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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 20th March 2009
Ripon Civic Society’s Annual Awards need the input of young people, says David Winpenny, the Society’s Chairman

As Easter approaches the committee members of Ripon Civic Society begin to look with even more attention than usual at the city’s buildings. It’s not that they have been copped up all winter and need to get out more; they have been vigilant on behalf of the city all through the dark winter months, as they are through the days of summer. But Easter is the date when they begin to consider the Society’s annual awards. They are on the lookout for possible candidates.

Since last year’s awards we have entered very different economic waters. The calm sea and prosperous voyage of the last few years, which meant that developers were able sail on in the knowledge that whatever they built would find a buyer eager to jump aboard, have been blown away in an economic hurricane. So, whereas at this time last year the Committee was faced almost with too much choice, this year there may well be a much slimmer choice.

The value of awards from Civic Societies was underlined at a meeting in Harrogate at the beginning of this month. Representatives from both Yorkshire and North West got together in a weekend of training sessions on subjects like new legislation, conservation areas, environmental law, and recruiting new members. One of the sessions was led by the chairman of Blackpool Civic Society, Elaine Smith. She described told how their annual awards had over the last few years raised the society’s profile and helped to increase membership.

Blackpool’s awards have not been running as long as Ripon’s; the experiences of both societies have been similar, and much of the administration is the same, too. Ripon has more silverware to present to its winners, and more categories to judge – both a largely a result of the length of time the awards have been given. Blackpool has, like Ripon, tried to involve local people outside the society in nomination buildings for awards – and with the same limited success.

One idea of great value came from the Blackpool talk. Every year Blackpool Civic Society insists on involving a number of young people from local secondary schools in determining the winners of the awards. The society writes to the schools and invites two or three to join the awards committee – and their input helps determine the outcome of the committee’s deliberations. After all, as Elaine Smith said, they are the future of the place, and they need to be involved in how it will look in years to come.

In Ripon we hope to take this excellent idea on board for this year’s awards; we shall make approaches to the schools – but we should also be very pleased to hear from any young people who would like to be involved. If you are interested in helping with the awards, please e-mail info@riponcivicsociety.org.uk. Ripon Civic Society give free membership to anyone up to the age of 18 (a fact that seemed to impress quite a lot of the people on at Harrogate meeting, and one that they might take back to their own societies!).

The Society also welcomes suggestions for buildings and projects in the city that might qualify for awards – they much have been completed within the 12 months up to Easter. The categories are:
• Best New Building
• Best Restored Building
• Best Environmental Improvement
• Craftsmanship Shield
• Award for the Best Shop Front
• Sustainability Award for a building that uses sustainable methods

More information is available on the Society’s Awards on the website: www.riponcivicsociety.org.uk

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