Sunday 29 November 2015

Record number of visitors at BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2015

Massed botanists at the 2015 Exhibition Meeting
Image: T. Swainbank  
Well I hope that everybody who contributed to the success of yesterday's BSBI Exhibition Meeting is enjoying a very well-deserved rest today. 205 botanists came together to share their passion for British and Irish wild plants, and every single one of them played a part in making this a day to remember. 

So we can justifiably call this our best attended Exhibition Meeting since records began: 182 people attended last year's Exhibition Meeting at University of Leicester and 192 at the Natural History Museum in 2013... 

Our next generation of botanists:
Ryan (on left) George (in the middle)
& Reuben (on right)
Image: K. Garnett
The eight talks and 44 exhibits were so amazing that I'm not going to try and summarise them here. They deserve several posts of their own and we will be uploading all the talks and as many as possible of the exhibits in the next few days so you can all see them, and sharing images of the more traditional exhibits, like the 5foot parsnip seedhead from Alan Leslie's Cambridge Miscellany. Not quite sure how to upload that ...

Perhaps the most notable feature of the meeting - and the one which gave me most pleasure - was seeing many of this country's most eminent botanists chatting away happily with less experienced botanists, whether newcomers to BSBI or younger botanists who are just getting started in their careers. And there were many more fresh young faces at this AEM than at any I can remember.

Having a go at John Poland's Plant ID Quiz
Image: L. Marsh
Throughout the day, many people came up to me, grinning from ear to ear, because they'd just exchanged comments with botanical "big names" like Clive Stace, Mick Crawley, Kevin Walker, Pete Stroh, Sandy Knapp, Tim Rich, Sarah Whild, Ian Denholm, David Pearman, John Poland, Eric Clement, Lynne Farrell, Paul Smith, Philip Oswald, Fred Rumsey, Arthur Chater, Ray Harley, Helena Crouch, Chris Metherell...  and found them all so friendly, helpful and approachable. 

I think we have finally laid waste the stereotype that great botanists are remote, dull and humourless! 

Ryan overcame his nerves and his talk about
BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt was a huge success
Image: A. Farrell
This year's Exhibition Meeting was a real testament to what can happen when we all work together. Members of BSBI's Meetings & Communications Committee and/or our new Membership Advisory Group worked with the team at the Natural History Museum, putting in a huge amount of work in advance and on the day - special mention goes to: 

Ryan, who designed the new BSBI banner which greeted visitors on arrival, exhibited a poster about BSBI's New Year Plant Hunt and calmed any nerves he may have been experiencing about giving a talk on the Plant Hunt later that day by turning up early to help lug in all the display boards and tables we needed! 

One of the historic orchid specimens
from the NHM herbarium, displayed
 on the 'Orchid Observers' stand
Image: T. Swainbank 
Kylie, who handled advance bookings and very nobly passed up the chance to hear most of the talks so she could (wo)man the Reception Desk for most of the day, ably assisted by her sister Natalie. 

Fred Rumsey at the Natural History Museum, who hosted this meeting for us, and colleagues Mike Waller (of 'Orchid Observers' fame) and Caroline Ware (of NHM Wildlife Garden fame). Fred handled all the organising at NHM's end, helped by Caroline and Mike, and his reward was to be rushed off his feet all day leading three fully-booked herbarium tours. 

Caroline's three guided tours of the NHM Wildlife Garden also proved very popular and people were delighted to find that there is so much to see there, even in November, and to hear that the Garden is open most of the year and free to enter. And to find out that Caroline is always happy to give fellow botanists a guided tour if you get in touch with her in advance to set a date.   

Waheed (on right) takes a break
 from manning the Reception
Desk to check out the exhibits
Image: T. Swainbank
Oli Pescott, George Garnett and Waheed Arshad - amazing young botanists, set to become the "botanical big names" of the future in my opinion, who were happy to turn up at silly o'clock to lug boards and tables or hand out exhibitor packs!

Special shout-out for another young botanist, Anna Farrell, who very kindly helped me transport material to the meeting - half the display boards would have been bare without Anna's help and nobody would have received a visitors' pack! 

All these people - and everyone who turned up on the day - helped to make this meeting a great success but there's one person who hasn't even been mentioned yet, even though his contribution over the past few years has turned BSBI into the kind of society which, as this year's Exhibition Meeting demonstrated, can welcome in younger members and beginner botanists and also retain the interest and involvement of all those botanical big names. 

So it was a bittersweet moment to see Ian Denholm, Co-Chair of Meetings & Communications Committee and BSBI President since June 2013, step down yesterday - as our Rules insist he must - and hand over to our new President John Faulkner, who was voted in unanimously at the Annual General Meeting, which was also held yesterday. Ryan tweeted:

The changing of the guard. steps down as president of , to be replaced by John Faulkner
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John will be no stranger to regular readers of this blog and having spent time recording in the field with him on a wet day in the Outer Hebrides - the best test I know of a botanist's true character! - my humble opinion is that he's a good'un - different style to Ian but that's the nice thing about a new President, they come in with new ideas and build on the achievements of their predecessorsI look forward to telling you more in the coming weeks about John and what he hopes to achieve as President.   

John Faulkner leading a field meeting to
Garry Bog, BSBI Summer Meeting 2015
Image courtesy J. Faulkner
He certainly has some big shoes to fill - just type Ian's name into the search box on the right to get an idea of some the fieldindoor and committee meetings that he has attended as President, the local groups he has enthused and the many times he has represented the society at outreach events and press launches

Ian now joins the ranks of eminent past Presidents such as David Allen, Clive Stace and David Pearman, all of whom were present yesterday as the society thanked Ian for his outstanding service over the past few years and looked forward to his ongoing contribution as Co-Chair of Meetings & Communications Committee and as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Well, you didn't think we'd just let him pootle off and look at orchids did you!   

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