Mike Bone August 2015

It seems a long time since mid-February when I compiled my last report in advance of the last AGM. Much has happened in the meantime. We managed to complete our winter lectures at the Legion, overcoming problems with the acoustics, a computer failure and a short-notice change of speaker on the way, and we are now well into an attractive programme of summer visits. The AGM saw the retirement of Angus Buchanan, our first president, and the appointment of Geoff Wallis as his successor, as well as the publication of another substantial issue of our journal.

Away from Keynsham, the programme of investigations on ‘Brunel’s Other Bridge’ in Bristol, financed in the main by English Heritage, was completed in good time before the end of the financial year and was the subject of an excellent presentation and display at the regional IA conference held this year at Tiverton. The first meeting of the Avon Industrial Forum (now a ‘Partnership’ rather than ‘Forum’ at the suggestion the group) was very positive and we have been invited to the Underfall Yard for the second. When one recalls that we had to find replacements for the key committee posts of treasurer, secretary and membership secretary at the previous AGM, it is to the great credit of their replacements and the ‘old hands’ to have overseen such an achievement.

The first of our post-AGM committee meetings attempted an ambitious agenda. As regards our core activities, I’d welcome members’ comments on two issues: i) the print quality of the last journal – some members of the editorial team were critical of this- and ii) the acoustics at the Legion and our attempts to overcome difficulties of hearing. We are committed to this venue until the next AGM, but are exploring possible alternatives such as the new Fry Club on the old Cadbury’s site.

We also agreed to consider the following policy areas over the next year: the BIAS gazetteer, the one area where we failed to make any progress last year; future liaison with the four unitary authorities in old Avon County; a possible research agenda for BIAS and, finally, how to celebrate the 50th anniversary of BIAS in 2017. As always, your views and ideas on these will be welcome and with email are easy to send to me.

It is essential that we keep on top of our core activities and review major projects and policy but equally important that we look at strategy going into the more-distant future. To this end, Geoff Wallis got this debate off to a good start with a SWOT exercise (i.e. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats ) which will be followed up in early September at a special two-hour committee meeting dedicated to this. It was very helpful to have the responses of members who attended the last AGM that I could contact by email to the two questions that Geoff put to us in preparation for this task. Put very briefly, there was a surprising consensus across the replies – i) the age profile of the membership and its effect on BIAS activities was identified as the most serious threat to the future of the society and ii) threats to the known and little-known industrial heritage was seen as the most important local issue that we should address. Finally, digitisation of the first ten issues of BIAS Journal proved a very successful exercise and we would like to continue with issues 11-20 (1979-1988). We received no objections from past authors and editors when we announced the first stage of this initiative but I would be grateful if readers of this report could let me know of problems regarding the next ten issues. It would also be helpful if they could mention this to any authors that they know who from outside BIAS. The contents and contributors to these issues are listed on the BIAS website. We intend to do this when a very busy Maggie Shapland has time available.