The National WI Annual General Meeting 2017

Wednesday 7 June 2017, Echo Arena, Liverpool 

A report supplied by our delegate from Oakington & Westwick WI 

The Cambridge Federation left Cambridge much later than expected do to traffic conditions in Cambridge and A14 to Bar Hill.  We had a long wait at Bar Hill in the wind and rain finally going into Tesco’s for a coffee to warm up.

We were finally picked up around 9.30 and had a good journey to the Service Station at Norton Canes on the M6 Toll Road, for a comfort break.


On getting back on the coach we learnt that there were traffic hold ups, due to road works and heavy winds, of some seventy-five minutes.


The coach driver and a WI member, who knew the area around Liverpool, decided to go via another route to Liverpool, which was very picturesque.  We finally arrived at our hotel in the middle of Liverpool at approximately three o’clock.

After a cup of tea Cambridge Federation members took off in different direction around Liverpool to sight see and explore Liverpool.  Elaine and I from Oakington WI decided to go and look at the priceless fantastic Minton mosiac floor (30,000 tiles) in the St George’s Hall described as the finest neo-classical Grade 1 listed building in Europe, only to find the floor covered up.  We than made our way to Mathew Street to the famous Cavern Club where the Beatles and Cilla Black to name just a couple played. You will find Cilla’s statue and John Lennon’s there and a very large brick wall with lots of names on bricks who had visited and played at the Cavern. We descended into the bowls of the club where live Beatles music was being played in the vaulted cellar and where you could see lots of memorabilia from the 1960’s.  Well worth a visit and somewhere l had always wanted to go!  

We then decided to head back to the Hotel for a rest before meeting up with everyone for dinner and chat!

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we made our way to the Echo Arena on the Dockside. It was a very cold and windy day but fortunately not raining as we waited to have our bags searched before going into the arena.  Inside there were lots of stands to look at and placed to have a coffee if you so wished.  

The meeting started promptly at 10.30 with the singing of Jerusalem. Very moving with thousands of women singing it altogether.  The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, than welcomed everyone to Liverpool and hoped that we would one day come back and visit this historic city and perhaps spend some money! Janice Langley, Chair of the NFWI, then introduced the Board and gave an address. She talked about the Questionnaire that had gone out to WI members, increase in membership, Denman and the new “Mywebsite” which would be available to all members who had an email address on the MCS website from the 12th June.  We than had a report from the Hon. Treasurer which I won’t go into but was all good news.  . 

The first resolution “Alleviating Loneliness” was proposed by Maggie Whitlock from North Cove WI.  The second proposer was Barbara Ball from Pocklington WI talked about loneliness.  Expert support was given by Marcus Rand, the Campaign to End Loneliness Director.  Sarah Mitchell, an adult social worker spoke against the resolution. All said it had to begin with us! Even if it was a smile and a good day.  Lots of people got up to have their two minutes say. Several said that joining the WI had alleviated their loneliness.  A few people were against the wording of the resolution.  We all then voted.  The outcome was 4334 in favour and 1919 against.

The guest speaker was Jo Fairley, author and co-founder of Green and Black’s Chocolate. She is also co-author of the bestselling books The Beauty Bible and Feel Fabulous Forever. She was the UK’s youngest ever magazine editor, at the age of 23. In 1991 she co-founded Green and Black’s organic chocolate Green meaning organic and black the darkest chocolate. It was sold to Cadbury’s in 2005.  She also produced the first Fairtrade chocolate “Mayagold”.  Inside the wrappers were stories about the farmers and their families in the communities they serve.  Now in Maya village 80% of the children now go on to secondary school. Jo then went on to run an organic bakery and The Perfume Society where people learn to discover, explore and enjoy perfume.

Jo was a very good and entertaining speaker and said she owed her fame to a teacher that said she would never amount to much.  She has certainly proved her wrong.

After the talk it was time to present cups to the Prize winners of the Lady Denman Cup which was to write a letter to your younger self. One hundred and forty-seven people sent in letters from sixty federations. The Huxley Cup which was for a flower arrangement and I can’t remember what the other cup was called but it was for Create a Digital Story.

Then it was time for lunch.

The second resolution Plastic soup: Keep microplastic fibres out of our oceans was moved by Hilary ………………..Ashley Green WI who spoke really well on the subject.  The second proposal was Becky Root from Gloucester Road WI, Buckingham Federation, Also Dr Natalie Weldon of the Open University gave a good talk in favour of the proposal.  There was no speaker against. Members of the WI were then asked to give their two minute talk.  The delegates then voted.  The results were 6132 in favour and 157 against.

Our second speaker of the day was Susie Dent, author and resident dictionary expert on Channel 4’s Countdown.  From the age of 5 Susie was interested in words and on car journey would learn as many words as was possible on the journey.  Susie had a real passion for her subject and gave a very interesting talk on the meaning and origin of words.

Janice than gave a talk on her time as Chairman of the NFWI and thanked all the Board members for their support over the four years she was chairman.

The new Board were then announced and a big cheer went up for our very own Sally Kingman, Chair of Cambridge Federation.

We then had a rendition of songs from Retro, a group well known at Denman.” Walk in the Room” by the Searchers, “Hippy, Hippy Shake”, Shaky Stevens, “I Like It”, Jerry and the Pacemakers, “All I need is Love” and ”Brown Eyed Girl”.  It was lovely to see many people dancing to the tunes in the aisles of the arena or simply standing swaying in their seats. 

We finished the day off by singing Jerusalem, both in English and Welsh and then singing the National Anthem. Very moving!

We all had a great two days and I would recommend that if you get an opportunity to go then just go for the experience.

We arrived home at approximately ten o’clock.