As we draw closer to the end of another ‘BIAS year’ – the AGM papers are included in this bulletin – it is pleasing to report on good progress on most of our current initiatives. The volunteers on ‘Brunel’s other Bridge’ (BOB) took a break during the winter months leaving the site clear for investigative work financed by the English Heritage grant that BIAS and our partners ‘salvaged’ so successfully. The exhibition at the Central Library did much to raise awareness of this project and we have also secured a programme slot in the next regional IA conference to further publicise the work. We now await our engineers’ reports and recommendations and need to make good use of this data to prepare a bid to the Heritage Lottery fund for the restoration and reuse of the bridge.
Another important achievement has involved our website where Maggie has now made available the text of the first 10 BIAS Journals, completed her work on The Ports of the Bristol Channel and also finished Work in Bristol (1883), the latter accomplished with many thanks to Bristol City Reference Library for the loan of the book and to the Museum of Bath at Work for scanning it. These initiatives will be of great value to researchers who have access to a computer and we are again in debt to Maggie for all of her hard work and expertise in this respect.
By the time of our AGM, the inaugural meeting of the Avon Industrial Heritage forum should have taken place and we will know whether other IA groups in old Avon County share the enthusiasm of BIAS and AIBT for the sort of partnership working that has been so successful on the BOB project. We have, however, been less successful with our Bristol gazetteer project and it is clear that we need to change the way that we gather information on the sites identified on our website before we prepare this for publication. Looking forward, I suggest that there are two important areas that we will need to address as soon as possible -succession planning and how we react to the changing environment in which BIAS operates. We need to secure the future leadership of BIAS with the appointment of our next chair and also to identify a vice chair who will assist this person and takeover. As regards the second area, things are changing rapidly as a consequence of austerity policies and reorganisation of local and national heritage services. If economy is now in sustained recovery, this will bring fresh pressure to bear on some of our surviving industrial buildings and’ brown- field’ sites. Your views on how we address these issues at the AGM (or by email to me beforehand) will be most welcome.