The Civic Trust collapsed at Easter 2009. Our Society, like 650
others, was affiliated to the Trust, an organisation which gave out
some useful information and organised conferences now and again,
but really didn't do much for us. In its place Tony Burton and lan
Harvey have set up a new national body now called Civic Voice after
a year of transition when it was called the Civic Society Initiative.
As Tony Burton explained to us at our meeting on 12 May in St Peter's
Church, the aim of Civic Voice is to be a more pro active body than
the Civic Trust. It wants to bring societies together so that their
influence will be more than the sum of their parts. By encouraging a
"civic sense" the organisation and its member societies could exercise
more influence, especially as it would be the largest grouping of
people interested in the environment and, unlike most other comparable
bodies, Civic Voice wouldn't have a particular axe to grind. At the
same time Civic Voice would encourage active localism which Tony
Burton illustrated by reference to Oxford where "street clutter" is
being removed, Bradford and Grimsby where very large old buildings
are being re-used, and towns where public clocks were being monitored
(as Brian Jepson has been doing for us in Ipswich).
Tony Burton asked us to recognise how societies are viewed by the
general public. On the one hand people often think of civic societies
as caring and well intentioned: on the other hand they can be seen
as having a low profile or being old-fashioned, "organisations for
intelligent crumblies". (That produced a laugh!) He urged societies
to get more people involved, to be more inclusive and to avoid being
almost routinely negative so that when it's really necessary to say
"NO" that would be more noticeable and weighty.
For Civic Voice to be more helpful and influential, member societies
would have to pay more than they did to the Civic Trust. Mr Burton
only spoke about the present rate of subscription. Your Committee
will have to debate what more could or should be done by our Society.
Before the talk we were able to admire the skill and energy of the
Ipswich Youth Steel Band which rehearses regularly in St Peter's on
Wednesdays. The ten players were not only impressive but they showed
us the value of such community groups using St Peter's - a fine
example of Lottery money being put to good use in the renovation of
this important church.