On Saturday October 20th the National Trust is holding its Annual General Meeting at the wonderful STEAM Museum in Swindon, and the charity’s five million members are all invited to come along!
In reality, postal and online voting plus a live webcast mean that attendees will be counted in their thousands at best, but for those who do make their way to Swindon’s grand museum of the Great Western Railway it promises to be an enjoyable day of fascinating presentations and vigorous debates.
And we mean vigorous; National Trust members are nothing if not passionate about their beloved charity, not just a household name in Britain but the world’s biggest conservation body and Europe’s largest membership organization.
The 2018 AGM in Swindon will provide an opportunity to hear from the National Trust’s new Director-General Hilary McGrady who will report on the successes and challenges of the past year before opening the floor for members to debate a number of motions, including a resolution arguing that the Trust should no longer use barbed wire on its rural properties because of the danger it represents to wild animals like deer.
Membership of the National Trust reached five million for the first time in 2017. The organisation, which looks after historic homes and natural sites “for ever, for everyone”, had just 278,000 members when it began recording rates in 1970.
The charity’s chairman Tim Parker says the National Trust is “truly unique” because it looks after a vast array of historic places in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - from archaeological remains, coastlines and forests, to entire villages and even 39 pubs.
“The country's love affair with its heritage and great outdoors has never been stronger,” he says. “In the busy, noisy world we now live in perhaps it's never been more important to escape. A visit to a Trust property can be a real tonic - you get to see real beauty, not virtual beauty.”
The National Trust moved its national HQ from London to Swindon in 2005. Heelis, as the new building was christened, was the married name of Beatrix Potter, one of the key figures in the Trust’s early history. The landmark offices are barely a football pitch away from STEAM Museum and right next door to the Swindon Designer Outlet, one of Britain’s most popular shopping villages.
Heelis is recognized as one of the greenest office buildings in the UK, having carbon emissions 65% lower than similar developments, and has won more than a dozen prestigious awards including the RIBA Award for Sustainability and The Civic Trust’s Sustainability Award.
Located on the site of the former Great Western Railway works and set amongst former railway engineering sheds, the building is two-storey and deep-plan with pitched roofs and a façade of blue engineering brick, its design echoing the form of its neighbours. In keeping with the building’s green credentials, innovative use of materials include carpets made from wool from the Trust’s flocks of Herdwick sheep and ventilation snouts on the roof which come from recycled beer cans.
A locally sourced breakfast will be served at the Heelis café on the day of the AGM and a special afternoon tea will be available in the afternoon. And for a bit of heritage-themed retail therapy the National Trust shop will also be open from 10am to 5pm on the day.
Failing that, there are more than a hundred big brand stores and a huge food court next door at the Designer Outlet! All in all, October 20th is definitely a great day for National Trust members to visit Swindon.
Find out more:
National Trust Website