Tuesday 29 May 2012

Members Blog No 3 Jim Tough Executive Director

One notable piece of news is the success of our joint application with Stirling University to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a post graduate study into our Book Awards. We are grateful to Professor Claire Higgins, who sits on the Literature Panel, has been the author of this successful bid. Along with the Internship which I have mentioned previously, this means we will have two sharp young minds joining us at Head Office, to compliment Sarah’s similarly sharp young mind and my own slightly more shop worn version!

Meeting People

The important business of raising our profile, building new partnerships and refreshing existing ones continues this month. The list has included Faith Liddell from Festivals Edinburgh, Martyn Wade from the National Libraries of Scotland and Carol Taylor from Arts and Business. A meeting with Dolina MacLennan to discuss arrangements for the Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Award was a particular highlight. My meeting with Dr Lloyd Anderson, Director of the British Council Scotland, has triggered a very interesting idea of a ‘Young Saltire International’ Programme. There’s more about that in the draft plan that we are refining as outlined below.

One of the projects that we have been asked to become involved in is the development of a design for the proposals of the St Kilda Centre at Uig on the Isle of Lewis. I met with Ian Gordon the architect involved in the project and Hector MacDonald from Council and Chairman Lorimer Mackenzie are also involved on our part. The Interim Executive Board discussed this at the May meeting and we will hope to meet with the interested parties to clarify how we might be involved within the limited capacity of our own resources.

As you know we are looking into the establishment of a Saltire Endowment Trust. That has implications for our constitution so we had a meeting with Kenny Rose, a solicitor with Dundas and Wilson, who have supported us in minor legal matters on a pro-bono basis.
Sarah Mason, whose new job title of Programme Manager better reflects the scope of her role, is also starting to get out and about and attended a fund raising training event being offer through Arts and Business.

And of course we are keen to ensure our elected representatives are aware of our plans and value the role of the Society. Over the last week we have variously met with Michael Russell MSP, Fiona Hyslop MSP and Patricia Ferguson MSP and have been warmly received by all.

Developing the Business Plan

The main agenda item for this month’s Council meeting gave Council members a second chance to influence and interrogate the draft Business Plan. Meanwhile we have had very helpful feedback from several branches and several individuals on the first draft. In particular the reflections on our membership strategy have been insightful. Much of our discussion to date has been around the challenge of involving younger people in our Society, but the point has been well made that actually the people who may have the most interest, and crucially the time, to become involved might be what I can only describe as the ‘middle aged’, a category that I am happy to be part of! We will look at the in the second draft of the plan.

I also had the great pleasure of meeting with several members of Lord Cullen’s Commission to get their views on the draft plan. You will know that it was their work that has seen us take up the challenge of some radical changes that seek to ensure the Saltire Society plays a prominent role Scottish civic life. It felt important to test whether we are on the right tracks with our current plans in terms of the invaluable legacy of their efforts. Happily they are content with the direction of travel with some helpful nuances; the need to have a professional and pro-active marketing and communications capability is increasingly to the front and centre of the changes we need to pursue.

Awards Panels

We convened a meeting with representatives from all of our awards panels and the interim Executive Board. The moment is captured below! This was a first by all accounts and was intended to bring the awareness of the wider Saltire ambitions and those of the individual panels closer together. From comments on the day and since those attending found it useful and the discussion will certainly influence the thinking around the awards as we progress the business plan. One key idea is the prospect of brining all of our awards ceremonies together in one major event.

Staffing

Tara Cryan, who was in a temporary position as Administrative Assistant, has moved on after two years with the Society. We said farewell over a rather pleasant lunch with Keith Turner (Finance Officer) Sarah and I.

While we had an in principle agreement from the interim Executive Board to replace Tara on a more permanent basis at the moment Sarah and I are satisfied that we can cover the work until such time as our plans crystallise. It is important that both Sarah and I are out building the profile and developing the partnerships that will help us fulfil our wider ambitions. That may mean that on occasion the Head Office is unmanned. We will be entirely contactable nonetheless. The wonders of technology mean that I can access my emails from virtually any location, and I am entirely happy for members to call me on my mobile phone, 07850604521. This number is also on my e-mail signature and business card, so others can similarly contact the Society very easily.

Saltire Publications

You may recall our recent proposition to reduce the significant cost of storing our Saltire publications by encouraging members and branches to put them to good use in the wider public domain. We are making good progress in this with our thanks to the branches taking up this offer. Most notable has been the request for 1500 books from the Dumfries and Galloway branch, including most of our Gaelic publications now in the good home in Wigtown under the auspices of Gàidhlig Dumgal and their new book shop premises. Andrew Wilson and Ian Munro are seen here with our very own Iain Rogers outside the shop on the day of delivery. I was astonished to realise it was my own first trip to Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town, and was moved by a visit to the graves of the Wigtown Martyrs and the excellent leaflet written by the very same Andrew Wilson.

The meeting I mentioned with Martyn Wade at the National Libraries of Scotland was also positive with regards to our publications imprint; we will explore with them a partnership involving making our books available digitally thought their catalogue.

On a practical note Council have agreed the 18th August as the date for our Annual General Meeting which will most likely start at 11.00am. The venue is the Burrell in Glasgow the opportunity to have a guided tour around the exhibition in the afternoon.

Finally note regarding the sad loss of the Helensburgh Branch Convener Alison Cowey. David Ward and I attended her funeral service which was a moving celebration of an inspirational life. Alison was clearly a proud and committed Scot, and her legacy of £5000.00 to the Society is very much appreciated.

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