Review of the Annual Meeting, Liverpool, June 7th, 2017



Link Delegates Report
[ Kate Burnham, representing Acklington, Broomhill, Shilbottle and Warkworth W.I.s]
I was kept well informed with information and a meeting from the Federation before the event. There was a well organised system in place for transport and I met my coach in Alnwick. Driving rain accompanied us along the A69 and obscured the view of the Lake District Fells from the M6. After arriving at our hotel near the Haydock Racecourse, some of us chose to go into Liverpool on the coach. We had a look round the dock area where the meeting was to take place and agreed the area was attractively renovated, with magnificent buildings and an interesting history. In the evening we had a meal in the hotel and time in the bar.

June 7th , The Meeting – Morning Session
The Echo Arena was packed with women from all parts of the country. Like any other meeting, proceedings began by singing “Jerusalem”. The combined voices of over 4,000 was a wonder to hear and extremely uplifting!
The Mayor of Liverpool welcomed us to his city, where there have been many changes and improvements and where they are constantly working to provide equal opportunities for all of society. He commented that the W.I. continues to be a driving force in inspiring the nation.

Reports 2015-16
Chair -Janice Langley [Full speech can be read on the NFWI website]
One of the Janice’s aims as Chair was to extend the membership and she was able to report success with membership rising from 212,000 thousand to 225,085 and 85 by 2016 and the formation of 498 new W.I.s. She commented on initiatives in recent years and in the Centenary year in 2015.
She introduced the new website MyWI, which would improve on -line facilities and communication. Shortly after June 12th everyone with a recorded e-mail address would receive their log on details so she urged members to make sure their details were up to date.
The results of the Our Future Questionnaire, published in W.I. Life , showed that we most valued friends, outings and social interaction. The need to attract younger members was emphasised. She commented that Denman had increased bookings and made enough money to keep open but it was necessary to fill every room to keep going.
Treasurer’s Report- Julia Roberts [Full speech can be read on the NFWI website]
Julia reported a successful year financially and that the questionnaire showed that we thought our subscriptions were value for money. She reiterated the situation with Denman and warned the college always needed more funds for maintenance and improvements.

Resolution 1
“This meeting calls on every W.I. and the NFWI to work alongside health and social care providers and their local community to raise awareness of the causes and impacts of loneliness, thus ensuring better identification of lonely people in order to be able to offer them the appropriate assisstance and support”
Proposer and seconder spoke eloquently about “the silent epidemic” of loneliness and its effects on both physical and mental health and well being. It needs to be addressed at local and national level.

Expert speaker FOR
Marcus Rand, [Director of Development and Communications, Campaign to End Loneliness] who described the physical effects on health as being as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and a huge taboo which we must address. It is everyone’s business and he urged the W.I. to lead from the front.

Expert speaker setting points for consideration AGAINST
Sarah Mitchell, [Adult Social Care Improvement Adviser] Sarah was not against the motion in principle but took issue with the way it was worded. Emphasising the health and social care aspect may medicalise and stigmatise the problem. Loneliness is being confused with social isolation and is therefore a wider issue with contributory factors of poverty, poor housing, lack of public transport. We should develop skills at local levels not wait for a bureaucratic and strategic approach.

There were speakers from the floor who illustrated views on loneliness with personal and often emotional experiences.

I followed my instructions from Broomhill and Shilbottle and cast 2 votes for but I used discretionary votes from Warkworth and Acklington and cast 2 votes against. While not opposed to the idea of alleviating loneliness , I agreed with the speaker against the motion that the wording was not fully appropriate and we should not have to have government legislation to act kindly to each other!
This resolution passed with 69.3% of the votes cast FOR



Guest speaker , Jo Fairley
[co-founder of Green and Black’s, the 1st ethically produced chocolate]


Jo gave an interesting and often humorous talk about her beginnings in business. She had left school at 16 and had a successful career in journalism before embarking on the chocolate business. She had already met Anita Roddick, of Body Shop fame, and enlisted her help as her mentor.
Maya Gold , the 1st chocolate with the Fairtrade mark, was launched with great success and included stories of the growers on the wrappers This resulted in improvements in living standard for cacao growers and women in particular became empowered. 80% of Mayan children were able to go to secondary school. In 2005, they sold to Cadburys feeling that the Cadbury Foundation with its Bournville villages was a firm with similar ethical considerstions for it workers At that time Green and Black’s was described as “bigger than Marmite, cooler than Prada”. Although susequently taken over by the giant of Kraft, she thinks that they showed the way with Fairtade and now KitKat, Maltesers and Mars display the Fairtrade mark. Jo didn’t attribute her success to luck alone, commenting “Luck is what you have left over when you have given 100%”. Her business interests now include an organic bakery, The Perfume Society and a Wellbeing Centre in Hastings. She is now a mentor, nurturing and encouraging young women. Above all she is a chocolate ambassador!
The long morning session was followed by a welcome lunch break.

Afternoon Session
This began with the introduction of the new board of trustees and some business matters relating to a Federation becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Resolution 2
“Plastic soup: keep micro fibres out of our oceans Microplastic fibres are shed from synthatic clothing with every wash and are the main contributors to microplastic contamination of the oceans. The NFWI calls on Government and industry to research and develop innovetive solutions to this problem in order to stop the accumulation of microplastic fibres in our oceans”

Proposer and seconder were both articulate in their support , saying big problems can be tackled a step at a time. This is a big and difficult issue but we have a large platform in our organisation to raise awareness and educate others to change washing habits and promote use of alternative fibres, eco balls, and improved filters on washing machines.

Expert speaker FOR
Dr Natalie Welden, Research Associate, Open University

She spoke with admirable passion about “the biggest problem most people have never heard of”. We now have an immense problem with its disposal of plastic and the environmental issues this poses. Her research centred on the sea off Scotland, but can be transposed generally, and found that langoustines and prawns had ingested microfibres filling 30%of their stomachs. This will have an effect not just on marine inhabitants, but on the national economy if fish stocks went into a decline. The problem can first be tackled at home with us putting on pressure to improve filters on washing machines when we buy a new one, to use more natural fibres and use laundry bags and eco balls.
Communities can take action by instigating beach cleans. Industry should be called upon to develop polymers with a shorter life span and we should educate others that cheap, disposable fashion is a dangerous thing.

There was no speaker against this resolution.

Speakers from floor were in support but there were concerns about the immense task ahead . Is it achievable? We need to make sure the solutions don’t cause other problems. One commented that lower tech solutions would be needed for the 3rd world, another that bamboo may be an alternative fibre but needed thousands of gallons of water in the processing .

I followed my instructions from WarkwGuest speaker Susie Dentorth and Acklington and cast 2 votes for and I used discretionary votes from Broomhill and Shilbottle and cast 2 more votes for. I am fully convinced about the importance of this motion.
This resolution passed with 98.9% of the votes cast FOR

Guest speaker Susie Dent [author and resident dictionary expert on Channel 4’s Countdown]

Susie is obviously passionate about her subject and gave a knowledgeable, often amusing, talk.Ours is a fast moving language, which is constantly changing and evolving in which some words or grammatical features may disapperar altogether. She gave many interesting examples, explaining how some words have come through Latin scholars of the past “showing off” their education, by people making mistakes in early printing or translation from other languages. She described how the word “muscles” probably came about from the Latin word for “mice” so perhaps someone thought the action of muscles rippling looked like mice moving under the skin!Only 1% are completely new words, most are repurposed and reused and family words or mispronunciations often give rise to new words , for example a family who referred to “eggcorns” for acorns.She concluded that we need language to communicate and to be understood and we need to know the rules before we can change them. She referred to the abbreviated language of texting and showed us a poem from the 1800s which looked just like modern text speak!

Closing remarks [from the chair]
Janice Langley is stepping down so this was her last AGM. She received thanks and flowers from the Board of Trustees and wished us all well.

A band, “The Retros”, then entertained us with a few familiar 60s hits and we enjoyed singing along, with some energetic people dancing in the aisles!


“Jerusalem” was sung again, as was the National Anthem and Land of our Fathers – in Welsh! [we were given a phonetic version] Then onto the coaches for the long journey home. We had an excellent view of the Lake District this time, as the evening was fine and clear.

I found my first AGM an interesting and positive experience. I felt I had taken a share in decision making and in the solidarity of the W.I. movement. Thank you for allowing me to go and represent you at this year’s meeting.