Record voting expected in National Trust AGM, as Chair pledges long-term commitment to the protection of nature and cultural heritage
- 11 November 2023
- Last updated:
- 11 November 2023
Participation in the National Trust’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) this year is expected to hit record levels, as members meet today to discuss the charity’s work and direction.
The National Trust’s Chair, René Olivieri, will look to the charity’s past as the key inspiration for its current work and future direction, in his keynote speech to members gathered at the Steam Museum in Swindon and attending online. Drawing on the National Trust’s foundation in response to the pressures of the industrial revolution, he will highlight three major stages in the Trust’s history as being critical to its development: firstly, the preservation of iconic landscapes and green spaces from the end of the 19th century; the salvation of country houses from destruction in the wake of the Second World War; and Operation Neptune, the campaign to save Britain’s coastline from development in the 1960s.
René Olivieri will say: “The best way to renew our purpose is to look back at where we have come from. Our history shapes who we are and what we will become. Without imagining and caring about our heritage and how we pursued our founders’ aims through the years, we may lack the understanding, the inspiration and the vision to create a better future for those who follow us.”
The Chair will also reflect in his speech on the importance of charities earning and maintaining high levels of trust as being critical to being able to fulfil their purpose, saying: “No charity can take trust for granted. At the National Trust, we know we must work every day to maintain the trust of our members and of the nations we serve. In my view, the best way we can maintain and grow trust is by our actions: by delivering, day in and day out, on the ground - in our landscapes, our gardens, our houses and our collections. Our record levels of spending on conservation projects this last year, from the mammoth to the minute, is just one of the ways we are doing this.”
The Chair’s comments come after a recent poll published by More in Common and UCL Policy Lab showed the Trust to be amongst the nation’s most trusted institutions and reported that levels of trust are continuing to grow, gaining 7 points in the last year.
Civica Election Services, the National Trust’s independent services provider for the AGM, has indicated that a record turnout in attendance and voting participation could be expected this year. In each of the last two years, approximately 130,000 National Trust members have taken part, either by voting in advance of the meeting, or by attending the AGM in person or online.
Director-General Hilary McGrady will use the AGM to recap on significant moments from the year, such as His Majesty the King’s visit to Erddig, the extension of the Castlefield Viaduct pilot, and the invaluable contribution of the Trust’s tens of thousands of volunteers. She will also reflect on the importance of partnership work to achieving the Trust’s charitable goals. The National Trust has worked in close partnership this year with RSPB and WWF to promote the People’s Plan for Nature and with the two nature charities and the BBC on the TV show Save our Wild Isles.
Hilary McGrady said: “The beauty of the Trust is that it is an extraordinary act of shared endeavour. Nearly six million people, joining forces, caring for places for people to enjoy now and for ever. We can achieve so much more by coming together than one person ever could and this is true for organisations too.
“This year has brought home to me the huge importance of working in partnership with like-minded charities, communities and bodies. In spring, just down the road from where we are today in the Steam Museum, we planted a circle of beautiful blossom trees in the GWR Park. A joint effort with South Swindon Parish Council, Historic England and Swindon Borough Council, these trees brought nature and beauty into the heart of Swindon for people to enjoy. It’s just one of the many moments from this year I look back on with joy, and I look forward to reflecting on these with members later today.”
At this year’s AGM, National Trust members will vote on a number of member-proposed resolutions, and elect people to the National Trust Council. The Council plays an important role in how the Trust is governed, appointing the members of the Board of Trustees and monitoring and supporting their work.
Previous AGMs have been held in Harrogate, Bath, Cardiff and Nottingham to enable members from across the country to have the opportunity to attend a meeting in person. In 2021, the Trust’s members voted for AGMs to become hybrid events where people could join both in person and online. All National Trust AGMs are now held in this format.
Following the keynote speeches from the Chair and Director-General, members will hear reports from around the National Trust on topics ranging from historic gardens, to rivers, to volunteering. Guest speakers include historian Alice Loxton, who will discuss the importance of engaging young people with history, and Catherine Johnstone CBE, CEO of the Royal Voluntary Service, who will speak about the challenges and opportunities facing the UK voluntary sector. The AGM will pause at 11am to observe the two minutes silence as a mark of respect to those who have lost their lives in conflict.