Reflections on my (first!) 4 years in post, Josephine Burt

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Having just completed four years as a trustee I can honestly say that it's been a invigorating, challenging and enjoyable few years. So much so that I've signed up for another four years! Under the NWR's governing document that is the maximum.

I’ve learnt a huge amount about NWR, the charity sector and governance - it’s certainly been a steep learning curve. I’m continuing because I feel that I still have lots to offer and to provide some continuity.

Hearing from and meeting members has been a privilege and their commitment and support for NWR going forward has inspired me. I really look forward to going to the national conference, area meetings and Area Organisers workshops. We all want NWR to continue to provide a space for women to have stimulating discussions, meet friends and have fun

My aim has always been to move NWR forward and to be open and transparent as a charity. Developments are a challenge with our limited funds and we continue to seek ways of diversifying our income. However we have introduced regular membership surveys, some competitions, more centrally organised events and are excited about welcoming a patron soon. Our approaching 60th anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate with members and raise our awareness. Alongside this NWR is a well organised charity, meeting all the legal and compliance requirements.

Inevitably there have been challenges. One continuing challenge has been increasing our reach to attract more members. Another frustrating aspect has been the high staff and trustee turnover in the last three years for a variety of reasons. However we have a team led by Natalie Punter, our National Organiser, who is committed and focused and ready to take on change.

Let's see what we can achieve in the next four years.

 

Josephone Burt

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Trustee Jennifer Johnson presents this year's Mary Stott award...

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I was delighted to be involved in the Mary Stott Award this year.

Just a little about Mary and why there should be an Award in her name. Mary was a Guardian journalist who was instrumental in getting NHR (as we were then) off the ground almost 60 years ago. She continued to support NWR throughout her long life. She died aged 95 in 2002 and in 2003, in recognition of her support, the NWR Trustees decided to give and annual award to an NWR member who has achieved something exceptional during the previous year. This is the Mary Stott Award!

This year we were delighted to have 3 nominations all of whom had done truly exceptional things. It was difficult job for our panel to make a choice but we were happy to announce our winner was Jenny Wright of the Seaford NWR Group. She was nominated by Barbara Richardson of the Shoreham by Sea Group.

A bit about Jenny - Jenny has always liked to be busy and has been in a variety of clubs and societies ranging from the Adam Faith Fan club, the Scooter Club and ultimately graduating to NWR; what development and variety! Jenny moved to Seaford 17 years ago and there was no NWR group in the area. Barbara suggested she might like to use her organisational and people skills to set one up - this she did! Now 17 years later they have over 70 members.

Jenny is being honoured with this award because she is exceptional in her commitment to NWR, its vision and mission, to the ladies of Seaford who have benefited from her own commitment and care. Jenny embodies what NWR is all about during a time of exceptional challenges experienced by many organisations.

Jennifer Johnson, NWR Trustee

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My first conference as a Trustee...

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I’ve been asked to write a Blog about my first experience of a Conference as a Trustee, and this is the first blog I’ve ever written; so that’s another new life skill I’ve learnt since volunteering!

The last Conference I attended was York, in 2003, before I went to live abroad. Then, I was part of the organising committee, so Chester 2018 felt very different. I felt quite emotional as I was voted in, but was also wondering, what have I done? Luckily, everyone was very kind to me when it was my turn to speak and once that was over, I was really able to relax enjoy the rest of the day.

Apart from the AGM, being a Trustee at the Conference is no different to being a normal delegate and, like everyone there, I had a great weekend in Chester. The Speakers and Wrap Around events were excellent, although maybe I enjoyed the wine tasting a little too much! All the catering was delicious and efficiently delivered by smiley staff, especially the Friday and Saturday night events.

I liked meeting and chatting to members from all over the country and putting faces to those names I had previously only seen on Facebook or in emails. I was thrilled to catch up with a friend from that York committee, and also with the person who first introduced me to NWR, but who I hadn’t seen for 30 years. Thank goodness for name badges! We’d both moved around the country several times in the interim, but had always managed to find an NWR group to join and were grateful for the friendships that resulted. I also spoke to a lady I’d never met before, who spoke about volunteering at the Olympics. When I asked her if, by any chance she’d come across a friend of mine who’d also been a volunteer, they had, coincidentally, worked together. I love the links and connexions that belonging to a national organisation like NWR brings.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be attached to a local group, but even as an Independent member like me, it’s possible to enjoy a lot of what NWR has to offer by joining in with area and national events whenever possible. The organisers go to a lot of trouble to make them fully inclusive and there’s always a friendly face ready for a chat, so no-one needs to feel alone. We’re all part of the NWR Community.

Gillian Wignall, Trustee and Independent Member

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My thoughts on another fabulous conference - Chester 2018 by Josephine Burt

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Once members attend a national conference they have such a good time that they usually go again. Chester was my 7th national conference and yet another exhilarating, informative and fun weekend. The conference theme 2018 was 'Nature versus Human Innovation' so quite a challenging topic for the organising committee. However they found three excellent speakers working in the fields of genetics, sustainable agriculture and conservation.

The first speaker was Dr Lyndsey Craven-Butterworth from the University of Newcastle on Mitacondrial Research who are pioneering IVF-based techniques which has led to what the press call 'Three parent babies'. She was enthusiastic and gave a fascinating talk to explain what Mitacondria are and that Mitacondrial DNA disease is carried through generations by women. The first baby is due later this year.

Dr Kate Pressland from the Soil Association spoke after lunch. Kate runs the Innovative Farmers programme which aims to bring scientists and farmers together in order to provide good food without the use of chemicals. This is hugely important for the ecosystems and for us.

The Sunday morning conference was a new option which attracted 84 members back to the Queens Hotel. Jennifer Tegg, Head of Marketing at Chester Zoo, gave a passionate and fascinating illustrated talk on palm oil production in Borneo and the conservation of orangutans in which Chester Zoo is is a world leader. Chester is now working towards becoming the world's first sustainable palm oil city engaging with restaurants, hotels, manufacturers etc to achieve this.

There was a wide variety of optional wrap-around events and workshops from Friday till Sunday which created a stimulating and full programme. I enjoyed the 'Horrible handwriting' and walking the Chester walls and I heard great reports of the wine- tasting, the drumming workshop, the ghost walk and Discovering the Rows walk.

I am looking forward to the Plymouth conference in 2019 already with its theme of Voyage and Discovery. It's an opportunity to learn about new topics, make friends and have fun and perhaps have a holiday in beautiful Devon. Why not join me?

Josephine Burt

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The Procession Celebrating 100 Years Since Women Got The Vote

I took part in the London Procession on Sunday 10th June and what a thrilling and joyous experience it was!

Described by the organisers as “a spectacular living art work…a tribute to the Suffrage campaigners”, more than 30,000 women (and girls ) of all ages, colour, creed and sexual orientation assembled in Park Lane, on a beautiful sunny day, to collect our scarves. These were in the Suffragette colours. Some were worn as sashes or shawls and many were made into turbans and other (quite stunning) headdresses. The image we created was meant to be of a flowing river of green, white and violet, a gigantic moving banner. (Aerial shots show this was successful and, as we walked down Pall Mall, the procession stretched from one end to the other – simply breathtaking!)

There were banners aplenty, (Apparently one craft shop in London ran out of purple, green and white tassels and they “didn’t know why”!) Women came from many parts of England, and further afield, including New Zealand and Pakistan. There was a wonderful festival atmosphere, lots of good-natured chanting and singing, not to mention VERY loud music booming out at different points along the route!

All in all, a glorious, memorable day, when we honoured and remembered with pride the brave women who fought for the Vote for us.

Pat Holmes (Member of Finchley / Whetstone NWR)

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