Trust collapsed.
The Civic Society Initiative was formed by a small group of activists to fill the void. This group, which includes Tony Burton, Ian Harvey of the Civic Trust and Laura Sandys (daughter of Civic Trust founder Duncan Sandys) have been working with civic societies across the country to discover what sort of national voice/co-ordinating body they need, what form it should take and what functions it should fulfil. This interim steering group, called the Civic Society Initiative, has been supported by a number of sponsors and supporters, including the North of England Civic Trust, the National Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, English Heritage, Griff Rhys-Jones and the Prince of Wales, who all believe passionately in the presence of civic societies and their need for a grassroots orientated coordinating body.
In October, the Blackpool Civic Trust hosted a national convention to discuss the future of the movement. A copy of the report Own the Future was presented to the convention. This report presents the results of the intense period of discussion and debate which has occurred over the last few months, including the on-line survey and the series of Open Forums across the country. Our society was represented at regional meetings at High Wycombe and at Guildford and was also represented at Blackpool.
‘Own the Future’ includes a number of proposals for the way forward on the basis of the discussion and the information that has been gathered. These include proposals for how civic societies might work most effectively together, the role of a new national body and, of course, funding arrangements. The proposals need further debate, especially as they could result in our having to pay a £3.00 levy for each of our members if CSI is to be free of external funding. Reactions to any part of the report would be welcomed by Friday 20th November to email@example.com or to Ian Harvey at the CSI, Unit 101, 82 Wood Street, The Tea Factory, Liverpool L1 4DQ.
Thanks go to the Blackpool Civic Trust for a well organised event and for being the perfect hosts. They have an excellent relationship with Blackpool Town Council that is a model for all to aspire to and which clearly works well for the town.