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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Leighton Buzzard Day Conference – The Rothschilds in the Vale of Aylesbury

As the sun rose on Saturday May 19th it promised to be the start of a perfect day for the big event, our day conference, the first that Leighton Buzzard group had ever held. It had been a long while in the planning, and although we were fully booked at an early stage there were last-minute nerves as we anticipated the arrival of our guests for the day.

There was another big event on the same day, which we thought might affect attendance, but in fact it didn’t seem to matter, and of course those who were so inclined could record it all and watch it at leisure later in the day.

Our first speaker, Susan Brooke, is a freelance art historian and guide at Waddesdon Manor. She explained how the Rothschilds built their wealth and financial expertise on the basis of being trustworthy and reliable guardians of their clients’ wealth, and as they rose through the ranks of society they were keen to impress, building magnificent houses and filling them with the most opulent treasures they could find. Contrary to other families who had amassed great wealth, they were careful not to squander it so as to pass the baton to the next generation.

The second speaker, Catherine Taylor, is head archivist at Waddesdon Manor, and gave us a fascinating history of the different Rothschild homes in our area, together with entertaining stories of some of the occupants. She also emphasised the considerable philanthropic work undertaken by the family, together with the various trusts and foundations which were set up over the years.

After a delicious and very varied bring and share lunch, attendees had the opportunity to visit Ascott House, a Rothschild home just half a mile from where our event was held in Wing Village Hall, either exploring the treasures displayed in the house or enjoying the beautiful and extensive gardens. Others opted for a walk round the village. Tea and cakes were offered on their return to the hall before setting off on the journey home.

We received some lovely comments during the day, including “Just a note to say all three of us from North Beds. Villages enjoyed Saturday very much. Interesting speakers and we were very impressed with Ascott House and the lovely gardens", and, “Thank you and your NWR colleagues for giving us all such a good day.  
It was all so well organised and you had made the venue look so inviting. Ascott House is delightful and the gardens and wonderful - mind you such good weather helped! Many thanks.” Thame NWR

We went home tired, but relieved it had all gone well and that everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Who knows, we might even organize another event one day!

Jo Thomson

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CHAOS, in particular ‘Positivity in an era of chaos’

CHAOS, in particular ‘Positivity in an era of chaos’

Carlisle one day Conference.

Val Bassindale, Carlisle NWR

It was May 2017, I had just taken over as LO, and we were all sat having our annual dinner enjoying a glass or two of wine, when I made an off hand comment about hosting an NWR conference in Carlisle. After receiving such a positive response, I decided to follow it up (making sure it wasn’t just the wine speaking) with an email to all members, who again confirmed their support. I quickly set up a small sub-committee with volunteers and we had our first meeting in July. Well, since then we have never looked back !!!

Fast forward to 19th April 2018, the day of our Conference.

The venue was a modern hotel in the centre of Carlisle, within easy walking distance of the train station. We had 120 delegates, representing 30 NWR branches from as far north as Arbroath and Marchington in the south. The furthest person travelled 191 miles from Grantham, which we acknowledged with a £20.00 book token.

We had three fantastic speakers, who all have strong links to Cumbria and coincidentally their first names all began with the letter M.

The first speaker, Marcia Reid Fotheringham, a retired clinical psychologist, currently performs the role of a Magistrate and is the chair of the North & West Cumbria Bench and High Sheriff of Cumbria elect for 2019/20. She talked about her fascinating life and career in the USA & UK and how she drew positivity from the racism she has encountered. Telling us an extraordinary story about a group of Morris Dancers who blacked their faces and sang slave songs. Well that was until the formidable Marcia intervened!!

The second speaker, Marie-Elsa Bragg, writer, Jesuit Spiritual Director, ordained Anglican priest and Duty Chaplain of Westminster Abbey. Delivered a mesmerising talk on how she became one of the first women to become an ordained priest and how she led a minute silence in respect of those lost and injured in the terrorist attack in London 2017.

The third speaker, Miranda Kirschel MBE, founded ‘Women in Nuclear UK’ in 2014 to improve gender balance and encourage capacity building in the nuclear industry and to improve engagement on nuclear with women in public. Delivered a very personal and stimulating power point presentation.

We had 12 tables with 10 delegates around each table, and after each speaker there was a 20 minutes table discussion, which was led by a Carlisle member, who would produce a question. Following this, each speaker would be asked 10 minutes worth of questions.

The last event of the day was a plenary with Marie-Elsa Braggs and Miranda Kirschel, with questions provided by the delegates, providing a further interesting insight into their lives and careers.

My top 5 tips for organising a one day conference:

  1. Choose a subject that is relevant & enables your speakers to put their own slant on it.
  2. Confirm your speakers as early as possible and aim high.
  3. Confirm venue & price asap – within easy reach of a train station & car parking.
  4. Be organised and don’t forget the detail.
  5. Have fun.
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Successful area lunch in Devon.

Ivybridge group organised another successful Area Lunch on Saturday 24 March at the Buckfast Abbey Conference Centre in Devon. 93 members from all over the South West and as far afield as Solihull attended and it is always great to catch up with members you have met before.

First on the programme was a welcome from Brother Christopher and a humorous description of day in the life of a monk including questions such as 'Are you a monk?' and 'Where are the nuns?'! Then we were treated to a fascinating presentation by the Abbey beekeeper Clare Densley. Clare
explained the changing role of the bee colonies at Buckfast from honey production to a focus on education about bees and bee keeping courses. She showed us different beehives, went through the lifecycle of the bee and finally recommended plants to grow for bees including dandelions, Vipers Bugloss and forget-me-knots.

After a superb two course lunch in the light and spacious Refectory complete with complimentary fudge, the Devon author Marcia Willett joined us. Marcia's writing career started aged 50 and she has now written 29 books including short stories under her pseudonym Willa Marsh. Landscape is always the first 'character ' in her books and then other characters evolve and the plot. Her research always includes lots of visits to the setting of the stories which are often places in Devon.

The formal sessions concluded with a brief explanation on the duties of a trustee, by trustee Josephine Burt and exciting news from Natalie Punter, NWR National Organiser about the 2019 national conference. The Joint Area Organiser, Glenda Cooper concluded with huge thanks to the Ivybridge Group, led by Anne Brooks and Marilyn Coles, for organising such a stimulating and enjoyable day.

Despite the wet weather some members made the most of their visit with a guided tour of the Abbey gardens and a visit to the bee barn.

The planning for the 2019 Area conference in Tavistock on Saturday 23 March is well under way so what better excuse for a short break in Devon!

Josephne Burt, Trustee

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