AGM 2022 – Convener’s Report

Annual General Meeting
25th April 2023
Convener’s Report

[The following Convener’s Report is the text of the submission to OSCR – the Scottish Charity Regulator – and highlights the activities and news from the Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace presented at the AGM on 25th April, 2023]

It is customary to begin the Convener’s report by stating the aims of Friends of John Muir Birthplace (FoJMB) as given in our constitution. These aims are:

  • to advance the education of the public concerning John Muir, as the Dunbar-born pioneer of world nature conservation, and his belief in the unique and irreplaceable value of wild places and wild creatures;
  • to implement John Muir’s philosophy practically by conserving, restoring and enhancing landscape and wildlife in East Lothian and Scotland;
  • to support the ongoing work of the John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust and the staff of John Muir’s Birthplace.

As reported in the past two Convener Reports [April 27th 2021[1] and April 28th 2022[2]] the COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictions it imposed, had a major, detrimental, impact on our ability to further the above objectives. Even though many of these restrictions were lifted since the last AGM, the lack of face-to-face activities coupled with the realignment of many peoples’ priorities has meant that there is little to report upon in terms of Friends’ engagement with its membership. As Convener this lack of direct activity is, ultimately, my responsibility for which I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise.

However, the FoJMB representation on the John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust (JMBCT) – Liz McLean as the nominated FoJMB Trustee, Jacquie Bell as the nominated Dunbar Community Council nominee and myself as a co-opted Trustee – has been a very important contribution to that Trust. The latest JMBCT Convener’s Report [linked off the About JMBCT page[3]] gives insight to the scale of the efforts that the East Lothian Council’s Museum Service staff and the Trustees contribute to the vitality and viability of the Birthplace. 

The FoJMB online presence on its website[4] and social media channels – Facebook[5] and Twitter[6] – and platforms like Zoom remain important resources to support its activities. E.g.:

  • Delivering a limited programme of talks and other events on John Muir and environmental topics. 
  • Publishing regular news items and blog posts containing items regarding John Muir, environmental issues and the work of JMB and related organisations; published and promoted on its website and through social media.
  • Liaising (mostly virtually) with people and organisations of influence both locally and nationally. Including: John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust; Sustaining Dunbar; North Light Arts; John Muir Trust; Scottish Communities Climate Action Network; VisitScotland; US National Parks Service.

Sustaining Dunbar[7] (SD) – a local community development trust – continues to collaborate closely with FoJMB and have been instrumental in the organisation, and support, of the ‘What If’ network[8] of local groups that are tackling many of the challenges identified in our John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe (JMEPU) exhibition.[9] These exhibition panels were also on display in SD’s Wellbeing Economy Event[10] of January 31st that attracted over 100 people to welcome guests from the International Class at Flensburg University[11] and to hear presentations from Dr. Katherine Trebeck and Prof. Iain Black who shared their ideas for how we can take more control of our local economic future through community action towards creating ‘wellbeing economies’ – which put people and planet first.

As reported in the last year’s Convener’s Report[2] our collaboration with SD also resulted in a What Next for John Muir’s Birthplace?[12] online ‘conference’ on March 24th, 2021 as part of their What If? series. Although little progress has been made on developing the following themes since then it is something that is still a crucial aspiration and it is hoped that we will have progress to report back on, or before, the date of next AGM. The themes are:

  • What role does John Muir’s Birthplace play in the life of the town and the High Street?
  • What can we learn from John Muir’s life and legacy to support and inspire us?
  • What role for the Birthplace in supporting the transition to a better future for all of us?

Given one of our major aims is to support the ongoing work of the John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust and the staff of John Muir’s Birthplace we are also currently working with them on their plans to augment and refresh the JMB top floor exhibition area to incorporate content that highlights the climate challenges that affect us all and how we can all help to mitigate these challenges. One motivation for producing the plans and themes for this ‘refresh’ is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Birthplace as it first opened its doors on 23rd August 2003 and to have the new content in place for its 21st anniversary in 2024.

I’d like to thank all my fellow Council members – past and present – for their tireless efforts in promoting Friends and the Birthplace. The challenges posed by COVID-19 and its aftermath have been substantial and have in the recent past severely limited our ability to engage with the membership through face-to-face meetings and activities. I sincerely hope that in the year(s) ahead we will be reinvigorated and will rise to the challenges that have been identified in our JMEPU exhibition and in the refresh of the Birthplace exhibition content. 

Best wishes.

Signed:   Duncan Smeed         

Date: 25th April 2023













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