Civic Voice

01 December 2010

“Nowhere should be without its civic society and no-one should be without the voice you can provide”   HRH The Prince of Wales, Oct 2009

Following the extensive consultations of the Civic Society Initiative, reported previously, the new national charity for the civic movement was launched in London on April 17th  2010.  It is called Civic Voice.  To quote their website “Civic Voice is the national charity for the civic movement. We make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive. We promote civic pride.”

The civic movement is one of the largest social groups in the country, based on a network of more than a thousand local civic and amenity societies totalling over 250,000 individual members. (The first civic society was founded in the 1840s. The Old Guildford Society was established in 1897.)            

Individual societies are fiercely independent, and many have built up expertise within their ranks and local influence. Beyond this, there is a need for a central body to gather and disseminate relevant information and ideas and to provide advice when needed.  It is important that there is a strong national voice to represent the views and wishes of the societies to decision makers in government, business, the media and elsewhere.    

The vision of Civic Voice is that by 2015 everyone will live somewhere of which they can be proud.  It intends to be active on the national, city and local stages, working in partnership with various other national organisations across the UK, and enabling the civic movement to reach more places and benefit people from all walks of life.  It hopes to establish a reputation and authority which will make it the automatic choice for consultation of those seeking to develop, conserve or interpret the character of our towns and villages.  It will inform, advise, and act on behalf of communities everywhere.  Network partnerships with the RSA, Heritage Alliance, Community Sector Coalition, Public Realm Information Advice and National Trust have already been established and meetings held with several Ministers.  Kay Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, gave strong support to Civic Voice in her first speech in the House of Lords.

Civic Voice will lead national campaigns, working through local groups and societies. Its Street Pride campaign aims to make places more attractive and enjoyable by removing unnecessary street clutter (Save Our Streets); and the Love Local campaign seeks to champion what makes people proud about where they live.  It has the support of the Prime Minister and his deputy. The reform of the land use planning system, the importance of Blue Plaques, High Speed Rail 2 and the future of coastal towns are all issues on the current campaigning agenda.

Civic Voice is a small, grass-roots organization, seeking to raise its funds through membership to guarantee its independence.  Its core members are civic societies (like The Guildford Society), amenity and other local groups, who pay an annual capitation fee of £1.50 per ordinary member, up to a limit of £500.  Individuals can also join, as can other organisations, business and public sector bodies.  Membership now stands at over two hundred societies. Many societies have shown interest but have delayed joining until they see what they will gain by doing so.  They need to be encouraged to think also in terms of what they can contribute to the civic movement and the wider community.  At a time of renewed political interest in localism and the benefits of empowering communities, the civic movement can be central to supporting and developing the sense of identity and belonging that comes from positive feelings about the places where people live. 

The Chairman of Civic Voice is Paula Ridley, CBE, Hon FRIBA , formerly a Chairman of the Trustees of the V&A Museum, who has been involved with the civic movement for over 30 years.  Tony Burton, Hon FRIBA, is the Director, having left the National Trust, where he was Director of Strategy, to take up the challenge of recreating a national organisation following the demise of the Civic Trust.

David Bunting and Gillian Cameron maintain contact with Civic Voice on behalf of the Guildford Society. Please contact either of them if you would like to seek further information or receive Civic Sense, the informative e-newsletter produced by Civic Voice.  

As a benefit to all members of civic societies which join Civic Voice, a once-off free pass for two persons to a National Trust property is available. Details can be obtained from the society secretary.

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