Civic Update

4 August 2017

Our new address is:
Civic Voice, The Coffin Works, 13-15 Fleet Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1JP.
Tel.: 0121 792 8177
Please update your records.


Country commemorates Passchendaele

Photograph: Visitors at Arboretum Photograph: Visitors seated at tables for lecture Photograph: Lecture in progress

This week we organised an event at the National Memorial Arboretum on 2nd August as part of the national commemorative events around Passchendaele. Representatives from Historic England, Imperial War Museums and War Memorials Trust were all in attendance along with civic societies including Tamworth, Chester, Lichfield and Coventry.

During the event, volunteers that have been on a Civic Voice training programme and have then gone on to add a war memorial to the National Heritage List for England or access funding from the FWWMP programme shared their stories. We heard from Blackpool Civic Trust and how the APPG for Civic Societies has helped champion the cause with MPs on a national level. Case studies from other groups involved in the programme are available here.

We also used the day to look ahead and we heard from Altrincham and Bowdon Civic Society who talked about how they are commemorating the centenary in 2018 with a specific focus on Civic Day on 23rd June. We also heard from a Civic Voice volunteer who is organising a conference in Worcester to commemorate Passchendaele in November.

Joan Humble, chair of Civic Voice said: "We're proud to have played our part in the national commemoration of the First World War and this event was another opportunity for communities to come together to hear what each local area has been doing to remember the fallen. I look forward to hearing more stories over the remaining part of the commemoration."

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Civic Voice & YHACS study visit to see Sunbridge Wells, Bradford

Picture: Opening page of Bradford Civic Trust's website Photograph: Staircase inside Chairman receiving award from laura Sandys

Civic Voice is partnering with Bradford Civic Society and YHACS to organise a study visit to Sunbridge Wells, Bradford.

The event is taking place on 30th September 2017 starting at 10.30am and will be followed by an afternoon event at the Banqueting Suite in City Hall, which will start at 1.00 pm. Due to the nature and logistics of this event, pre-registration is required. Please register here.

Sunbridge Wells, Bradford, gained a Special Award for a development in a Conservation Area in the Civic Voice Design Awards 2017. It is a truly unique complex of boutique shops, café bars, restaurants and craft market stalls housed in a long-forgotten network of historic tunnels underneath Bradford City Centre. The youngest civic society chair in the country, Si Cunningham (pictured with Laura Sandys) will be on hand to talk to delegates.

Bradford Civic Society nominated the scheme after being blown away by the sheer amount of effort, passion and attention-to-detail invested in this unique project. Originally a 13th century quarry, the tunnels have a remarkable history. In more recent years the tunnels lay abandoned and sealed off, with only a dilapidated door off Centenary Square that most people wouldn't have even noticed. But then local developer Graham Hall had a vision: to remodel the tunnels and adjoining derelict buildings as a three-storey leisure complex housing independent shops and young, creative entrepreneurs on flexible terms. After a painstaking programme of excavation, restoration and innovation, the tunnels once again welcomed hordes of curious Bradfordians in December 2016 – with parts of it being opened up again for the first time in over a century.

It’s not just a first for Bradford, there’s nothing like it anywhere in England. And now you can have the opportunity to visit this fantastic facility and see for yourself the difference it is making in Bradford City Centre conservation area.

You can read the full story of Sunbridge Wells here.

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New Charity Governance Code – what are the implications for civic societies?

Coloured placard saying: Charity Governance Code

Last year, the Charity Commission consulted on a proposed code of governance. This has now been published and is available on-line here.

While the new Code is at the moment just guidance, it is based on current legal requirements and recommended practice. It is set out under 7 principles and introduces the notion of ‘apply or explain’ – in other words, charities should apply the code’s principles wherever they can and explain those instances where, for whatever reason, a charity cannot apply the recommendations of the Code.

Much that is in the Code will be familiar already, this is evolution not revolution, but there are some interesting new recommendations about recruitment and retention of trustees – i.e., your committee members – which will have far-reaching implications for many societies. Not least of these is the recommendation that trustees serve for a maximum of 9 years.

Kevin Trickett, Chair of the Yorkshire Association of Civic Societies shares his thought on the new Charity Governance code here.

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Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement

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A new Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement was set up on 29 June 2017. The Committee acknowledges that: British society is changing. Technological, economic and cultural issues are leading to far reaching shifts in how individuals, families and communities live and work together.

The referendums on Scottish independence and Brexit, the recent attacks in Manchester and London by people, some of them born in Britain, an apparent low level of confidence in the effectiveness of the political system, not to mention concern regarding sections of society that feel “left behind” – all of these point to the need to reflect on those values, principles and processes that might play a role in bringing people together and promoting engaged citizenship.

This is why the House of Lords has set up a committee to explore the issues of citizenship and civic engagement in the twenty-first century. The committee is keen to hear from a wide range of individuals, groups and organisations in order to understand the nature of the citizenship challenge for different parts of society; the aim being to identify new ways of building bridges within and between communities, and to support civic engagement. How to think about citizenship and civic engagement in a more vibrant, positive and integrated manner is of particular interest to the committee.

Civic Voice will be responding so please submit thoughts to us before 3rd September 2017 to allow us time to review all contributions.

Read more on the questions for the committee here.

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Become a Trustee of Civic Voice

Photograph: Joan Humble Chairwoman of Civic Voice

It is very timely about the introduction of a new Code of Conduct as Civic Voice is now openly recruiting for three vacancies on our Board of Trustees, to take up position from October 2017.

Joan Humble, Paul Bedwell and Roger Sutton are all up for election with their terms of office coming to an end. They are each allowed to stand for election for a second term.

If you want to get involved and help shape the future of Civic Voice and the wider civic movement then why not put yourself forward? This is a real chance to shape the direction and priorities of the civic movement.

The deadline for applications is 11th August and there will be a ballot of all fully paid up members during September. Only fully paid up civic societies can participate in the vote.

You can find further details about the role of trustees along with an application form here. You can find the list of current trustees here.

For an informal chat about becoming a Civic Voice trustee, contact Ian Harvey via

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West Midlands and Yorkshire regions gather to discuss future of movement

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Notes from West Midlands

The fifty ninth meeting of the West Midlands Regional Association was held on Saturday 29th July in the Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum.

It was hosted by Phil Douce, Chairman of the Worcester Society and Civic Voice trustee. The meeting was attended by representatives from six societies in the area including Pershore, Hereford, Bewdley, Malvern, Harbury and Worcester.

The meeting was opened by Roger Sutton, Civic Voice trustee and WMASA Treasurer, with a discussion about Civic Day among the members – most of whom had celebrated in different ways. Concern was expressed about the problems of attracting new members as committees and evening meetings are difficult for many younger people. The consensus was that the way forward was embrace social media and arrange a programme that appealed to the target participants.

The principal topic of discussion was the ‘Conservation Conversation’ based on a PowerPoint presentation by Ian Harvey. The consensus was that it was a useful exercise to consolidate the rules relating to Conservation Areas – many members know some of the rules but few appreciated the full extent of the responsibility vested in local authorities.

Notes from Yorkshire

The fascinating history of Hornsea Mere was just one of the topics on the agenda when YHACS members gathered in the seaside town for their summer meeting on 29th July. The Mere, which is the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire and now a nature reserve and leisure attraction, had been the location of a Royal Naval Air Station during World War I and a base for sea planes. All this and more was revealed by guest speaker John Miller, a committee member of Hornsea Civic Society, our hosts for the day. John had also led a guided walk of the town earlier in the day.

Also on the agenda was an introduction to Hornsea and the work of the civic society from Keith Whittle, deputy chair of the society, and all the news from the YHACS committee. YHACS Chair Kevin Trickett asked members to consider some of the challenges that lie ahead for the movement. Reporting back on the recent YHACS Futures Workshop which had been held in Wakefield in June, Kevin said that it was clear all societies faced similar challenges around attracting new members, recruiting committee members and filling officer posts while organising an annual programme of activity and just keeping the show on the road. However, because no two societies were the same, finding suitable responses to these challenges required novel approaches based on local context and playing to the strengths of the local committee members.

One advantage of belonging to a regional association such as YHACS was that members could come together to share ideas, information and inspiration. A recent survey of YHACS members had revealed that the ability to network with others and sharing ideas (at meetings, by making new contacts and via an excellent newsletter) were among the most valued benefits of YHACS membership, alongside the opportunity to visit other societies and to explore different parts of the region as part of an enjoyable day out (– or even a short break as YHACS events often include having dinner at a local restaurant on the evening before the meeting for those able to travel on the Friday and stay over, as happened in Hornsea when YHACS members enjoyed a very pleasant evening in the company of Hornsea Civic Society members at a restaurant in the town centre!).

Kevin also highlighted the new Governance Code being promoted by the Charity Commission which introduces the concept that trustees should serve for no longer than nine years only guidance at this stage but which could have major impacts on civic societies if it became a mandatory requirement, and the new General Data Protection Regulation which takes effect from May 2018 and will affect the way in which civic societies use personal information to contact their members. He urged members to start thinking about these changes now as it may be necessary to redesign membership forms to provide members with the ability to opt in to receive communications from the Society.

The final session of the afternoon was an update from Paul Bedwell of Sheffield Civic Trust but speaking in his capacity as trustee of Civic Voice. Paul outlined the latest news from Civic Voice and looked forward to both the next YHACS meeting, which will be in Bradford on 30th September, and the Civic Voice Convention to be held in Wakefield over 20th and 21st October.

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Stamford 50: A celebration of the UK's first Conservation Area

Photograph: Warwick Hall Community Centre, Burford winner of a Civic Voice Special Conservation Area Award

Joan Humble will speak at national event to celebrate 50 years of conservation areas

Civic Voice Chairwoman, Joan Humble is speaking at a conference in the town of Stamford, Lincolnshire. Stamford was was the first to be designated as a Conservation Area and, in recognition of this, South Kesteven District Council is marking the event with a one-day conference on Thursday 21 September 2017 in the Arts Centre in Stamford. The event is being is supported by RIBA, Historic England, RTPI, IHBC and Civic Voice.

The day will bring together a range of speakers who represent different professions and stakeholders whose life or work is influenced by the existence of Conservation Areas. The speakers will draw out what lessons have been learnt over the last 50 years and how the application of legislation has affected the way our environments have grown.

You can view the programme for the day and book a place for the conference here.

Joan will also be speaking at a number of other events throughout the year. She has kindly accepted an invitation from Conservation Areas Wirral to speak at a conference to celebrate 50 years of Conservation Areas. She will speaking at the event on Friday, 9 November after 6.30 pm.

Conservation Areas Wirral is a forum of all Wirral’s 26 Conservation Areas. Established in 2014 it is a voluntary-run organisation with members drawn from all of Wirral’s active Conservation Areas. It works with Wirral Residents, Wirral Council and Historic England to promote and protect the distinct character of Wirral’s Conservation Areas and to ensure they can be accessed and enjoyed by all, both now and in the future.

Joan Humble said: "Designating a conservation area should not be seen as an end in itself: we live in a changing world and for the historic environment to survive and continue to be cherished it needs to be positively managed. Hamilton Square is a beautiful part of the Wirral and I look forward to attending and talking about Civic Voice's Big Conservation Conversation."

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Civic Voice team say join us to say "I care about where I live"

Photograph: Joan Humble and others

Civic societies are at the heart of Civic Voice. It is your organisation. You will decide our priorities and benefit from our campaigns. We will help on the issues that matter to you. The majority of our trustees are elected by civic societies. Civic societies across the country are joining Civic Voice and building a new future for the civic movement. Be one of them.

By joining Civic Voice you are part a national civic movement, giving you a national voice.

Join Civic Voice today here.

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Anna Wilson’s Macmillan Mighty Hike

Photograph: Anna Wilson, Civic Voice Senior Development Officer for War Memorials

On September 2nd, Civic Voice team member Anna Wilson will be lacing up her hiking boots and joining hundreds of other walkers to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Known as a Macmillan Mighty Hike, Anna's challenge is to walk a marathon through the Peak District.

Anna said, "It's probably about 20 years since I hiked anything like 26 miles in a single day so it's definitely going to be a challenge! Knowing people have made a donation to support Macmillan will really help to spur me on to the finish line!'

If you'd like to make a donation please visit Anna's Just Giving page at Thank you!


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Membership News

This section of civic update aims to give you a snap shot of what our members are doing locally to promote civic pride in their area. If you are a member of Civic Voice and are proud of what you have done this week, email your story to

Join the movement!


Stamford Civic Society to explain why and how Stamford became the first conservation area

Photograph: Stamford Conservation Area designated in 1967

Stamford Conservation Area designated in 1967

In 1967 Stamford became the country’s first Conservation Area. Why and how did this happen and why was it so important then?

As part of the Stamford 50 local celebrations Stamford Civic Society is holding an exhibition which aims to answer these questions and looks at why conservation is still important today.

The exhibition will be held at Stamford Arts Centre, 20 – 28 September.

The exhibition will illustrate Stamford’s wonderful architectural heritage and highlight the role of national and local people in tackling the threats to historic environments, prevalent in the 1960s, of rapid development and heavy traffic. Memories of local people of the town before the Conservation Area came into being will be displayed.

Stamford needs to pay thanks to Lord Duncan Sandys, Chairman of Civic Trust and MP, who steered a Private Members’ Bill through Parliament. The Bill became law when the Civic Amenities Act was granted Royal Assent on 27 July 1967 and introduced the concept of Conservation Areas.

Read more here.

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Baroness Chakrabarti CBE unveiles plaque to commemorate John Ball - Colchester’s rebel cleric!

Photograph: Unveiling of plaque

Several years ago the John Ball plaque was removed from the wall of a house in John Ball Walk at the request of the resident, the plaque was put into storage and then lost. The Civic Society conducted a long search before it was finally located. The Society arranged for the plaque to be restored by stonemasons Collins and Curtis Masonry Ltd, who kindly refused payment. Libby Kirkby-Taylor from Colchester Borough Council and Geoff Beales from Colchester Borough Homes worked with Colchester Civic Society to find a suitable place for it. The John Ball plaque was re-erected on a new purpose built stand and will be back, exactly where it should be in John Ball Walk! This memorial is to one of the most important men in the history of Colchester.

This plaque was unveiled on Saturday 15th July 2017 at 4pm by the Bishop of Colchester and Baroness Chakrabarti CBE.

Read more here.

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Alnwick Civic Society land £6000 for publication to celebrate conservation area

Picture: Attractive ruined buildings

Alnwick Civic Society, in partnership with the town’s Museum, has landed £6,600 for a special publishing project. The project focuses on detailing the contributions made over the years by local people and organisations to the conservation and interpretation of the Ducal town of Alnwick’s architectural and townscape heritage.

As 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the creation of conservation areas in the UK, the booklet will commemorate this by showcasing the many heritage treasures of Alnwick’s own conservation area through the ages. Thanks to the grant aid and the project’s other two funders – Institute of Historic Building Conservation with Civic Voice and legacy funding from the North East Forum of Civic Societies – 2,000 copies will be made available at no cost for local groups, schools, residents and visitors.

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Regional War Memorials workshops

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Civic Voice is calling for volunteers from around England to attend a meeting or workshop with us to discuss how best to find and survey every war memorial.

Workshops will be announced throughout the year in different locations, so keep a look out for a workshop in your area! You can see them here.

If you can't attend a workshop why not get involved through our War Memorials Condition Survey Toolkit. This is an easy step by step guide which trains volunteers how to carry out condition surveys on war memorials. You can see this here!

For more information or to get involved email

Does your civic society want a visit from the chair of Civic Voice or perhaps you would like another trustee or member of the Civic Voice team to come and speak to your society? We have a number of people willing to come and talk to your society about all things civic.

Many of the Civic Voice team have been travelling the country delivering the talk which is titled 'The Future of the Civic Movement.' If you would like one of our trustees or team members to come and speak to your society please email with your request.