I was recently invited to attend an excellent conference that was hosted by two very good chums of mine; Mark Fowles, MD Nottingham City Transport, and Dave Astill, Comercial and Operations Director for NCT. We all go back rather a long way, Mark and myself were both National Bus Company Senior Management trainees, and attended many of the same training and development courses. Here I realised that this very likeable and fascinating man would surely carve himself out a great career and some nearly forty years on, he has done just that. Dave I have known for some 20 years when we first worked together at our days in First, where Dave was instrumental in helping the newly arrived Polish bus drivers to settle into their new lives in Stoke on Trent. Again a charming man with a huge passion and knowledge of the Industry that we all serve.
As you might expect from a bus Company that has won the prestigious accolade of the Uk’s Best Bus Company at the Uk Bus awards not once, but four times, that any conference that they were going to organise was always going to be top notch. And it was just that with an expert audience and superb panel of speakers, it exceeded my own very high expectations. Guest of honour on day one was a very senior and prestigious Member of Parliament. Chatham house prevail so all that I can say was the quality of debate was excellent. However, amongst others invited to present was none other than Phillip Kirk, the Director and archivist of the newly formed Bus Trust.
Phillip gave an excellent presentation outlining its history rooted within the Kithead Trust that became the main centre for all archive histories from across the UK for Bus Companies post privatisation in 1986. There was a real danger that many of those bus Companies who had their histories going back to the eighteenth century, would have nowhere to safeguard their unique stories, and that the rare historic archive materials would end up in skips, so confining those great legacies to the dusty bin forever.
Philip punctuated his delivery with many excellent, rare, funny, and evocative illustrations as well as explaining the ambitions and aspirations of the The Bus Archive. Phillip’s professional qualification as an archivist has given real and positive structure to the Trust, which combines the collections of the Kithead Trust and the Omnibus Society. The combined collection is vast, with well over 25,000 items currently listed in the ever expanding interactive online catalogue. Access to these is simple and is designed to encourage people to utilise the Archive in research, education, and quite honestly anyone with an interest in the subject matter.
Philip gave a strong case for developing awareness of the Archive and the real need for attracting the records of the past, indeed he has been exceptionally successful in attracting more and more archive material including most recently the history of Nottingham City Transport all 140 years of it. In addition volunteers are encouraged to get involved and the numbers have already risen to more than 50, but there is much work to do, so more volunteers would be made most welcome. As the Archive is a charity it is dependant on funding to keep the doors open and to expand its facility to the widest audience to maintain the rich heritage of this unique industry. Alex Hornby CEO of Transdev has been the first to step forward and offer sponsorship to the Bus Archive. Other key players are soon to get involved so there is no doubt about it, the Bus Archive has a really valuable future ahead of it and I am sure that the founder of the Kithead Trust, one John Austin Birks would be both delighted and proud and what precisely Phillip and his team have achieved. Feel free to get involved, either by contributing material if you have any, or by volunteering, or even by offering funding, trust me it will be money and history well invested.