Nicky Westwood said that one of the chief goals of the organisation was ‘the conservation of the environment’ and that, as there was an increasing focus on this, the Société ‘can’t afford to sit on the fence’.
Ms Westwood has taken over after the resignation of Alastair Best, who was appointed at the organisation’s 2019 annual general meeting.
She said that it was important for the Société to be seen to be taking a stand on issues which affected the future of the Island.
‘In the past there was a policy not to be a political organisation because we’re very much an academic one, but there are so many things going on now that it’s hard to take a step back when you’ve got the Island Plan and various old buildings disappearing in town which will become part of the blueprint for the future,’ she said.
Ms Westwood, who was elected vice-president in 2019, is taking over from Mr Best 15 months before his three-year term of office was due to expire. In turn, her place as vice-president is being filled until the AGM by executive committee member Stuart Fell, an architect with particular expertise in heritage and urban design.
Mr Best said that he had decided to stand down partly for family reasons but partly because he felt that ‘the years were beginning to take their toll’.
‘The world is changing so rapidly that we need someone who has got a grip – and I confess I haven’t got a full grip – on the world of social media; nor am I terribly enamoured with all I see but I don’t think that’s good enough for a president in the 21st century,’ he said.
Under the organisation’s rules, Ms Westwood will act as president until the next annual general meeting, when Mr Best will formally propose her as president to the members.
‘She will have my enthusiastic nomination,’ he said. ‘She is very capable and understands the peculiar nature of the Société, which takes a little time to grasp.’
Ms Westwood said that she was delighted to be taking over at this time, adding that the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the need for organisations to find new ways to connect with their members, particularly in disseminating knowledge online and working with social media.
She said that while the Société was sometimes confused with Jersey Heritage, they worked in partnership with them but with a distinct focus on research, publication and education.
‘We are also here for enthusiasts. People aren’t always aware that they can join our sections to learn more about subjects that interest them, and be part of a committed and social group,’ she said, adding that the 14 different sections embraced interests including the sciences, language, history and natural history.
Ms Westwood’s responsibilities include the oversight of a library which is a centre for international research and the photographic archive, which houses over 100,000 items dating from the mid-1840s to the present day.
‘I’m keen to promote the Société’s work and its assets more vigorously, and I am supported by a very able team with the same goals. Once upon a time new members had to be proposed and seconded, but things have moved on, and we welcome everyone with open arms,’ she said.