Gill Busby’s Delegate’s Report – NFWI Annual Meeting 2017
Liverpool: according to the Mayor of Liverpool who welcomed us to his city, 100 years ago it used to be the second city of the empire. It is still a very grand city, but time seems to have passed it by for a while, however the centre and the docks are now looking quite modern, and the Echo Arena, where our meeting was held, is an impressive building, and even more impressive when it is filled with over 4,000 women singing Jerusalem.
This was the final year of Janice Langley’s chairmanship and she was obviously pleased to announce that under her stewardship the membership had increased from 212,00 to over 225,00 members, with 498 new WI’s. In her address, she told us about the imminent launch of the new website for members which is being rolled out from June 12th. Every member who is registered with an email address will be sent joining instructions over the next few weeks.
The Financial Report was presented – this showed that 2016 was a successful year overall. Income was greater than expenditure by £100,000 and our investments increased by £300,000. Denman College, which had been of concern, is showing a surplus of £270,000 with most places on courses now being filled, and the expectation was that it would be kept open while the members keep coming.
The first of the resolutions was on Alleviating Loneliness which is reckoned to affect 1 in 5 people in the UK. The resolution sought to raise awareness and likened it to the sensual equivalent of thirst or hunger. There was a plea that it should not just be considered to be a problem for the elderly, but one that affects all ages and social groups. It was pointed out that loneliness has been relatively constant at this level since the 2nd World War, and also that other cultures and countries have similar levels to ourselves. Concerns were raised by a number of speakers about the wording of the motion, particularly around the link to bureaucracy in the form of health and social services. But after some debate, which made particular note of the plight of men (who don’t have the WI to turn to!) the motion was carried with 69.3% of the votes cast in favour.
The second resolution was on Plastic soup – keeping microplastics out of our oceans. The expert speaker was Dr Natalie Welden, from the Open University and she gave a passionate account of her research on scampi off the coast of Scotland where she was finding many with up to 1/3 of their stomachs filled with microplastic. The issue was likened to DDT and the urgency of action was emphasised by many speakers. In fact, there was no speaker who was prepared to speak against this motion – so Janice Langley just summarised the points very quickly! The debate followed with some very well qualified WI members making excellent points – and many practical suggestions were made about using Guppy bags, filters and moving away from man-made clothing. The vote was an amazing 98.9% in favour, which is probably a record!
There were two guest speakers, Jo Fairley, founder of Green and Blacks organic choclates and Susie Dent, the resident dictionary expert on Countdown, but the highlight of the day was a musical interlude from The Retros, who gave us a taste of the Liverpool sound and had delegates on their feet and dancing in the aisles.
The new Executive was announced and thanks given to outgoing members, but with a special thank you to Janice Langley after the 15 years on the board. The meeting ended with a second rousing chorus of Jerusalem and Land of My Fathers, much louder this time, with members still high on the Liverpool sound!