Chairman Jimmy Burns’s address to Annual General Meeting at the Luis Vives Room, Spanish Embassy, London November 15th 2016
- Posted by British Spanish Society
- On November 17, 2016
As the Chairman of the BritishSpanish Society, it is a great pleasure to have you here at our Annual General Meeting and thankyou so much for coming. As a UK British registered charity , myself and my board of Trustees and our Executive Council members do not take our responsibility and accountability lightly and this meeting gives me and other trustees an opportunity to tell you what we are doing, and you and members and supporters an opportunity to raise any issues you believe contribute to have us better serve our mission.
Our successful Centenary programme this year led by our Flagship Royal Gala dinner earlier in the spring has demonstrated the huge affection and loyalty the Society generates among British and Spanish of all ages and professions, old and new members and other supporters, and our patrons, a huge source of encouragement for the future.
As at our foundation our Centenary coincided with a special commemoration of Shakespeare and Cervantes ,on the 4th centenary of their deaths , going to the heart of what the BrtishSpanish Society is about- sharing two great universal cultures, and honouring the most widely spoken languages in the free world.
I wanted to personally thank my fellow Trustees and EC members for their solidarity and endeavour as volunteers and also the tireless work our part-time, overworked, and underpaid admin staff- Virginia Cosano, Maria Soriano, and Alvaro Cepero who help keep our wheels well oiled and our admin , Revista distribution and events organisation in good shape while with patiently and good humour dealing with enquiries, request, and occasional complaints.
My sincere thanks and appreciation also go to the Society’s Honorary President, His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador Federico Trillo-Figueroa,and our honorary vice president , Her Majesty’s government’s ambassador’s Madrid , Siomon Manley, for their generosity, advice, and encouragement, not least in supporting important Centenary events in the UK and Spain. Thanks too to Fernando Villalonga, the Minister Councillor for Cultural and Scientific Affairs at the Spanish embassy who since his posting here just over a year ago has shown a huge enthusiasm for all that we do.
As I am sure most of you are now aware, the Instituto Cervantes has moved from this neighbourhood to new offices in the Strand which will mean no longer being able to share some events a couple of blocks away. However we are thankful to the many years we were able to enjoy joint events in Eaton Square, and I wanted to reassure you that Julio Crespo, the Direct of the Cervantes and I are at one in wanting to maintain a constructive cooperation between our respective organisations.
I am also delighted that in this Centenary year our patrons include individuals of long-standing membership and exemplary service with the Society like John Scanlan, and Lady Parker,who were among the recipients of our Life Time achievement Centenary awards, and other like Baroness Hooper , Lady Brennan, and former chairman Dame Denise Holt all of whom continue to provide huge moral support . And there is the Duke of Wellington and Randolph Churchill, iconic names whose presence at our Centenary celebrations was also much appreciated..
I said last year’s AGM that Our Centenary in 2016 would be a year to celebrate our achievement but also to set firm ground for the future- an opportunity and a challenge to boost our membership and corporate and institutional support.
So how have we done and where ae we going?
The Centenary year was a huge challenge, testing the resilience of our organisation in financial and administrative terms, requiring prudence but also creative ambition, and involving a great deal of hard work and good will and engagement -that of our volunteers, our membership, our admin, and our corporate and institutional supporters. Among my trustees I wanted to thank our Treasurer Juan Reig for controlling our budget, Carmen Young for leading the events programme, and Carmen Riesco and her company Istorikos for taking charge of a special website and composite video as a tool for promoting the Society to general audiences and potential audiences and a second more specialised video dedicated to our scholarship programme. Also Amy Bell deserves a special mention for maintaining the high standards of our magazine La Revista, as editor..
But a big thankyou to you the membership for helping us celebrate the Cenetary with your attendance at our events and with donations.
Goodwill was also shown by our partner organisations, who have helped us from advice and logistical support, to promotion of our events, and the recruitment of new members. They include the Society of Spanish scientific and Medical Researchers in the UK, (SRUK) the Anglo-Argentine and Anglo-Chilean Societies, ARTES, and the British Chamber of Commerce in Madrid and Barcelona, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in London, and the Brotish Council in Madrid and the Cervantes Instiute in London.
Over the year we developed the marketing, management and administration of our scholarship programme, in close partnership with our Principal Supporters- Ferrovial, BBVA, Santander, and Telefonica/O2 and MAHOU. This has continued to attract support from leading Spanish and British universities , and brought in increased applications from high quality post-graduate British and Spanish students on important subjects of research of benefit to Spain and the UK in range of fields from finance and engineering to medical and historical research.
During the last eight years, the BritishSpanish has awarded seventy postgraduate students (57 scholarships + 17 bursaries) in their pursuing of their projects and studies with the help of different corporate supporters. The majority of them are PhD candidates, with a few of them still at master’s level, mainly of Spanish nationality. Their studies focus mainly on medicine (11), history (10), engineering (8), literature and linguistics (9), politics and economics (6), music (6) with minor representation from other disciplines such as architecture and urban planning, physics, sociology and anthropology, film studies and marine archaeology. In addition, two of the BSS bursaries have been directed to assist awardees in either attending international meetings on their area of research or to cover the financial requirement of work placement in a children’s hospital in Madrid.
In addition to our long standing principal supporters,Santander BBVA, Telefonica02 and Ferrovial Aerpuertos in 2016 the BritishSpanish Society signed a new agreement with Mahou-San Miguel under which the centenary brewery agreed to fund a new Gastronomy Grant . The first grant went to a Spanish postgraduate student studying Plant sciences at the University of Cambridge .
In 2016, during our 9th edition, BSS granted 7 scholarships and in fields such as literature, history, geography, medicine, engineering and music. To commemorate our Centenary the charity was delighted to give this year a BRITISHSPANISH SOCIETY CENTENARY GRANT: to LUCÍA VEINTIMILLA MACIÁN. She is doing a Master Degree in Violin Performance at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her project aims to bring innovative chamber music performances to children who are studying Spanish in London schools as well as those studying at the Spanish Institutes in the city.
The Centenary helped us build relations with companies who helped us with sponsorship, facilities and advertising in La Revista. Our agreement with the Universidad de Navarrra included sponsorship of a prize for the best written article in our magazine La Revista, and the support of a work experience student in communications.
Our events programme expanded its horizons over the year both in the UK and Spain.
Early in the year the Society invited a distinguished panel to discuss 100 years of cultural relations between the UK and Spain under the title holding up the Mirror. Profesor Paul Preston, Miles Johnson from the Financial Tines, Chris Bryant MP, John Carlin of El Pais, the author and journalist Ana Romero, and our official historian Luis Martinez de Camp discussed how the cultures of both countries have been richly intertwined, with both countries regarding each other with great affection, while casting an occasional constructively critical glance.
Our exclusive visit to the Spanish art collection Sotheby’s, the Chelsea Flower Show, summer party at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in London ,and autumn reception at the British ambassador’s residence in Madrid all proved occasions of encounter and dialogue for our members. And recently the Centenary concert with tribute to Granados and Goya and jointly sa organised with the Guildhall School of Music proved a memorable celebration of a great composer and a great painter, as well as an opportunity to hear for the first time fine new musical talent, led by Spaniards and British students.
The highlight of the year was of courseour Royal Gala Df Dinner at the Dorchester last April attended by our speciall guests Queen Sofia of Spain and His Royal Highness the Duke of York and over 450 members and supporters.
Queen Sofia praised the work of the Society of which she said “has become a spiritual bridge between our two peoples through the interaction of our intellectuals and artists in all areas of education and culture.”
Prince Andrew highlighted the close ties between t UK and Spain and said that the countries’ work together was only the “the tip of the iceberg of what they can do together globally.”
It was similar honour to receive a letter by special emissary from Her Majesty Queen Eizabeth congratulating the BritishSpanish Society on its centenary and wishing us all the best for the future.
Part , present and future were gathered as Spaniards and British from variety of backgrounds and professions marked the occasion during which we also made several awards to individuals and instutions who have made and contknue a special contribution to strengetneing the culuta tise between the two countries in recentdecades. Those honuureded ranged included the great ballet dancer Tamara Rojo , the flamenco artist Paco Pena two top scientists, and volunteers for their work among the Spanish immigrant community , the Cananad Blanch Foundation and the British Council.
La Revista Our bilingual cultural magazine La Revista continued to raise the quality and variety of its content and design ,with a special Centenary ssiue refelectong on the rih and variefd hisototuy of the Society, and highlighlighyong the key momemnnts from 1916 to 2016, and special articles on Cervantes and Shalapesraree, and the enduring linls between the BRotish and Spanish Roya families.
Our more recent issue could not but take into account the the UK referendum vite to leave the the EU, govingha voice to Spanish anglophiles and Brish hispaniles and hearing their concerm for the future.
But as aways, and escapcially inthese unftretain timnes, the goal of La Revista is to cekebrate collaboration and the creativity that comes from shared culture and experience-led the up and coming Spaish stars bringing their artistic talent to the UK, and the positive experience Brotish who moved to Spain years ago-with their sense of humour, their opennes , their tolerance, their acceptance of and genuine love for their adopted country.
Brexit or no Brexit, Brexit tough or Brexit light,
The Society is alive and well and ready for another one hundred years-so our membership figures reflect as they continue to grow every month. We now have close to 800 members, double our figure some five years ago, and new entrants in recent months continue to well outpace cancellations,of which almost all are not a protest vote but the result of changed personal and financial circumstances.. A recent analysis made by one of our Tustees Jose Ivars shows a very poistuve demographic balance is being achieved across all age groups between thirty and over seventy. 23 per cent of our current membeship is aged thirty to 39, and 36 per cent over 60, the rest in between . These figures suggest a hopeful sign for the future as well as a vote of enduring loyalty.
We do not rest on our laurels. The increased membership- both individual and corporate- over the year and an increase in donations has benefited from a Centenary bounce. Our public profile has been raised substantially as was demonstrated by the wide media coverage in the Spanish press and on platforms like the British Council site prior to and after our Centenary Gala dinner.
It t will be huge challenging to maintain the momentum of the last year. Regretably one of our principal supooirters ince 2008 Ferrovial announced just two days that huge admirkng the workl we do and happy with our years of collaboration they would no longer be funding of our scholarship next year because of changes on their international strategic planning and reduced expenditure on non-core items.
However we are actively seeking new corporate supporters and expect not only to comsildate yr current indvidual membership but also see it continue to actively grow, not just in the UK but in Spain where our membership still lags behind that of our main concentration in London and the Home counties.
Our key achievement and a source of some pride is our ability to continue to support our Scholarship and Bursaries Programme. This is the best example of our positive impact in society as a charity. It is an opportunity to honour the talent of Spanish and British post-graduate students who with their research and work are contributing to a better future for themselves and the society in which they live in as responsible and valuable citizens.
Our priority is if possible expand the number of scholarships and bursaries we give out each year. Therefore, we will continue to encourage companies and institutions to fund the programme through their participation as principal supporters. We shall also continue to offer companies the opportunity of helping sponsor our Events Programme, and to raise their profile further with our expanding British-Spanish community through their appearance in our publications and website. But I do ask our members and especially our patrons to think how they can help better support the Society; nit just attending events, but by also by recommending and enlisting more members, helping us engage business partners, and also making donations or indeed become an individual sponsor or patron of a scholarship or scholar.
Following the move of the Cervantes Insiite, we have ourselves had to move our address to new temporary rented offices. Again I appeal for support in helping us secure better premises on a low or free rent that would save costs and improve our administration
In the challenging world in which we live, where budgets have to be carefully controlled, we will continue to exercise careful management of our expenditure. However, we also need to secure the support we need in order not to regress as an organisation To stay exactly where we are or cut back to where we were, say seven years years ago when we were facing a financial crisis, would risk undermining the quality of what we deliver, and with it, a gradual fall-off in interest and support for the Society just when it is most needed.
For all the upset and uncertainty created by the British EU referendum result and the US elections, there is a huge opportunity for the BrotishSpanish Spvietyu to do what it does best-engage in dialogue, heal divisions, encourage openness and creativity, being permeable and fluid in our learning from each others, we British and Spanish, forging ever deeper bonds through culture and education . Please do keep supporting and spread the word. We never had more need of each other.
Having moved part of secretarial team to temporary office space, one of our main logistical as well as budgetary challenges in our Centenary year will be securing adequate office and secretarial organisation after the Cervantes Institute, where we have had an address until now, moves out of Eaton Square to new premises. The Trustees are discussing various options for the future while remaining open to ideas from friends and supporters. Our aim is to secure new office arrangements that allow us to function cost-effectively as an organisation.
With our centenary year now with us, we believe there has never been a better time to be a member of the BritishSpanish Society. We count on the enduring support of those who are with us already, while hoping to attract, along with new members, new sources of funding including new sponsors and donations.
To summarise, Our Aims and Objectives for 2016-17
Increase corporate and individual membership
Renew agreements with Principal Supporters and attract one or two new ones
Preserve the variety and quality of our Events Programme
Continuing improvement of design, editorial contact, advertising, and distribution of La Revista with aim of making it self-financing
Move to new office location and improve administrative arrangements
Improve marketing so that more people find out about us, and those who know us already appreciate and respond to what we do.
Ultimately the survival of this charity like any organisation depends on its ability to look onwards as well within itself
Which is why we are bringing in nrew mebers to our Eexective Council with new talents and expertise and fresh ideas. But the Society not exist if it was not for you the membership and it is you the members who should help guide is on how best to deliver on our mission. In the coming days we shall be asking our members to fill in a questionnaire aimed at helping us identify strengths and weaknesses in our organisation so we can aim to continue to make of this charity something truly worthwhile supporting