2017 NFWI AGM Delegate


The Echo Arena, Liverpool Wednesday 7 June

My journey started back in February when Northamptonshire Federation asked if Brigstock WI could send a delegate. I had enjoyed the Centennial Annual meeting in 2015 so decided to go. Unfortunately I could not attend any of the briefing meetings due to other commitments so had to read up and hope the WIs had made their decisions unanimous!! I attended Warkton WI’s coffee morning the Thursday before the Annual Meeting and was asked if I would write a report for the Newsletter, so here goes.

On a wet and miserable Tuesday morning I caught the coach from Kettering along with about 10 others. On board the atmosphere was not all miserable, everyone was friendly and chatty, introducing themselves to all around. In the end there were 48 of us. Tim, our driver for the next two days, announced the comfort and lunch stops and by mid afternoon we were at our hotel in Liverpool. I was sharing with Ann from Brackley and after an early dinner, when we were given our delegate packs with the voting results from the other WIs, we went out to meet up with friends Ann had from Avon Federation. They were staying near the Echo Arena so we walked around Albert Docks or should I say we were blown round the docks as the wind was so strong.We returned to our hotel settled down to some last minute prep on how we had been told to vote by the other WIs and had a good night’s sleep. I cannot speak for others in the group, as at breakfast there were some tired looking ladies.

After having a hearty breakfast the coach picked us up and took us to the Arena.After waiting on the coach for the doors of The Arena to open at 9.30am we joined a long queue to get in. Bags were searched and we found our seats on the floor of The Arena. We were all together, apart from the observers and WI Advisers and as one Federation finished the next started so we were between Gloucestershire and Isle of Man.

At 10.30 Janice Langley, NFWI chair, stood up and welcomed us all. She mentioned how our thoughts were with all the people affected by the last few weeks’ events and after a pause we all sang Jerusalem.

Janice welcomed Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool who went on to welcome us all to Liverpool.He said the WI not only inspired women, but everyone to achieve, and how he was very proud of Liverpool and it’s achievements, inviting us all back to enjoy them.

After voting for the tellers and adoption of the standing orders Janice gave her address about the NFWI. Membership is up and 498 new WIs have been formed. She spoke about the new website area for members only and all its virtues. Moodle will be used as a training only tool once the members area is up and running. It is rolling out after 12 June so look out for your email. She thanked members for sending back the Future of WI Questionnaires, which were helpful for planning in the future. 88% said WI was value for money so she said they must be doing something right.

Julia Robertson then gave the treasurers report starting with a quote from her predecessor “a good treasurer is like a good foundation garment: - underpinning all areas and keeping it pointing in the right direction” NFWI had had a good year with Denman now starting to run at a profit, £360,000 had been raised by the Support Denman appeal and the number of bookings were up. In all NFWI had £9.52 million in funds from the three sections of the consolidated accounts.

We were then on to the first of the resolutions. Janice explained how the process would work and read out the resolution

“Alleviating loneliness”It was proposed by Maggie Whitlock from North Cave WI and seconded by East Yorkshire Federation. Marcus Rand gave an expert’s view in favour and Sarah Mitchell against. It was very close and then delegates from the Arena gave their views. Most talked about loneliness, how they coped and changed to deal with it. Some wanted the wording changed. Voting slips were handed in and counted.For: 4334 Against: 1919, 69.3% in favour so resolution carried. This sent a murmur around the hall as people thought it would not go through but would need to have the wording changed.

After this was a keynote address, to lighten the end of the morning’s proceedings, by Jo Fairley, who was co-founder of Green & Blacks Organic chocolate, a very interesting and amusing speaker. She thanked WI for their support in adopting free trade as a cause along with Oxfam and Christian Aid. Just think by eating chocolate we helped farmers to a better life. Their Maya Gold chocolate bar was the first free trade product in UK. Although they had sold out to Cadbury’s they still had influence with them and now Dairy Milk and other chocolate bars are free trade as well.

The Lady Denman Cup, Huxley Cup and Elizabeth Bell Challenge Cup were all presented and then lunch time.

We were called back at 2.30pm and started with voting for Federations to be a charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Then the second resolution “Plastic Soup; Keep microplastics out of our oceans”This was proposed by Hilary from Ashley Green WI and seconded by Buckingham Federation. Dr Natalie Welden spoke passionately about a study she had undertaken in the Clyde estuary looking at effects on the crustaceans living there. There was no speaker against the motion but Janice gave us some questions to think about. Some very strong thoughts and views were expressed from the floor and then voted onFor: 6132 Against: 157 98.9% in favour so resolution carried.

The final speaker of the day was Susie Dent, of Countdown corner who was very passionate about words and meanings, roots and history. As one of the delegates who spoke about microplastic fibres described herself as a bistitchual ( knitting and crocheting) that became Susie’s word of the day, so listen out for it!

With the afternoon nearly over Janice thanked the board of Trustees for all their hard work, introduced the new ones for the coming years. As Janice herself was stepping down as Chair and also coming off the board she was presented with a lovely bouquet of flowers.

Janice then introduced “The Retros”, a band who covered 60’s music and had us dancing and singing in the aisles, literally! The afternoon rounded off with Jerusalem, Land of My fathers and National Anthem.

We boarded the coach and returned to Northamptonshire, tired but buoyed up, getting back to Kettering at 10.45pm.

I thoroughly enjoyed the effort put in by everyone to make the Annual Meeting a success and would recommended to anyone to try and go, at least once, even if just to feel the tingle when 6000 voices sing Jerusalem.

Cardiff next June and the hotels are already booked so if you are lucky enough to be chosen, I urge you to go.

Liz Searle

Brigstock WI