Thursday, October 27th 2022
I will start with an apology to those attendees who experienced difficulties finding the venue, and hearing or seeing the proceedings.
Secondly, an explanation of some of the problems: our usual venue, Salisbury City Hall was, and will continue to be, until at least 2024, unavailable to book. It has been used as a Covid testing and vaccination centre, and will need refurbishment before re-opening as a concert/conference facility. Finding another location of suitable size, and within budget, and available to book in our timescale, was a very difficult job: there are plenty of premises seating up to 300, but, needing somewhere accommodating more than 500 attendees narrows the field considerably. Marlborough College seemed an ideal location, with its close proximity to the shops and cafés of the town centre, large hall, and sufficient parking. The Trustees had been assured that there would be ample signage and car-parking stewards on the day: we realised, too late, that this had not happened. We were unable to test the sound system in advance, hence the problems experienced by those members of the audience who were sitting towards the rear of the hall. We were aware of the inadequate height of the stage, but this was not able to be rectified.
However, judging by the many positive comments received via various routes, the majority of members did have a very enjoyable day. The proceedings kicked off with a lusty rendition of “Jerusalem” lead by Ruth Davies. There was much laughter when Federation Secretary, Steffy Pawling introduced the Trustees by giving away a piece of “secret” information about each of them. The, often rather dry, financial report was made understandable, interesting and sometimes even amusing, by Federation Treasurer, Theresa Chapman.
Our first speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Bruton gave a fascinating potted history of some of the women who have been involved in the world of codes and ciphers. She welcomed questions at the time, and also invited members of the audience to view her slides and ask her questions during the lunch break. We were reminded of some of the exciting up-coming WFWI events. The 50/50 club draw then took place, with winners being announced. Members were then able to walk into town for lunch, or to eat their own sandwiches in the hall, and browse the stalls.
After the lunch break, during which time, as usual, the speakers and invited guests (past Federation Chairs and representatives of neighbouring Federations) were offered a sandwich lunch by the Trustees, Federation awards were announced, followed by the star of the show: The Reverend Kate Bottley. Reverend Kate soon put everyone at their ease, kicking off her beautiful high-heeled shoes and using a portable microphone to allow her to connect more easily with her audience. She recounted how she first decided to go into the Church, and how she has ended up as a famous television personality: this story was interspersed with hilarious anecdotes, all the while emphasising that her faith underpins all that she does. After fielding many questions, she then helped Daphne Atkinson with the draw for the raffle prizes. We were then treated to some beautiful harp music played by Ruth Sandiford. This was followed by many expressions of thanks to all who had worked so hard to make this a successful occasion, including our out-going Chairman, Lesley Holdway, who had done such a magnificent job in steering us all through the pandemic. Ruth Davies then led the assembly in singing the National Anthem.
It is very much hoped that, with the knowledge gained from this year’s meeting, a more suitable venue will be found for next year’s Annual Council Meeting. It would be useful to hear any feedback, both negative and positive, to help us to ensure that next year’s meeting is fully enjoyed by all. Please feel free to contact me via WI House or on email@example.com
- Pam Loosmore, Vice Chair Wiltshire Federation of Women's Institutes
Photo credit - Ruth Davies, Trustee WFWI