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.