Wednesday 4 July 2012

Members Blog No. 4 Jim Tough, Executive Director

Apparently it’s summer, though no one seems to have told the Jet Stream which has taken a wrong turn and insisted on leaving Scotland drookit and damp! But the sun is always shining at your Head Office, not least warmed by the great news that we have been awarded £97,000 grant from Creative Scotland to help us in the many developments that we have in our plan. These funds will help us bring in some expertise in marketing, communications and fund raising amongst many other things. If you are able to make the AGM we will be able to say more about what lies ahead in the plan.

Meanwhile although we were disappointed to hear that the Heritage Lottery Fund bid wasn’t successful, we will try again for a more modest project. We will be progressing the plans for improving the Head Office nonetheless, and I very much look forward to fulfilling our commitment to that building becoming a welcoming resource for members should they be in Edinburgh and a quality venue for the conduct our business.

The very act of cleaning out the office has been fascinating and at times inspiring to come across the books, memorabilia and records of the Society. Saltire tie anyone! At every turn there’s another reason to applaud the vision, commitment and influence of the Society’s Council and Members. A good example is the Science Award made to Professor Higgs in 1990 and to see his quite astonishing success today. We have a great story to tell not just about Scotland but about the Society’s contribution over many years. The challenge is to re-establish that impact in Scotland now.

I have mentioned previously the new members that are joining Sarah and I at Head Office. We have now been joined be Emma Roberts who is with us two days a week for five months on a Research and Policy Development Internship and by Andrew Cochrane who is with us three days a week until 10th August on work experience. I will let them introduce themselves!

My name is Emma Roberts, and I am the new research and policy development intern at the Saltire Society, and a postgraduate student at Edinburgh University, currently completing an MSc in philosophy. I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with the Saltire Society in this period of redevelopment, and I hope to be able to make a positive contribution to both the headquarters team and the society as a whole. I believe that the promotion, development and preservation of culture, heritage and creativity in all its forms is important, and so I look forward to helping to support and strengthen the society in any way I can through this internship.

My name is Andrew Cochrane and I am a Computer Games Design student at Glasgow Caledonian University. I have been with the Saltire Society for a week now on work experience and have enjoyed my stay so far. My tasks have included looking at ways to promote the Society using modern technologies including the possible development and use of a Saltire Society application for iPhones and iPads. I have also been cataloguing a lot of the Society’s older photographs and videos which has given me the opportunity to have a look at exactly what it is the Society does. With this appreciation for the Society, I look forward to helping the Society bring its traditions forward using modern technologies.

It’s great to have them on board. And there’s more to come. We have shortlisted for the PhD position that is a partnership with Stirling University through the good auspices of Professor Claire Higgins. The position will focus on the history of the Saltire Book Awards and the successful candidate will come on board in September.

Our awards season is well under way. I enjoyed sitting in on the Housing Panel and the level of expertise in the room was impressive. I can see why the award is regarded so highly in the architectural community given the degree of scrutiny and the quality of the competition.
In that area I had a very productive meeting with Neil Baxter for the Royal Institute of Architects Scotland and I hope we can work with them on a number of shared interests. Jane Paterson, convener of the Housing Panel and I attended a focus group discussion on the Scottish Government’s plans for a new Architecture Policy. The Civil Engineering Panel are out on their visits and again it has been fascinating to see range of entries as they arrive. The Book Awards likewise are in fine fettle with more entries arriving daily. And we are hoping to give those awards additional profile as part of the new Scottish Book Week at the end of November.

The first award to have been committed this year was the Song Competition. The winners for Calderside Academy from Blantyre were clearly delighted with their achievement at the first attempt of entering. The Gaelic Song Award went to Bun-Sgiol Ghaidlig Inbhirnis. It is a very fine event, and we are grateful to our member Robert Macfarlane for his kind support of the competition. It was great to see 250 youngsters involved in our work, and Sarah has some excellent ideas on how we can develop the project. To that end we met with David McDonald from Creative Scotland. He manages the Youth Music Initiative and we can see some good opportunities for working together.

Our newest award, the Arts and Crafts in Architecture International Student Travel Bursary was another fine occasion. Generously supported by the Arts Trust of Scotland the winner was Oliver Thomson from Edinburgh College of Art. Panel Chairman Glen Onwin and I met Oliver and the other shortlisted candidates to make the award and then for a lunch. The interest of this younger generation in our work is reassuring and something to build upon. Oliver will keep us posted regarding his work.

We are delighted to have been approached by The Park Gallery in Falkirk to become involved in their celebration of the work of Scottish ceramicist and Saltire Award winner George Garson. The exhibition opens on the 2nd September and we are looking at donating a new plaque to celebrate the Saltire Award in 1975. George also received a Commendation in the first ever Saltire Arts and Crafts In Architecture in 1971. As ever we have been in conversation with many different people to discuss how we can continue to enhance the profile and impact of our work. Linda Fabiani MSP is a member of the Society and has been enormously helpful in sponsoring the Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun Lecture which will take place on the evening of the 6th September in the Scottish Parliament. The lecture will be from Professor Richard Findlay from Strathclyde University. We have included a reply slip if you wish to attend, as we need to give names and numbers in advance for security reasons. No ‘walk ups’ allowed on the night! The reply slips covers a range of up and coming events. In passing I just want to say thanks to all of the members who have passed us their email addresses which will really help us if staying in touch with you.

The occasion of both the opening and closing of the Edinburgh International Film Festival was another great opportunity to meet people with a potential interest in our work, and to see some interesting films including ‘Brave’ which of course is set in medieval Scotland and necessitated the wearing of the tartan trews! For example I made contact over a canapé and something fizzy with Hazel Smith the Development Manager at the Edinburgh Science Festival and we are looking at an event in their programme next year to highlight our own interest in science.

Another exciting development is the potential for the Saltire Society to sponsor and award at the ‘Hands Up For Trad’ Annual Awards event taking place this year in Fort William. Our meeting with Simon Thoumire who leads the organisation was very positive.

You will know our support for the Scots language is embedded in our aims. Arguably we could do more to make that support manifest, and we are planning a conversation with Dr Donald Smith of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and author James Robertson (Saltire Book of the Year Award winner) to look at some ideas in that regard.

Many of you I hope will be along at the AGM where our Chairman Lorimer Mackenzie will present some changes to the constitution that are part of our wider development making us fit for purpose and setting the scene of the idea of a Saltire Endowment Trust. Lorimer has been deep in the depths of constitutional sub clauses. I want to note my thanks for his support and guidance as his tenure as chairman ends at the AGM.

It is sad to note the passing of one of our long standing members, John Horrocks, the Chairman of The Kirriemuir Branch. We appreciate all of his efforts in support of the Society’s work over many years.

That’s it for now. Apologies for such a long missive, but there is a great deal going on as you can see. I am off on a few weeks leave from the 27th July back on the 6th August. Doon the watter to Great Cumbrae with all the essentials packed for a typical Scottish holiday – sun tan lotion and wellies!

Aye Yours
Jim Tough, Executive Director

 

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