Sunday, 24 November 2013

Phew, what a day! 

Well, the AEM is all over and I think we can say it was a huge success. 

From left: Nichola Hawkins (Wildflower Society)
and Cambridge botanist Monica Frisch
The Flett Theatre at the NHM was jam-packed - we are perhaps a victim of our own success here? - with 192 botanists coming through the door to see 31 exhibits and hear our seven speakers. 

This looks like the highest attendance of any AEM in recent years. 

One scheduled speaker - Jill Sutcliffe - had notified us that she was unable to attend due to illness, so we were fortunate that exhibitor Jonathan Mitchley had agreed to step in and fill the gap. He then managed to delete his presentation minutes before he went onstage and had to improvise his entire talk! Amazingly, he managed to do this, including giving us a snatch of the Song of the Poaceae (a family of grasses green and wonderful!) Check out the video here

Richard Lansdown (centre)
A few highlights: the ID "Help!" table (on right) which attracted experts (like aquatics Referee Richard Lansdown) who could help people identify their plants. 

You can also just see another highlight on the left - a poster by Jodey Peyton about collaboration between BSBI and CEH.
Click on images to enlarge them. We are hoping to put as much AEM material  - abstracts and presentations - as possible up on the website. Details to follow.

Best bit for me: seeing Margaret Perring, widow of our late President Frank Perring, who did so much to encourage outreach before it was even called outreach! 

From left: Gwynn Ellis, Margaret Perring,
Charles Turner and new member Kristina Herz.
Frank was the driving force behind setting up the Wildlife Trusts, and tribute was paid to him by keynote speaker Brian Eversham, Chief Exec of the Beds - Cambs - Northants Wildlife Trust. Frank's obituary, by Chris Preston and Philip Oswald, says "A constant theme running through his career was his desire to communicate his love of botany and belief in the necessity of plant conservation outward to new audiences". 

The photo (on left) shows Margaret Perring with our Membership Secretary Gwynn Ellis, Cambridge botanist Charles Turner, an active BSBI member since 1959, and new member Kristina Herz, one of several botanists who joined the society at the AEM.

Feedback forms are coming in - what we did well ( most of it!) and what we could do even better (some great ideas for the next AEM!). Having done feedback breakdowns for other BSBI events, where equal numbers of people say "teabreaks too long" and "teabreaks too short", I know we can't please everybody all the time! 

Breakdowns on the Tube caused a few problems and apparently some people called Beckham were in the Museum that day, which made it difficult to elbow through the throng and nip to the cafe for a quick cup of tea and a bun!

Any venue selected has its own advantages and disadvantages, but it looks like an honest appraisal of the AEM will be: 90% brilliant day for botanists, beginner or expert; 5% room for improvement: BSBI members have good suggestions for this; 5% wishlist/impossibilities. 

John Poland (left), Brian Eversham (right)
In this latter category I would place the 7 people who, after the AGM in Beaumaris, responded to the "What can we do better" question with "arrange better weather". Still working on that one...

But it's becoming a tradition on this Blog for me to show you a pic of the "post-event debrief" and next year, we are wondering about booking some space so more of us can eat, drink, relax and chat after the event. Like Brian Eversham and John Poland!