Let’s protect what we love. Become a Council Member
Philip Monk is part of the National Trust’s Council and a local volunteer ranger. Here, he brings to life what it means to be part of the Council – and why you should think about joining too.
I’ve been part of the Council for around a year and a half now. I came from a background in education, having worked as a Geography teacher. I wanted to have a say in the National Trust – to try and do more to get young people outdoors, experiencing nature and learning about all the wonderful things our country has to offer. So I applied to join.
The process was simple. I completed an application form which asked what the Trust meant to me; the question might change from year to year§, but the gist is trying to get where people are coming from, what their interests are and what their understanding of the role is. It’s not a job interview, not particularly time consuming and not intimidating at all.
Being part of the Council is what you make of it. As a baseline, you’ll commit around ten days a year, but it’s pretty flexible. There are three meetings annually, a three-day one in the summer involving property visits and two one-day meetings. You’ll need to spend time reading and preparing in the run-up to each one. You can also choose to get involved in committees or working groups or take the time to visit local properties, but it’s optional.
The three-day meeting happens in June: the whole of the Council heads to one of our regions, staying in a hotel and visiting three or four National Trust places or properties nearby, seeing our strategy in action, talking to staff and volunteers and seeing first-hand if there are any problems and what their solutions might be. It’s a chance to see behind the scenes, meet interesting people and learn things about the Trust that you wouldn’t normally. The objective is to make sure Council members have seen enough to speak with authority on how well the Trust is being run.
The Council is a diverse group: our strength is in the range of views people bring. Being part of the Council, you’re not hiring or firing staff, making decisions or dictating strategy. It’s about influencing and overseeing. So your contribution is about a few things: your involvement and engagement, the questions you ask and the people you ask them to. That’s why it’s important the Council represents the spectrum of modern British society: so we can make sure the Trust is there for everyone. As long as you’re proactive, passionate and inquiring, are engaged and willing to argue your case, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from applying. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a teenager or in your older years, live in the middle of a dense city or from a rural area. The opportunity to join our Council and have an impact on our special places is open to you.
What’s my favourite National Trust place? Well, that would be telling! The one I’ve been most surprised by is Allan Banks in Grasmere, William Wordsworth’s old house. There’s a period kitchen, you can read the newspapers in front of the log fire, feed the squirrels, do what you want. It’s really laid-back with lovely atmosphere – the opposite of what people think of when they think about old country houses. It’s a very special place.
The National Trust’s Council plays an essential role in helping us look after the special places in our care across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you’re passionate about our extraordinary coasts, land, heritage and homes, join our Council and help protect these places for ever, for everyone.