2016 NCFWI Chairmans Speech

Good evening everyone and once again welcome.

This time last year I gave away all my secrets – now it’s everyone else’s turn – only kidding Margaret!!!

Every year there is a meeting of the great and the good (that’s Federation Chairmen and Treasurers) at Autumn National Council where we meet all the members of the National Board along with a great deal of the staff, both from 104 Kings Road and Denman. The theme this year was about “embracing change” and we were told that there had been 24,000 new members in the last year and 223,745 copies of WI Life are sent out – could I please ask for a show of hands for those of you who have joined your WI this year?? WoW!!

The WI was likened to the job of a Customer Service Manager – and all the things needed:



Clear communication skills

Knowledge of the product

Acting skills

Time management skills

An ability to read the Customers mind

A calming presence

An ability to think on your feet

An ability to handle surprises

Persuasion skills


An ability to end the conversation

And finally A willingness to learn

The WI is a bit like Google – everything is available without much effort!!!!


We heard more about the situation at Denman and at the moment the fund raising amounts to a total of £155,000 and rising.

I know that a great many WIs in Northamptonshire have been raising funds to send to Denman and they are extremely grateful for all your efforts

In your newsletter packs in December you will find the Federation raffle tickets – 10 books for each WI with two prizes – a 3-day course at Denman up to the value of £300 and a one-day course of £75. These two prizes have been given by the Federation and all monies raised by the sale of the tickets will be sent direct to Denman. The draw will be made at the Spring coffee morning next April – we look forward to receiving the stubs and monies back and hope that you will be able to sell all of your allocation.

In 1948 Denman was the new place of learning for women and they embraced the courses, the companionship and everything that Denman could offer – it is the same today – except that the beds may be more comfortable and all rooms are en-suite!!!! We need to make sure that Denman continues to be there for future generations.

We were extremely lucky to be chosen as one of the Federations to present a success story at the Council. Having to put a five-minute talk together I emphasised how, although being a small County we didn’t have a city or large enough towns to bring in 300 ladies at the start of a new WI. I emphasised that we tried to please you, the members, in giving you a choice both in travel, craft, courses to help your officers, science etc. Our Federation science representative, Jan de Vito, has done a splendid job over the past couple of years and we have learnt about DNA, blood spatter, the stars, and last week Finding Richard III which apparently was a brilliant evening. Our thanks to Jan who has given up her post – do you have a burning desire to educate the Federation – please do get in touch!

Our Catering Committee has worked extremely hard over the past few years and under the leadership of Tracey Hockaday has produced lunches for 100, numerous cups of tea and cake at coffee mornings, a Victorian Christmas meal and many other events. At this present time Tracey has retired from the position of “Catering Manager” and her team are taking a well-earned rest – we will see them at some of the smaller events but in the meantime I would like to thank them for all the hard work they have done in the past – and I am sure you do too!!

While talking of retirements I need to thank Barbara Bentley for all her hard work as PR, Press, Facebook, Website etc etc. If you see a picture of the WI in either the Chronicle & Echo, Northants Telegraph, Daventry Dasher etc – it has normally been sent in by Barbara. Because of Barbara we also have an excellent relationship with Radio Northamptonshire, a facebook page which has numerous hits – please do “like” us – and a very up to date website - so thank you Barbara.

Another retirement is taking place at WI House where Eileen, who has been part of the fixtures and fittings for quite some while – is taking early retirement (sorry Eileen) to spend more time with her husband Maurice and family – Eileen will be leaving at Christmas and we wish her all the very best – and hope to see her at WI events in the future.

The Board of Trustees and all of the sub committees try extremely hard to please all the members all the time – however sometimes it is a little difficult!!! Thank you to the Arts, Sport & Leisure, Travel, Media, Campaigns & Concerns and of course the Catering committees. We try very hard to make sure that everything is for you -  the members.  As I said last year – if you have a burning desire to come and help at subcommittee level – or even Board level – do get in touch!

We had several short films shown to us at Autumn Council – and I learnt at least two things – how to dice an onion correctly (who knew but Peter Lien of the Cookery School gave a brilliant demonstration). How to put a photo on a presentation without it looking blurred -etc – most of the information and a lot more can be found on the WI’s own learning website the Moodle.

You will be hearing later this evening about our plans for our own Centenary in 2018 – I know that listening to 11 ladies becoming over excited about a bag – well!!! Jane will be telling more later (I’m letting secrets out again!!!)

The WI in Northamptonshire is going from strength to strength – more members – 3 new WIs this year and we are nearly at the 4,000 mark. We could not do this without our WI Advisers and their very valued helpers on the Membership & Training committee – but most important of all – the staff in the office at Moulton. Jackie, Eileen and Laura have been the strength behind our Federation and I thank them for all their help, commitment, advice and friendship.

Finally, what would I have done without the 11 other members of the Board throughout this last year. It has been tough at times and I would like to thank them all for their kindness, friendship and support – I couldn’t do it without you.

Oh of course and then there is Dennis!!!! As many of you will know he has had his problems this year and the support I receive from all of you makes everything so much easier.

Thank you all