NFWI 2017 Annual Meeting Report

Wednesday 7th June, Liverpool Echo Arena

Chair’s Address: during her time in office, Chair of Board of Trustees, Janice Langley, has tried to narrow the gap between NFWI & all groups/members. NFWI has given financial support to WIs, enabling them to promote themselves & attract new members. Membership has gone from 212,000 (2013) to 225,000 (2017). Actually averaged 32,000 new members/year, but the overall numbers obviously reflect some leavers too. National have developed communications through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WI Life and have literally just launched a brand new members only area on the website so look out for an email regarding that.

Mayor of Liverpool: welcomed us.

Hon. Treasurer’s Statement: see Annual Review online. Summarise: NFWI had net increase of 400K in bank. They always aim to keep subscription fees affordable and this year 88% of members said they thought they received value for money.

Alleviating Loneliness Resolution: very emotional. Heard from Marcus Rand who told us how loneliness can have huge health implications. He also said there is no convenient solution, no one size fits all, and we need to think about prevention too. Sarah Mitchell, Social Services, advised that a Government level approach will not work but we can work together to tackle ‘Grief, Loss & Fear’ instead. She said that loneliness can often be confused with a social condition but it is much more complex. Sarah agreed that the WI would be a great force to begin tackling the problem, but concerned that wording in Resolution would not make for an effective initiative. We then heard from lots of speakers from the floor who aired their personal experiences of loneliness. The echoing theme was that the WI has been a valued friend to many people. The WI already help alleviate loneliness & we do it well! Let’s build on that & ensure we are advocates in our everyday lives. One lady had an interesting though “We shouldn’t have to legislate kindness.”

Vote: 4334 for, 1919 against, Resolution passed.

Guest Speaker Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Black’s: told of her journey from youngest ever UK magazine Editor to founding the world’s first organic chocolate company. Jo loves to do good through business and often mentor’s young women during the early parts of their careers. Jo told us how Oxfam, Christian Aid and the WI were the first champions of FairTrade and led the way in showing the world how we can make a difference through our shopping choices. For example, 80% of Mayan Village children now go to school compared with none before Green & Black’s began working with them.

Awards: given to winners of Lady Denman Cup, Huxley Cup and (one more competition who’s name I missed!)

Plastic Soup Resolution: heard from very passionate & articulate lady from the Open University who, in my opinion, deserved a standing ovation. She spoke very clearly on why this subject is so important, backed by her 5 years research in Scotland. There was no speaker to argue the ‘against’ case, so Janice Langley mentioned that this is a huge problem, with multiple shareholders involved & could be very costly to tackle. Speakers from the floor spoke with passion, urging us that no problem is too big, we are the WI! We can begin to tackle this problem at home, by our washing habits and buying choices. Wash less often, buying natural materials, using a Secora Ball or Guppy bag in our machines (more to come on these two products I am sure) and by spreading the word on the issue of microfibres and educating those around us. This is our chance to be the face of a National and International campaign. Strong feeling of cohesion from the floor.

Vote: 6132 for, 157 against, Resolution passed.

Guest speaker Susie Dent, Countdown’s Dictionary Corner expert: very interesting and amusing talk on lexicography. Susie mentioned two of her least favourite words are ‘moist’ and ‘gusset’ (and definitely not to be used together!). She talked about malaphors, which is when someone confuses a saying e.g. ‘You can’t teach a leopard new spots’. Her recent tweet on the subject had hundreds of replies with people all sharing their own malaphors. Susie explained how the history of words can explain their spelling e.g. moving biceps looked like small mice, hence the word ‘muscles’. Susie finished by mentioning a few words that are not used enough and she would like to ensure do not get forgotten; ‘overmorrow’ means the day after tomorrow, mixture of feeling crabby and grumpy is ‘crumpy’, and to smile with ones eyes is called to ‘sirtle’. Not even sure if that is correct, tried to look it up and couldn’t find it, which proves Susie’s point about losing words.

Close: thank you to Janice who is stepping down as Chair of Board. Welcomed new Board members. Finished off with some music from ‘the Retros’ who played some classic 60s songs that seemed to go down well with the crowd.

My Summary: had a fantastic time, would highly recommend going to Cardiff next year if you can. Thank you.

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