ACTSA Scotland: Secretary's Report on the year to the A.G.M 23rd November, 2019
We have again had a very substantial element of history in our programme for 2019, due both to following up last year's centenary and to further historic anniversaries. Our role in reminding people of where modern-day South Africa has come from, and the lessons of that, is certainly a major and distinctive part of our identity. 3rd December this year will mark 25 years since the Anti-Apartheid Movement Scottish Committee gave way to ACTSA Scotland following the end of apartheid, so ensuring that the lessons of apartheid's history continue to be learned becomes more important as direct memory fades. We have continued to collaborate very closely with the Nelson Mandela Scottish Memorial Foundation.
Exhibition: At the very end of 2018 there was suddenly an opportunity to bring to Scotland the huge Mandela Centenary Exhibition from the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, after its spells in London and Cardiff. Space became available at The Lighthouse in Glasgow, and for six weeks our lives were completely taken over. As well as hosting the main exhibition, The Lighthouse provided a room off the main hall for a subsidiary exhibition on the history of the AAM in Scotland and of Mandela's connections here, which we managed to assemble in the space of a few days. Material from the Scottish AAM archives and from individual activists was brought together to construct a very informative exhibition. The assistance of the Lighthouse staff was invaluable and unstinting throughout, and we are very grateful.
We managed to staff the AAM room more or less throughout the period, and ran guided tours of both exhibitions on 4 days each week. The very successful opening event was addressed by South African High Commissioner Thembi Tambo and drew a good audience. Attendance over the period of the exhibition was very substantial, including many AAM veterans but also many people with little or no previous awareness of the history. Two primary schools sent groups to study the exhibition. Donations were taken for the NMSMF, and a lot of new contacts were made and long-lost ones revived.
Linked to the exhibition and also at The Lighthouse, on the anniversary of Mandela's release we had a well-attended showing of "Life is Wonderful", a film about Denis Goldberg and the other Rivonia trialists apart from Mandela. Director Sir Nick Stadlen attended, and answered questions after the showing.
As a result of remarks by High Commissioner Tambo about wishing to repeat the Scottish AAM exhibition in the High Commission, it was agreed to turn the temporary display into a more permanent exhibition that could be toured around Scotland and beyond. Thanks to a very generous offer by a supporter, some progress has been made in making this technically feasible with display boards, carrying cases and other equipment to make the material self-contained and independent. The four Scottish information panels created to supplement the AAM Archives Committee's exhibition were copied and enlarged to double the size, to be more easily read in larger venues. Progress has been slower in seeking out venues and sources of local anti-apartheid information from different parts of Scotland for inclusion in the exhibition when in those areas, though feelers have been extended. This material would be of permanent value, of course, in its own right. Work on this will continue, and also on the practical problems of a London showing. The educational potential is very substantial.
Other History: The year began as usual with our annual ANC anniversary social held in the STUC's premises for a final time before their closure. George Reid and his ceilidh band gave their services as for so many previous years, the food was good, as was the attendance, and the money raised was given to the NMSMF.
26th April was the 25th anniversary of the first day of South Africa's freedom election in 1994, and of the day the Glasgow City Chambers Banqueting Hall was used as a polling place for that election by South African exiles in the northern half of the U.K. That evening saw another showing of Dhivya Chetty's film "Glasgow, Love and Apartheid". The consequent anniversary on 10th May of Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President of South Africa was marked by the annual May Day Cabaret that week, which was made a benefit event for the Mandela statue appeal.
18th July, Nelson Mandela International Day, was celebrated with a reception in Glasgow City Chambers, hosted by Glasgow City Council again, as every year since 2012. There was an increased attendance this year, the Musicians Union assembled an amazing group of performers for the event, and the Scottish Government again funded these. A lot of new contacts attended after having discovered us at earlier events, and there were many comments of appreciation. It provided an opportunity, as always, to remind people of the history, and this year we also had Jim Cathcart, artist of the Mandela Freedom banner held in the Scottish AAM archives, who spoke about the history and symbolism of the banner and launched a greetings card reproducing the banner and published by the NMSMF.
9th October, the Mandela visit anniversary, was marked by a fundraising night at the Stand Comedy Club for the NMSMF, where some very prominent comedians provided their services without charge.
We were glad to be involved as a more personal history was marked in April by Community HEART in the form of a fundraising dinner to celebrate Denis Goldberg's 85th birthday and his recent receipt of the Isitwalandwe award, the ANC's highest honour. We have kept in touch with Denis as he continues to work through his illness. We have not been able to help very much with his House of Hope appeal, but it appears to have been attracting funding in South Africa.
The school material from the West of Scotland Development Education Centre reported last year has been taken a stage further as funding has become available, and the final version is going to a designer next month with a view to publication early in 2020.
Another publication arising from our history is also in active preparation. Editing of the presentations made to the Banner Tales event of October last year is almost complete, and they will then be included in a pamphlet to be published by the Scottish Labour History Society.
Other Work: Our stalls selling crafts from Southern African community groups and publicising our own work and that of the Foundation have continued through the year, both at our own and related events and also at 10 conferences and Fair Trade events held by other organisations. The most substantial of these was again the Ethical Christmas Fair for 18 days in Dundee, with a lot of display space and a high level of sales. In addition to our usual rota of events, we also covered this year the Co-operative Party's UK conference in Glasgow, and also the STUC Black Workers Conference in Clydebank for the first time as the date this year happened to be possible.
Late last year we received an emergency appeal from Kronendal Music Academy, which was having serious cash-flow problems as they awaited word of new funding. We were able to gather together some donations to send quite quickly, and some more contributions came in later. After a 3 months temporary closure the school reopened as planned. The latest news seems much more positive and hopeful.
We have continued our collaboration with the STUC.
High Commissioner Tambo came to Scotland again to assist potential Scottish/South African connections.
We met with Sunit Bagree, Senior Campaigns Officer for ACTSA UK, about his new report "The Money Drain", and agreed to promote this to Scottish politicians and others. Work on this has been largely put on hold since then, since all politicians have been rather preoccupied in recent weeks.
Constitution: As suggested by Tony Dykes before his retirement, we delayed discussion of the constitutional future of ACTSA Scotland until this year. The results of our discussions with Michael Buraimoh, Director of ACTSA, and his Board, and internally, have led to the proposals being presented to this AGM later in the agenda. As touched on last year, we are constitutionally in a state of limbo, since our existing constitution relates to, and depends on, the constitution of the old ACTSA UK which ceased to exist when the new ACTSA UK charity was created. The Scottish Committee believes the proposals will resolve this problem, with a slightly looser relationship that still allows us to work closely with ACTSA UK, while still keeping our old aims and objectives.
Many of the initiatives mentioned above will continue to keep us busy in the coming year, quite apart from new things coming up. We are grateful, as ever, to all supporters who have helped us in any way, some very substantially, and we look forward to this continuing.
John C. Nelson
Reports are available to download as pdf files using the links below: