The National WI Annual General Meeting 2019

Wednesday 5 June 2019, Bournemouth

A report supplied by our delegate from Papworth Everard WI

Cambridge Ladybirds WI
Cambridge City WI
Westwick and Oakington WI

Delegate:   Pat Martin – President  - Papworth Everard WI
Observer:  Daphne Armstrong-Tait – Committee -  Papworth Everard WI

After boarding the coach at Shepreth on Tuesday 4th, we departed, along with all other delegates/observers from the Cambridge Federation, to Bournemouth.

The weather was a little unsettled, however, it didn’t stop us walking along the promenade and enjoying lunch.  To our amazement 4 ladies actually stripped off and had a swim!! – not sure what Institute they were from but they were certainly very brave and attracted quite a bit of attention.

We  were taken to our hotel around 5pm to freshen up and then had dinner, when we met some very friendly members from surrounding WIs and discussed how we ran our meetings and exchanged some very interesting views and activities.

Following an early breakfast the following morning we boarded the coach for the BIC Centre at around 9.30am.  Once inside we browsed the many stalls displaying and selling all kinds of crafts, holidays, insurance, WI products, together with lots of information on caring services etc.

We settled into our seats for the first half of the meeting:  The mood in the centre was electric when the music started up and approximately 2000 women stood to sing Jerusalem – a most moving experience.  The Board of Trustees lined the Stage and Lynne Stubbings, Chair, welcomed everybody and ran through the agenda for the day.

This commenced with the Appointment of Returning Officers and Tellers, the Adoption of Standing Orders, Chair’s Address, followed by the Hon Treasurer’s statement all of which will appear in the Annual Review when published.  We had a good year financially, and although Denman had a deficit – there is an improvement on the previous year.  

Next up was the first resolution on Public Affairs issues Resolution:  A Call against the decline in local bus services.

A representative from North Yorkshire Federation put the case forward for the above resolution detailing the number of bus services lost over the last year and the devastating effect this has on rural communities, including getting to medical appointments, shopping, loneliness, and numerous situations where without local transport it is impossible for residents to move outside their village/town.  The effect on the environment was also an issue with an increase in the number of cars having to be used.

Paul Buchanan from a national research institution put his case against this resolution based on facts that the buses were not cost-effective as most were hardly full apart from rush-hour or school times.  Suggestions such as sharing taxis were put forward as an argument.
Votes were taken and I handed in my voting slips on behalf of the four WIs I represented as per their instructions.  Following questions from the floor the result of this Resolution was -  For: 5,739 – Against :262 – overwhelmingly the resolution was put forward.

Guest Speaker the Rt Hon Lord Bradley of Withington, Chair of ‘ Care Not Custody’ gave a most interesting and inspiring talk on the work that has and is being carried out in respect of people with mental illness facing the criminal courts and prison.  The work carried out by this organisation – supported by the Woman’s Institute over the past 10 years, has resulted in almost 90% of people receiving help before the case reaches the courts and imprisonment.

Lord Bradley’s talk was followed by presentation to prize winners followed by lunch interval.

The meeting resumed at 2.30 and the next couple of items on the Agenda were for Constitutional (ordinary) resolution Federations to become incorporated of which there were none, this was followed by Constitutional (ordinary) resolution Federations to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation of which there were 2 WIs – this was seconded and approved.

The second resolution was next on the agenda Don’t Fear the Smear’ and Rob Wheeler – from the Jess Trust (Jess died of cervical cancer at the age of 40)spoke about this most desperately important subject and the need to get the message across and ensure that women of all ages attend for a smear.  There has been a significant drop in the number of women attending for a cervical smear test for many different reasons:  embarrassment, sexual abuse, etc.  The test should also be available to women over the age of  70+ as there are many cases diagnosed after this age.  2 lives a day are lost to cervical cancer and testing is at a 21 year low.

The case against the smear was put forward and suggestions such as home kits to take your own smear test would be a way forward, tests are taking so long at the laboratories to be tested that they become out of date before processing.

After questions from the floor, the vote was taken on this resolution and the result was ‘For: 5780 and against 194 – 97% of the vote.  This resolution was therefore carried forward.  Once again I voted on behalf of all 4 WIs that I was representing as per their instructions.
Both resolutions will be put forward and WI Secretaries will shortly receive packs giving ways of bringing these two important issues to its members and community.

Next on the agenda was guest speaker Maggie Philbin, Broadcaster and CEO of the award winning organisation Teentech.   Maggie gave a most entertaining talk on her past career starting with Radio Berkshire breakfast show, then Swap Shop and then Tomorrow’s world and many more.  She created Teentech in 2008 an interactive and engineering event for teenagers and her work with this organisation continues today.
Lynne concluded the day with thanks to everyone and the usual anthems were sung : Land of My Fathers and God Save the Queen.
We left on the coach to return to Shepreth uplifted and informed from what was a great meeting.

Observer Report by Cam City WI Member - Jane H

This is the second AM I have  been to, the first was in Liverpool in 2017 where  I went as a delegate and was so much fun I decided to go as an observer this year. 

I went down to Bournemouth the day before the AM and met up with around 40 Daisy Ladies (the unofficial WI Facebook group) for a drink or two then dinner. It was wonderful to meet up with old and new friends again. 

On Wednesday morning, 4000 of us descended on the Bournemouth International Centre.  We started by singing Jerusalem, hearing 4000 singing is so moving and a wonderful link to all the amazing women who gone before us. 

The first part of the morning was taken up with official business, How the WI is doing in general, and how it’s doing financially. And how Denman is doing. All seem to be going OK.

Then it was time for the first resolution to be debated - “Decline in local bus services” passed at 96%.

The morning was rounded off with a talk by The Rt Hon Bradley of Withington on 'Care not Custody' which has been a resolution in the past. 

At lunch some of the Daisy Ladies meet for a photo call for WI Life.

After lunch it was time to debate second resolution “don’t fear the smear” This pasted by 97%. 

The voting is done by coloured card with 'for' or 'against' on them and then they are weighed to get the results.

The second speaker was Maggie Philbin OBE who talk about her life in boardcasting (Multi Coloured Swap Shop and Tomorrow’s World) and her work now with Teen and Women in Tech.

At the end of the meeting there was a montage of photos of WI past and present to the soundtrack of “Here come the girls” and “Girls just want to have fun”. Among the faces to pop up were The Ladybirds with Jo Brand from Radio quiz, Jo Beale and Joanne Croxford on BBC Radio 6 Music and ME from the 'Million Rise' march.

The AM finished with the singing of both the national anthems of England and Wales. The Welsh anthem is sung in Welsh, followed by Jerusalem again.  Next year The AM is going to be a Royal Albert Hall and I’m already planning to go!

After the meeting a group of us went down to the beach some even went swimming I just paddled. 

I can’t recommend going to the AM enough, whether as a delegate or as observer to be surrounded be so many like minded women is awe inspiring.  You’re never alone. I started conversation with a group ladies with “so which federation are from” to being stopped by a lady while walking on the beach with “you must be with the WI you’re wearing Daisies in your hair".