Jam & Jerusalem: County mem­bers head to Wales

The sun shines on the Glouces­ter­shire mem­bers as they at­tend the un­pro­nounce­able town on An­gle­sey

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - Jan Turner con­tact 01452 523966 www.thewi.org.uk

We were very lucky. The road wasn’t closed, we ar­rived at Chel­tenham Spa Sta­tion to find a train wait­ing – an ear­lier one than that we had planned to catch; there were no de­lays on the jour­ney and the sun was shin­ing. The only slight hic­cup was on our ar­rival when we dis­cov­ered that John Lewis was not yet open. But we found a cof­fee shop to while away the time in the sun­shine un­til our meet­ing started – the NFWI An­nual Meet­ing, and we were wait­ing for the doors to open at the Mo­tor­point Arena, Cardiff, cap­i­tal city of Wales since 1955, 50 years af­ter the first WI in Bri­tain was es­tab­lished. That was on An­gle­sey, in Ll an fair­p­wll­gwyn­gyll­gogerych­wyrn­drob­willanan­tisili­gogogoch, usu­ally re­ferred as Llan­fair PG. To­day, how­ever, the Welsh con­tin­gent would be in good voice, putting the rest of us to shame by proudly pro­nounc­ing it aloud, in full.

Our An­nual Meet­ing is an im­por­tant event for WI mem­bers. The busi­ness is con­ducted by the Na­tional Chair­man, most ably sup­ported by the Gen­eral Sec­re­tary and the fount of all WI knowl­edge, and the var­i­ous trustees re­port on the NFWI fi­nances, Den­man, the past year’s ac­tiv­i­ties and those planned for the fol­low­ing year. Del­e­gates and ob­servers rep­re­sent­ing ev­ery WI in Eng­land and Wales at­tend, as do our 399 WI ad­vis­ers who have a sec­tion all to them­selves and make their pres­ence felt ev­ery year with a loud cheer.

The first 23 WI ad­vis­ers, orig­i­nally called Vol­un­tary County Or­gan­is­ers, VCOS, were ap­pointed in 1918 to help or­gan­ise the move­ment which in the pre­vi­ous 12 months had seen the num­ber of in­sti­tutes grow from 199 to 760. Af­ter a three-week train­ing course at Burgess Hill dur­ing which they were in­structed in such mat­ters as the ideals and aims of the move­ment, pro­pa­ganda, pro­gramme plan­ning, and the roles of com­mit­tee mem­bers they set out, im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able in their brown cor­duroy uni­form, com­plete with felt hat, to or­gan­ise, ad­vise and sup­port es­tab­lished and newly formed WIS across Eng­land and Wales.


Au­gust 17: In­ter Fed­er­a­tion Bowls match against Avon at Framp­ton on Sev­ern

One hun­dred years later they are as im­por­tant as ever. They are still trained by Na­tional but their ti­tle, train­ing and ap­pear­ance have changed with the times and re­flects their chang­ing role. (I don’t think ‘pro­pa­ganda’ is still on the agenda). They now have less to do as or­gan­is­ers of a much more able and con­fi­dent mem­ber­ship and act more of­ten as friendly lis­ten­ers, able to an­swer any ques­tions about the WI and help WIS to solve their prob­lems. They are iden­ti­fied by a sim­ple green and white badge; the brown uni­form has gone.

In ad­di­tion to the busi­ness we have, of course, the res­o­lu­tion de­bate. To tell the truth, there was lit­tle de­bate about this year’s res­o­lu­tion: Men­tal Health Mat­ters. It is clearly an is­sue which deeply con­cerns mem­bers and an over­whelm­ing 98% of votes were cast in favour.

Guest speak­ers are al­ways a high­light of the An­nual Meet­ing and this year was no dif­fer­ent. Dame Stella Rem­ing­ton ad­dressed us in the morn­ing, fas­ci­nat­ing us with tales of her ca­reer, from her school­days to her time as Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of MI5. Her in­side in­for­ma­tion on pet­ti­coat elas­tic in In­dia was very en­ter­tain­ing whilst, more se­ri­ously, she gave us a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the work of the se­cu­rity ser­vices to­day. Huw Ed­wards spoke af­ter lunch (for which John Lewis was open) and he too amused and in­formed us in equal mea­sure. Anec­dotes from his work as a jour­nal­ist and broad­caster made us laugh, while his frank speak­ing about the link be­tween men­tal and phys­i­cal health and about the dan­gers of modern tech­nol­ogy, es­pe­cially for the young and the vul­ner­a­ble, re­flected our con­cerns.

‘Jerusalem’, ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ and the Na­tional Anthem brought the meet­ing to a close. We now look for­ward to our 2019 An­nual Meet­ing in Bournemouth. Will the jour­ney be as smooth, the busi­ness so ef­fi­ciently con­ducted, the res­o­lu­tion as im­por­tant to mem­bers, the speak­ers as good and will the sun be shin­ing? Of all this there may be some doubt. What is not in doubt is that the venue will be full to ca­pac­ity and the WI ad­vis­ers will be there to cheer us on.

Madge Watt in 1918, wear­ing the uni­form of a WI county or­gan­iser

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