17 May 2003

There was a much improved turnout for the members' meeting this year compared with 2002. Numbers were swelled by members who had joined the Institution since the beginning of last year, who had been individually invited to the meeting by Nancy Catchpole.

After welcoming those present, and especially the newer members, Nancy began the meeting with a brief introduction to the history of BRLSI and went on to draw attention to 3 major happenings later this year _ the publication of the William Smith memoir, the reinstallation of the Casali paintings and the 10th Anniversary of the revival of BRLSI. Andy Pepperdine then talked about the programme of events _ there had been nearly a hundred in 2002, and 90 were already committed before the end of this year. Notable forthcoming events included a special lecture series to mark the anniversary, and the second annual Poetry Competition, which had attracted a much bigger response this year. He gave particular thanks to the Conveners of the Discussion Groups and other volunteers, and invited more volunteering of all kinds.

Rodney Tye described how the financial settlement from the former Avon County Council had been dealt with, and referred to the appointment of Messrs Rowans as the Institution's financial advisers. He gave key figures from last year's accounts and a brief projection into 2003/04, and reported on valuations of the premises. John Lewis then talked about developments in the collections and the wide range of work done by volunteers, whom he credited individually. He gave some interesting examples of how the collections were contributing to academic research, internationally as well as in this country.

Bob Draper then invited those present to say what they wanted from the Institution. Two of the main themes to emerge were whether the programme could include more arts topics, and how to attract younger people to events. Newer members (who were not necessarily younger!) brought some valuable ideas to the discussion. One offered to lead some meetings on poetry, and another expressed a wish for post-theatre discussions and perhaps play-reading. Another new member suggested that the University Students Unions be invited to nominate someone to the Programme Committee. It was suggested that there should be more talks about aspects of the collections, and also that workshops for children be devised, based on artefacts from the collections, as was done in other museums and galleries. As to what had attracted them to BRLSI in the first place, several new members agreed that it was the diversity and quality of the programme, and they hoped that it would remain serious and rigorous.

Running through the whole of the meeting was the recognition that the Institution only exists through the contributions made by scores of volunteers, who have an amazing breadth of skills, and we can never have too many of them!

Angela Ould