My first NWR conference

by Alison Durcan of Steyning group

What would a female only conference be like I wondered? I imagined our local NWR group magnified by ten perhaps – challenging, friendly, and noisy most likely – I wasn’t far wrong as it happened.

The overwhelming memory I have is of fitting in with everyone from the off. My first experience was the Friday night quiz with a 60s theme. None of us at our table recognised the extremely handsome young Mark Rylance and we all struggled to put precise dates on significant sporting and political achievements – but it was still fun, and we all laughed together in good company.

As a relative newcomer to NWR (three years ago but with lockdown in between), I signed up for this year’s conference after hearing so many good things from my friend Steph about previous ones she’d enjoyed in Plymouth, Liverpool, and Brighton.

We stayed in the central Burlington Hotel where the conference was being held. This was a short walk from New Street station and at a good B&B rate. Breakfast was comprehensive and the staff were very helpful.

The programme had speaker sessions with plenty of long breaks to stretch your legs and to meet other members which was brilliant. Oh, and lots of tea/coffee and pastries to go with it.

There was a great range of very different speakers including the inspirational new Patron of NWR Jasvinder Sanghera, a highly charismatic campaigner for women and family rights.  

The after-dinner speaker on Saturday night was an academic dressed as Mary Queen of Scots, whose speciality was ‘Sex and the Tudors’. Cue many hilarious stories about the development of the condom, prostitutes, and ant-pox devices. 

But on reflection, by far and away the best bit was the time to mingle with so many like-minded women, intelligent and not afraid to challenge or contribute. We both came away with many organisational ideas to take back to our local group.

Roll on 2022 and Newcastle upon Tyne!