There was an informal meeting of Council Members at Sulgrave, yesterday (Monday 30 October) that was held as advance preparation for the scheduled Council Meeting to be held in early December. Not surprisingly, its purpose was to discuss views and opinions regarding ‘The Future of the Herb Society’. Seven Council Members were able to attend, the Society’s Administrator, ‘Flick’ Kingston acted as Minute Secretary, and we were fortunate to have the guidance of Jenny Jones’s husband, David, who is a professional Management Consultant.
At the Meeting, it was formally announced that SUE MINTER had kindly agreed to be co-opted on to Council as from next July, and to offer herself for election to Council as a full member at the Society’s AGM in September 2008. Assuming that the AGM accepts her candidature, Sue has said that she would be willing to be elected Chairman of Council at its first meeting in the following November. (Needless to say, it should be clearly understood that this is NOT a “done deal”, and that other candidates may also offer themselves for election to Council and then for subsequent election to become its Chairman.)
I am sure that Members will be delighted to be informed of this very welcome development at such a difficult time for the Society. Sue Minter is one of leading professionals in the UK ‘Herbal World’: she is well-known, she is held in high regard both nationally and internationally, and she has a most impressive track record of service to the advancement of herbal knowledge. Furthermore, Sue is fully aware of the problems that we are currently facing and is committed to applying herself to help resolve them.
Of the various issues discussed at the meeting, the following outcomes are probably of particular interest to Forum Readers. However, note that they are not yet ‘official policy’ until decisions to implement them (or to explore them further) are taken at formal Council Meeting.
1. The possible Merger with Garden Organic (aka HDRA, Ryton; which would have perpetuated the Society in another form) is now regarded as a very remote option, and so negotiations are to be suspended in the hope that we can solve our financial problems.
2. Despite the considerable losses associated with the publication of ‘Herbs’, the Society’s journal, the number of issues is to be maintained at four (as now) for the time being.
3. Returning to profitable status. For the past six years (at least!), the Society’s expenditure has exceeded its income. To avoid financial collapse, we MUST increase our income or resort to further reductions in expenditure (with consequent curtailment of services to Members). Various options for doing this were considered and the following (in no set order) were selected for urgent examination:
...(a) increase membership numbers (possibly by recruiting more practitioners, as amplified below);
...(b) contact marketing agencies with a view to contracting the merchandising ‘Herb Society Products’ (possibilities include branded clothing, table and kitchen ware, cosmetics, herb seeds and labels, etc);
...(c) provide a Speakers List, to be available online and by post, whereby organisations (Rotary Clubs, Garden Clubs, etc) could book HS Speakers for their meetings in return for a donation/collection for the Society plus the Speakers expenses and an opportunity to promote the Society;
...(d) for the HS to organise its own occasional, high-profile, charity lectures/demonstrations to be given by our leading members with the specific purpose of fund-raising and promoting the Society.
4. Returning to Our Roots. When the Society was founded by Mrs Leyel in 1927, its main purpose was to ensure that the members had access to treatment by Herbal Medicine. Subsequently, because of the formalisation of the training of practitioners and the creation of professional bodies to provide for their specialised interests, this exceedingly important dimension of the HS has diminished over the years. Even so, our meeting agreed that the Society is UNIQUELY PLACED to undertake at least two key roles:
...(a) to develop discourse centred on the patient-practitioner interface with respect to the use and efficacy of Herbal Medicines and Home Remedies; and
...(b) to facilitate interrelationships and promote dialogue between the different traditions of Herbal Medicine (Western, Ayurvedic, Chinese, Tibetan, etc).
By raising the profile of Herbal Medicine in UK Society through these and other ways, the HS will be fulfilling its defining Statutory Objects: “To promote the education of the public and to benefit the community by promoting, improving and increasing by all practicable methods, the knowledge and use of herbs in the preservation of the community and the prevention of disease.”
Hopefully practitioners of all persuasions will be attracted to join the Society when they become aware of our intentions.
Two HS events already booked in and being planned for 2008 are in keeping with these objectives:
...(a) on Sunday 1 June, Jenny Jones the lead organiser for a ‘Herb Day’ to be held at Garden Organic, Ryton; and
...(b) ‘Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice’ is a day (Sunday 29 June) at the University of Reading with morning talks and an afternoon garden tour that is being organised by Ann Walker in collaboration with Professor Philip John (Plant Sciences) and Professor Liz Williamson (Pharmacy).
5. Intra-Society Communication (E-mail Contact List). The meeting agreed that TOP PRIORITY should be given to setting up a Contact List for group communication by e-mail across the entire Membership (with fax and post being used where Internet facilities are not available). It would provide the Society with low-cost, instant contact with its members for all manner of purposes: HS news, ‘herb news’, members’ news, appeals for help, reminders for events, thanking volunteers, etc, etc. (This innovation could used to complement ‘Herbs’ and certainly not to subvert it.)
There is an incomplete listing of e-addresses (only 354 out of a possible 1,300 in the HS Membership Database, and so all members will be asked to provide this information by returning a flier to be included with the February Number of ‘Herbs’; important details such as proficiency in potentially useful skills and willingness to volunteer time and services will also be requested. (It would be helpful and very much appreciated if Forum Readers would kindly supply me with any such information in advance of returning the flier; please send it to: HS Contacts [EDIT. The email address give here was for a company run by a council member and has therefore been deleted - it is suggested that members should only send their email addresses to the Herb Society administrator at email@example.com] )
By providing Forum Readers with the above information, the Council Members hope that it will help generate some optimism with respect to the Future of the Herb Society and dispel the negativity and depression that has pervaded the Forum in recent weeks. Reversing the Society’s downward trend of failing finance and falling membership is going to require considerable input from EVERYONE, not just Council Members and our few dedicated Volunteers. (PLEASE do not “look the other way” when asked to do something or when you receive an appeal for help!)
The successful outcome of our endeavours will reward us with the satisfaction and fulfilment of knowing that our combined efforts have ‘saved’ the Society and that it is going to be there for future generations of Herb Enthusiasts.
(And lastly, if you have any of your own suggestions for improving things, or any special skills that you feel could be utilised, please do not wait to return the flier but let us know at your earliest convenience by e-mailing me at the above address.)
There you are!
You have had some REALLY GOOD NEWS today!
SMILE AND ENJOY IT!
And be sure to SHARE IT with others!
This message has been edited by herbsociety from IP address 126.96.36.199 on Oct 31, 2007 8:47 PM
Re: NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS!
November 1 2007, 7:27 AM
When I put up the above posting, I was acting at the specific request of the Chairman of the Herb Society Council and the Council Members who attended the meeting at Sulgrave on Tuesday 30 October.
Hence, will the UN-NAMED PERSON who removed the e-address that was provided to receive information from those who wish to help the Herb Society, please re-instate it without delay. It has been removed without first checking with me.
I don't have to give an explanation, because I would have thought that the adminstration of the Forum came under the jurisdiction of The Herb Society Council, apparently not!
Even so, I can assure Forum Readers that there is no ulterior motive.
The current Administrator of the HS is unable to cope with the affairs of the Society within her normal working hours. In consequence, she is having to work overtime and this is impinging on her familiy life.
Council has recognised that Flick Armstrong will be unable to cope with considerable volume of extra work that this exercise is going to involve. And this why Janet Blundel and I have volunteered to develop a membership database, and it is why Ann and I have offered our facilities to support this vital initiative. (WITHOUT ANY CHARGE, NOR WITH ANY COMMERCIAL BENEFIT)
I am sure Forum Readers will agree that development of an electronic Contact List and Skills Database will be of considerable benefit to Members and that it could play a key role in the survival of the Society. It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that anyone who sets out to frustrate this time-consuming initiative, WITH NO AUTHORITY WHATSOVEVER, cannot have the best interests of the Society at heart.
Please help us in our endeavours and PLEASE do not hinder the survival of The Herb Society, which means so much to all of us!
Re: NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS!
November 1 2007, 8:20 AM
My apologies to our Administrator!
Flick's surname is KINGSTON and not Armstrong, as given above!
Too Little, Too Late
November 1 2007, 9:41 AM
You say you don’t have to give an explanation as to why your business address was on the posting you made. The Herb Society members think you do.
Do you know who has paid the Forum fee? This Forum will close quite soon, but in the meantime everybody can give their views. As Forum host I can delete those posts that are unethical, advertisements, and the persistent hoaxer who comes up under various pseudonyms.
The trouble is that many members of the Council find that they haven’t enough time. I asked your wife, Ann Walker, if she would help with answers to medical herbal queries on the Forum and she told me, quite curtly, that she hadn’t got time. I now find that she answers questions for an online firm called Healthspan, for which, she presumably, is paid.
The Chairman, John Baylis, revealed in the email that I posted that he hasn’t got time or any interest in herbs, but he has spent a considerable part of this summer in Canada and at his second home in France.
Now we find that Flick Kingston, the paid administrator, hasn’t got time and the job is impinging on her family life.
I am unpaid and have a life-threatening illness, but I had to make the time to arrange an event which wasn’t advertised in Herbs, wasn’t circulated to the members until about a week before the event, (presumably the Events Co-ordinator, hadn’t got time) and then write to or telephone people as the venue was torched. I have paid for the venue by the way and put in my claim, and when anybody can find the time I will presumably get my money back.
The biggest asset The Herb Society has is the website. In point 5 of your dissertation, you say that by providing you (personally) with a Contact list you can provide the Society with “low-cost, instant contact with its members….:HS news, members’ news, appeals for help, reminders for events, thanking volunteers (sic)”.
Isn’t this what the website was already doing? You have made no mention of the Schools’ website ever, which was very hard work for Janet Blundell and is the only charitable thing that the Herb Society, as a registered charity has done.
By the way, I don’t think much of your idea of paying by credit card in two e-mails would lighten the burden of the Administrator very much.
Please don’t hector us. I have the names of people who volunteered for the Tatton event and arranged their holidays to be free to help. Tatton has proved the best event for signing on new members.
Just one final point, the medical herbalists have their own organisation. The present membership lies with the enthusiastic amateurs, gardeners, hedge-witches, ethnobotanists, cooks etc.
Now for some good news
November 1 2007, 12:01 PM
Over the years too many societies failed for one reason or another. The demise of most was evident in their negativity. As a new member I am impressed with what the commitee is doing and proposes, yet surprised at any reductionist suggestion or negativity. This only adds to the problems. I am up to this point very impressed with the society for presentation and enthusiastic commitment.
PLASE DO NOT STOP OR REDUCE THE JOURNAL As a retired practitioner I appreciate whole approach and design of the Journal. For me good a Journal that gets to the point without waffle.
Take care all and try to be positive.
Not negative, just realistic
November 1 2007, 1:06 PM
Dear Mr Simpson,
The Council have done nothing about Herbs magazine. It is haemorrhaging money. A decision has to be made to economise in some way and the only economy is to reduce the number of issues of the magazine. This was discussed at the AGM. I wasn't able to be there, but I believe there were some ideas put forward.
I an annoyed that you are accusing concerned members of being negative. All the correspondents have contributed in a practical way to The Herb Society. The Council doesn’t listen and has made some dire mistakes this year.
Lynne the Witch
Re: Now for some good news
November 1 2007, 1:22 PM
That sounds good Alan and thank you very much for letting us know. This addresses one of the problems I think, that of the membership having no idea of what the council discusses or agrees. The whole thing sounds quite positive...let's hope it's the beginning of better times.
I'm really pleased at the news about Sue Minter, she should be a great asset to the council and certainly so as chairman.
Regarding the magazine.....I've looked at a few other journals of societies since the AGM and I would have thought that we could cut some of the production costs without doing away with "Herbs" entirely. It's a lovely magazine, but surely the same information could be got across in a less glossy format? I see a lot of societies have a smaller (A5) journal.
Sorry Audrey, I have to disagree with some of what you've said. As someone struggling to build a herb business and finding it very diffuicult to make ends meet, both with time and money, I can sympathise with someone not having the time to commit to something on a regular basis. Even my "Recipe of the month" had to be given up because I just couldn't fit it in with everything else. And doing something and getting paid for it is, unfortunately, something we all have to do to live and that must take priority over unpaid work.
I also think that getting more herbal practitioners to join is a good thing. Frankly, ANY new members is a good thing. As one of the hedgewitches, I feel that the wider and more diverse the membership the more everyone benefits.
The idea of an e-mail list of members to facilitate communication is overdue I think. The forum doesn't quite meet this need since I know several people who don't go on to the forum, but they do all read their e-mails, so it would get across to more people.
I think we've taken a step in the right direction. Let's keep positive, and with a little more information to the members on what's happening (such as Alan has just given us) perhaps we can all work together to revive our society instead of just leaving it to the council on their own?
November 1 2007, 7:38 PM
I think that 'Herbs' is a gorgeous glossy publication but can see that it must be fiendishly expensive to produce. Surely it would be possible to have the same amount of information, articles etc in a more economical product. Most of the societies I have belonged to over the years have produced very good magazines for members, often on the old Gestetner type duplicator, I realise that perhaps that's going back too far, but they were good to read but I suppose they aren't so impressive in waiting rooms etc. Electronic mail would be a good idea for those who have these fiendish machines.
I agree with Lynne about membership. Over the years that I have been selling herbs round local shows, fetes, craft fairs etc there has been a great increase in the thirst for more information on using herbs in all ways from the public. Mostly I must admit about use in cooking and home remedies but children brought up in homes where herbs are in regular use will no doubt become the herbal practitioners of tomorrow. I have handed out lots of membership leaflets over the years, not sure to what effect but I've tried. I would ring up Nicky and a bundle would be in the post next day. I must say that most people had never even heard of the Herb Society. It seems a great shame not to tap into the vast amount of interest there is out there.
Jane Tapping(Well that's my tenpen'orth for what it's worth)
Too little too late
November 1 2007, 8:03 PM
Don’t imagine for one minute that I don’t understand about having time. I worked for 41 years full-time, which included Saturdays. During my apprenticeship we had a half day on Tuesday, but I had to go back 6 to 7pm for the evening surgery and work 12.00 to 1.00 p.m. on Sunday. I was over 40 before I had a two week holiday. All my life I have worked on Saturdays.
Due to losing a doctors’ surgery in the proximity of my chemist’s shop I opened a pharmacy in Sainsbury’s and had to be open when the store was open. This was from 8.30am to 8.00 pm Monday to Thursday. We opened till 9.00 pm on Friday and then opened again at 8.00am on Saturday. Saturday closing was 7.00pm. Sunday was 10am to 4 pm. I did employ locums, but I always worked Saturdays and Sundays and until 9.00pm on Fridays. Lunch was taken behind the counter and I had to dispense and serve as well. I was aged 55 when I started on this gruelling work schedule.
I would not have been available to do voluntary work when I was working for a living. I can tell you that no one on the Council has worked as long hours as I have.
I am surprised that you think the Council is competent, when you actually had to travel such a long distance for such a small number of attendees at our Denton Herb Day. There were ten people who paid £305. I was one of those people and paid £30. The room cost £70. I claimed for the elderflower presse and clotted cream. I didn’t claim for coffee, tea or organic whole milk. From the remaining £225 I think there would be little left after expenses for the food and speaker’s expenses. The first year we had the meeting there were 35 paying attendees, which would have given us over £1000 before expenses.
Regarding medical herbalists being members, I am sure there are some, but they do have their own society which it is compulsory to belong to, as they have to get insurance cover.
I don’t think it should overtax Flick unduly if people emailed her with their email addresses. They email her and she stores the addresses in the address or contact area on the HS computer. I would be happier if the Council members announced what their expertise was and what they were prepared to do. I think people should be able to join the Herb Society without being grilled on their abilities and what they are prepared to do. I joined for a leisure activity. I hope people tell The HS to mind their own business.
I suggested to David that it should be recorded why people joined. Were they enrolled at a RHS Flower Show or other reason? David said a file was prepared when Nicky Westwood was administrator, but Vicki lost it.
Sorry if I sound negative, but I have run a successful business and faced business failure, and just for the record my pharmacy was the first pharmacy that Sainsburys bought, so I am a bit historical as well.
Re: Too little too late
November 1 2007, 11:31 PM
I'm very interested in the comments re 'Herbs'.
As things are at this point in time, it is one of the few benefits of membership that we can use in promotions to attract newcomers to the Society.
If we were to make it less 'glossy', not only might we be less able to attract members, we could well lose all ready with us (especially those from overseas.
On the other hand, it would indeed cost much less to produce, as has been said.
Being the Optimist that I am, I would prefer to stick with it being 'glossy' because its appeal should make it more viable for generating income from advertising. This being particularly so if we can attract more members to the Society, and especially if they are practitioners because of their requirements for supplies and literature.
What do others think?
Re: Too little too late
November 1 2007, 11:35 PM
"If we were to make it less 'glossy', not only might we be less able to attract members, we could well lose some already with us (especially those from overseas.)"
Sorry for that! (Staying up too late!)
Re: NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS!
November 2 2007, 12:29 PM
With regard to the Contact List and Skills Database, I forgot to mention that we do not need comprehensive details of individuals at this stage; we shall ask for these when we send out the flier with next issue of 'Herbs'.
However, because it is a rather complex exercise and is going to involve a lot of data entry (1,300+ records, remember!), I need to get the 'bones' in place first (data fields, search strategies, etc) before there is any elaboration.
I would be most grateful, therefore, if you would send me the following information, which will be very helpful in getting started:
.....Title; First Names; Family Name; Address; Telephone Number; e-mail address
Under no circumstances, should this information be sent to our Administrator, Flick Kingston, she has more than enough to do, and it will only complicate matters.
As requested, please use the e-address that I gave previously: HS_Contacts firstname.lastname@example.org
November 2 2007, 2:00 PM
You must know what you are doing is completely unethical. If you use this information to advertise your Herbal Medicine course, I think you could start with making a donation to The Herb Society for use of their mailing list.
Obviously, the Herb Society forum will have to be handed over and I will no longer be Forum manager. I may have made a mistake now and again, but I have always apologised.
I think the members should be aware that their data is not protected.
Ann Walker protects her privacy, but if you want her email address for your questions it is
Seriously Alan, I think you will have to sign the Data Protection act. The address is Data Protection Commission
Tel. 01625 545 700
Re: Data Protection
November 2 2007, 3:21 PM
With the greatest of respect Audrey, I believe that in setting up a Herb Society membership database, Alan, as a Council member and Trustee of the Herb Society is carrying out an administrative duty on behalf of the Society. Any member who is concerned about the security of their personal data for any reason is not going to send it in.
If the amount of personal information kept is sufficient to require Alan or someone else from the Herb Society to register as a Data Controller with the Information Commissioner's office, then I'm sure that will be done.
The requirements, as I understand them, is for members to state clearly if they are happy for their details to be used for being contacted on Herb Society business and they can agree to their details (as specified) to be passed to other members.
Member voted two years ago for the membership list not to be made available to commercial organisations, which would have brought the Herb Society revenue. The quick and easy communication between members is a vital part of any voluntary body and having such an electronic database will substantially reduce communication costs. To have a list of skills, interests and willingness to volunteer will also make organisational development easier.
Re: Data Protection
November 2 2007, 3:35 PM
Sarah and Lynne,
You have missed the point I am making. The data base should be on The Herb Society computer. It is a good idea.
I think Alan Lakin wants to use it to mail prospective clients for his company. He has certainly asked for the data to be emailed to his business address. I do not think that a council member should have it on his personal computer. If he leaves the Council he has this information. If The Herb Society has to fold he has got this information.
The Administrator should collate this information. This is what she is paid for. I believe a data base was compiled and as I said before, the previous administrator "lost" it.
I'm not being a Luddite. I am concerned that the members of the Council should observe ethical practice.
Re: Data Protection
November 5 2007, 9:52 AM
When I read Alan`s news about the proposed changes,Iheaved a sigh of relief as it seemed that the Herb Society had been given a breath of fresh air and hope for the future.However,on reading the subsequent replies I was sad to see so many negative comments. As quite a new member,I don`t know people personally so can only comment and draw conclusions from the postings that I have read and it seems to me that there are fair points been made by each side.That in itself is sad that there should be seen to be sides in the first place.To look at the positive though, at least people are trying to do something instead of having a head of committee who didn`t seem to have any interest whatsoever in herbs or the Herb Society.
There was one point that was raised by Audrey that I am able to comment on authoritvely though,and that is regarding more involvment from medical herbalists.At first Audrey,I hesitated to reply,despite being rather upset at your dissmisive and throw away comment that "medical herbalists have their own organisations".It is clear through the correspondence on this site that the continuing situation has caused you considerable distress and given your health problems, I have no wish to upset you further,so please accept my comments as practicalrather than personal. Yes I am a medical herbalist and have been in practice for 13years,but I am also a gardener,a hedgewitch and a cook--the very people you say the herb society should be for. Trying to put people in categories is quite simply going in the opposite direction to holistic which is the very nature of the action of herbs.In all the years I have been involved in the herbal world,I have yet to meet a harbalist or student who is not totally passionate about the subject and who is not keen to drink in as much knowledge as possible about the subject.How can you possibly discriminate against people like that who by their very nature have so much to contribute to the society .As you qualified as a medical herbalist yourself Audrey,it puzzles me even more.Just as one small point, I was delighted to see in the very latest Herb magazine,the article about Frances Wright and her green lane project.Frances is an old student of mine with whom I had lost touch as we both have changed our organisations.
I just hope that a peaceful resolve is found to the Herb society`s future and that all members can communicate in harmony
Response to comment by Audrey
November 18 2007, 8:50 PM
Although not actively involved as Administrator now, I am still a Herb Society member and was very annoyed to read the comment that 'Nicky had produced a file which Vicki had lost' (attributed to Dave). I have remained diplomatically silent on all the issues afflicting the Society, both during my employ and since, but would like to have some redress here. For the record, not only do I have an abiding interest in herbs (having recently qualified in Horticulture and currently studying herbalism - although admittedly not in any professional medical capacity - I am one of the rather sidelined at times 'hedgewitches' on which the Society's future partly depends). I am also a fully-qualified and trained PA and - as any of my former employers would be happy to attest - very committed and conscientious and have worked for over 26 years in many demanding roles, in both small organisations and large, private and corporate. Members may be interested to know that the biggest obstacle I faced in this role (after the sheer workload which, if advertised as 21 hours per week should not grossly exceed 21 hours per week whether voluntary or paid) was the constant and underhand counter-pull of some of those involved, the reason for which eludes me. There are many good and committed people in the Society and on Council as the recent contributions by Alan and Ann Walker and many members illustrate and I made many new friends, but was constantly frustrated by feeling that some elements almost appeared to be hoping that mistakes would be made to thus enjoy publicly complaining about them! I categorically did NOT lose any files - on the contrary, I worked extremely hard in the 8 months I was in post to consolidate, modernise, tidy and introduce new systems, both with a view to gathering e-mail records and ensure members felt valued and the admin was bang on time and efficient. I take such a comment as a professional insult - Audrey, I'm surprised that you would repeat this publicly! You should know that I heard many, many negative things in my time said about my predecessor and no doubt am now suffering the same fate - Flick, beware! I am sure that the new Administrator must also be feeling, as I did, that certain Society members are far from supportive and even working behind the scenes to undermine things; how can it ever be helpful for example to run separate strands of discussion for members who have comments or grievances via the forum? The correct way to make members feel valued would be to advise them to contact the office, the central point, when the Administrator would have been very happy to address any issues and ensure they were resolved in a proper manner. You had one hardworking, committed employee striving to give the best possible service and care to our members with problems being nurtured and grown behind the scenes via the forum; not a great way of operating and bound to lead to trouble! Are the Society Council a team working together or not? No, I do not mean a 'secret society' but a UNITED team of committed people trying to run an international operation. I have kept my counsel since August but will not accept professional slurs.
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