The mystical saying of ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’ sort of applies to an Inner Wheel Conference. But we thought you’d like the low down and dirty. So, grab a cuppa, sit back, put your feet up and enjoy the read. Snow very nearly stopped play. But thankfully it only delayed departures and arrivals of almost 2000 women.
Members and some partners were arriving in Bournemouth from Friday to Monday, but our journey down was pretty smooth without any snow or traffic hold ups. Two of our members drove together, whilst the others enjoyed the comfort of the District Coaches. It took just over four hours including a loo stop half way, oh and a cheeky cuppa with the obligatory cake. Chatting away, the time flies and we soon arrived at our various hotel destinations.
Bournemouth, was once a largely remote and barren heathland, visited only by a few fishermen, turf cutters and gangs of smugglers. Obviously, this was in the 16th century! However, as the luggage was off loaded the sounds of clinking bottles could be heard, so perhaps there was a certain amount of smuggling still going on.
Monday morning was bright and breezy and snow was stopping play. The golf tournament was cancelled and so were some of the walking tours. So, a little retail therapy was in order, if not just to help everyone warm up.
At lunchtime we headed off to register at the Bournemouth International Centre or BIC, as we affectionately call it. Registration was tactically placed next to the Inner Wheel stand which this year had the most beautiful glass Friendship balls for sale, together with an ever-growing array of must have Inner Wheel goodies. In the Stalls Hall you will find a range of charity stalls combined with clothes, shoes and jewellery all ready to tempt your pennies away from you. This is a great place to meet people and reunite. This year as it was chilly outside, you can imagine it was very well attended.
Association President Liz Thomas and Vice President Ann Acaster were in attendance and speaking to each of the stall holders. They were closely followed by the Official Conference Photographer drawing a crowd wherever they went. Liz came across as a very lovely and personably lady and took time to greet everyone who spoke to her.
Monday evening is a District or club evening. Some clubs throw a District Party; some just rest, relax and rekindle friendships. Warsop gathered together after the meal in the bar, with members of Mansfield, Derby South, Sherwood Forest and Bolsover.
Tuesday is the first official day of Conference and there is always a clamour to get a good seat in the BIC for the 9.30 Unity and Service Celebration lead by Reverend Catherine Forsdike, Member of Council for District 8. This was a beautifully timed service with wonderful harmonious hymns, readings and thought-provoking words. It really did start the week off well and was again one of the highlights of Conference.
We were all warmly welcomed by the Mayor of Bournemouth, Cllr Lawrence Williams who gave a short introduction to how Bournemouth came in to being. Then we had the honour of listening to the President of International Inner Wheel Dr Kapila Gupta. She spoke from the heart, professionally and determinably about the future of Inner Wheel and the need to grow its membership. Then at the end of her speech, something quite wonderful occurred and most definitely wasn’t on the programme agenda. Margaret Day, Conference Chairman, Alfreton Club in District 22 was called on to the stage. Dr Gupta present her with the Margarette Golding Award. The audience rose in a flurry of tears, cheers and clapping as Margaret gathered herself.
How do you follow that? Well Rotarian Denis Spiller, President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland spoke of the challenges that Rotary also faced with an aged and dwindling membership. His speech was very inspiring and went in to great detail about the plans ahead for Rotary’s regeneration. Our first charity speaker was Tracy Rennie, Director of Care at East Anglian Children’s Hospice (EACH) talking about the good work they do for over 49,000 children. This is also our Association President’s chosen charity. Sponsorship money of almost £5,000 was raised for the zip wire challenge which sadly couldn’t go ahead due to the snow and wind. However, President Liz has said she will be returning in the next few months to complete her challenge and provide everyone with the photographic evidence and thanked one and all for their support.
After lunch, President Liz opened Conference Session Two, before introducing a very sobering presentation from Rotarian Mark Little who spoke on Modern Slavery. A very deep presentation which was both thought provoking and informative. President Liz then returned on stage to present a cheque to James Warren for Alzheimer’s Research UK for £8952.64, the result of the collection from the morning service.
No conference is complete until a canine friend has been on stage. Enter Ralph a golden Labrador, stage left and accompanied by his owner. Once Ralph was settled quite nicely with a biscuit, Rotarian Norma Howell spoke of Ralph’s duties as a Medical Detection Dog. During her presentation Ralph began to alert his owner of the need to take medication to prevent a Hypoglycaemic episode.
Our final speaker was John Benjamin, who you will probably know from the Antiques Roadshow. At the age of 17 John realised he wasn’t academically included, and started working at an antique store in Bloomsbury, London. John later qualified in gemmology and the rest as they say is TV history.
Conference finished as planned at 4pm and we all rushed back to our hotels. Once ship shape and ready to party, we headed back to the BIC for our evening entertainment with the Opera Boys.
They were incredible! Four rather handsome young men, singing in harmonies and entertaining with popular and operatic music, quick witted humour and audience participation. Many conference connoisseurs said this was the best Tuesday night entertainment they had seen. Tired and perhaps some a little merrier than others, we made our way back to our hotels.
On Wednesday we arrived for the Annual General Meeting where members of the Association Executive Committee read out their reports for the year. Treasurer Terry Walters, presented an excellent report highlighting that the decrease in membership naturally equated to a decrease in Association available funds.
Association Editor Dorothy Cree gave an amusing report and revealed that from the Home Service report information Clubs had raised a staggering £919,787 for Great Britain and Ireland Charities. Ladies, we should all be very proud of our achievements.
Our Association International Service Report was delivered by Shamim Govani who used photographs to show a wide range of international activities that have taken place. At a local level our International Service Officers should be very proud as Shamim reported that 189 charities had been supported and £321,987 raised.
The Membership and Development Officers report was positive saying that 600 members had joined in the last year but did not indicate the sad losses overall that had occurred; sadly, we didn’t get a true picture of the membership levels which were reflected in the Treasurer’s previous report. There ensued a lively debate after the report as one younger member spoke out that things were not being done and not moving fast enough.
After a brief interlude, the AGM moved on to the proposals and general motions which further gave rise to a lively debate. All proposals and motions were passed.
Proposal One: Membership and Development Committee have a chairman to serve for three years.
General Motion One: Capitation fee for 2018-19 to increase by £1 General motion
General Motion Two: The Association would get behind a campaign to get Television broadcasting companies to reduce background noise and music that accompanies many of their programmes.
General Motion Three: The Association would support the promotion for better signage in Public Toilets through the country.
Many members felt that the Association should be supporting bigger issues that affect the world today. However, these were the general motions presented to the Executive to select from. If anything can be learnt from this Conference, it is that Clubs are not sending in the ‘bigger issues’ to Association for them to get behind.
Unable to present any Golf Trophies in the afternoon session, President Liz was able to introduce our guest speaker Helen Sharman ahead of schedule. Helen Sharman, CMG, OBE is a Britain’s first female Astronaut. Changing from her career as a chemist at Mars Confectionery, to a career in the stars and a place in history. Helen was launched in to space in May 1991 for an 18-month mission with two fellow Cosmonauts.
The conference was drawn to a close with Association President Liz thanking everyone for attending. She gave an inspired address about membership and the successful future of Inner Wheel. She encouraged all members to embrace the changes ahead, acknowledge the challenges we have but asked everyone to try and encourage new members of all ages to join us. President Liz then introduced a group of young musicians called the Romsey Area Youth Jazz Orchestra. They gave everyone a wonderful and uplifting finale to what had been an excellent Conference.
Old Dogz, New Trix entertained a host of hot chix and cool katz back at the BIC that evening. The last night of Conference is traditionally the night everyone lets their hair down or fur on this evening. There was a fantastic array of cat outfits, and purrr’dy accessories.
Driving home the next morning we all were very tired and ready for home. But one thing is always apparent at the end of Conference. Everyone has had a fantastic time. Tiredness is equal to happiness and there is a great satisfaction that our year of fundraising and club activities has done wonders for thousands of people in and around our communities in Great Britain and Ireland.
Please check out the next Association Magazine where you will find out much, much more about what went on at Conference. There really is nothing better than this week away with like minded ladies.
We hope that we see more of you at Conference in Cardiff next year.