Council Meeting Summary – February 2016
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The first Council meeting of 2016 was held at the University of Leicester on Saturday 20th February.
Two issues featured prominently at the meeting. The first was the threat to industrial sites in the UK, whilst the second was the more parochial one of the possible erosion of the AIA’s membership base
Many of you have experienced problems with membership renewal, multiple requests, wrong amounts asked for, VAT added when it should not be, etc. On 3rd February the President, Treasurer, Secretary and Ian West, as Review editor, met with five members of Taylor & Francis (T&F) staff in London. The meeting dealt with T&F’s methodology for publishing the Review, membership management, the VAT issue, plus customer relations issues. We stressed the very real fears about having lost members due to invoicing errors. A further meeting is planned to review progress and to map out working together in future.
A fruitful meeting with Taylor & Francis staff on 20th February addressed many of these issues satisfactorily.
Threat to Lancashire Museums
The bigger the Association’s membership base then the more weight our views carry with national and local authorities. On 25th November Chairman Keith Falconer wrote to Jennifer Mein, Council Leader, Lancashire County Council, concerning three closures the Council is considering making in response to funding issues. The closures are to Queen Street Mill, Burnley, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum and the County Historic Environmental Service. Keith urged the Council to consider all possible alternatives for continuing public access to these museums, safeguarding the collections and for the continuation of a viable Historic Environment service.
Since the AIA’s Council meeting we have learnt that several local groups have registered their interest in taking over Helmshore and Queen Street Mills. Lancashire County has now committed to keeping all museums under threat open until negotiations with these groups have been concluded. But the threat of closure has not gone away and it is not an open-ended commitment to keep things as they are.
On to more routine Council matters, but still on the subject of threats to industrial buildings and sites, our Endangered Sites Officer, Amber Patrick, continues to make comments and recommendations on planning applications to the appropriate authorities. One of the sites commented upon was the Royal Worcester Porcelain works, in this case there appears to have been an attempt by the local authority to get the application through without proper consultation. But thanks to twitter and other social media many people were made aware and did comment. Note to AIA members: Stay alert to what’s happening in your locality and email: email@example.com if you think an industrial building is under threat.
New Annual Research Grant Award
The AIA has for many years promoted industrial heritage preservation through its very successful conservation grant awards and has promoted presentation through the publication and digital initiative awards. However, the AIA has not explicitly grant-aided research. Mike Nevell presented a comprehensive case for the creation of an Annual Research Grant Award and it was agreed to run it for a trial period of three years. The maximum award in any one year will be £1,500, to be financed out of our reserves. A panel comprising Mike Nevell, Marilyn Palmer and Ian Miller was set up to oversee the application form, promotion and assessment of the entries. Full information will be published on-line and in IA News when all details have been finalised.
One thing that the Association is very good at is putting forward the case for the preservation of our heritage on the basis of its historical and technical importance or uniqueness. What we do not do is to present the economic case for retention, something we are not well qualified to do. It is the economic argument which has now become the dominant factor in planning decisions. Economic impact modelling tools are out there and are being investigated. During discussions on the new Annual Research Grant Award it was noted that research to quantify the economic benefit of our sector would be an ideal subject for an award.
Changes to Awards
A review of monetary amounts attached to our normal annual awards was carried out at the same time. It was agreed to increase the Dissertation Awards to £400 from £250, the Publication Awards to £400 from £300 and to reduce the Archaeology Awards from £800 to £500. These new amounts will be effective from 2017.
Meanwhile, in order to ensure there is sufficient publicity regarding our Restoration Grants, it has been agreed that in future we would withhold the last 10% of any grant until an article has appeared in Industrial Archaeology News describing what was achieved with the funds.
There will be two vacancies on Council at the forthcoming AGM, Steve Dewhirst having completed six years has to retire, and filling the other vacancy would bring us up to the full complement of nine elected members. One of these ideally would fulfil the role of Publicity Officer. Publicising what we do, the grants we make, etc. is handled piecemeal at the moment, usually by the persons judging and handling the awards, we need someone to coordinate all these efforts.
The next Council meeting will be in London on 18 June.
Bruce Hedge, March, 2016.