Bournemouth Conference 2019

 Report from Maria Persin

Chair's Address

Chair Lynn Stubbings gave a review of the year:

Sport - Lynn highlighted the huge success of the WI partnership with the Bowls Development Alliance with many WI's taking part and the popularity of Walking Netball, now with 400 teams and another 92 due to start. It's not too late to take part in both schemes

Arts - The 2018 National Gallery study day was sold out and this year's event "The Female Nude" on 22 November is open to applications now.

Campaigning - Last October the WI celebrated 100 years of campaigning. Last year's resolution "Make Time for Mental Health" is making an impact and "End Plastic Soup" has been one of our most successful campaigns, with the WI report "In a Spin" catching the attention of the Government's Environmental Audit Committee.

Lynn closed her speech by welcoming new General Secretary Melissa Green.

Hon Treasurer's Statement

Denman continues to lose money but overall there was a surplus of £145k, the WI also has considerable funds which are invested and gains on investment were £327k, resulting in a total surplus of £472k. They plan to continue to increase membership fees by inflation but will work towards half of the fee being kept by local WI's - currently it's 49%.

Resolutions - A call against the decline of local bus services and Don't Fear the Smear

Both resolutions were passed by very large majorities following impressive and emotional speeches by the proposers and expert speakers.

Paul Buchanan from Transport Economics spoke against the local bus motion, which was very brave, given an audience of 5,000 who overwhelming supported the motion. He was treated kindly and given a given a polite welcome. His main argument was that a better solution to remoter populations would be the use of shared taxis and adoption of new technology to develop shared on-demand services, rather than to keep unprofitable bus routes. He did acknowledge that government policy on bus transportation was poor and noted that women make up two thirds of all bus trips and men make more railway trips - I wonder if this is why buses are the only form of public transport that does not have a national strategy?

The Public Affairs Committee were unable to find an expert speaker to speak against the Don't Fear the Smear resolution so the Chair of the committee presented the arguments against which mainly concentrated on whether this was a good choice of WI campaign time given the already existing extensive public health campaign and whether this was the best time to launch a campaign when the introduction of vaccination for younger women will mean a huge reduction in cervical cancer cases in the future.

However rates of take up for a smear test are falling and 1.2 million women did not take the test when invited to do so. My main take away from the discussion was the need to remove the upper age limit of 65 for tests as there is still a risk of cervical cancer in over 65's. Unfortunately this is not explicitly covered in the resolution.

Guest Speakers

Rt Hon Lord Bradley of Withington spoke on progress of the Care not Custody resolution passed by the WI 10 years ago. He is Chair of the Care Not Custody Coalition which the WI is a member of. It was heartening to hear about the progress that has been made in reducing the inappropriate imprisonment of mentally ill people.

Maggie Philbin of Swap Shop and Tomorrow's World fame gave a very funny talk about her career and the work she does for Teentech which promotes science careers to disadvantaged teenagers. For a long time an internet search of her name came up with a story on condoms that change colour when they come into contact with STI's, an invention by some teenagers that took part in a TeenTech competition which caught the attention of the world's press - something she is both proud and embarrassed to admit to.

Next Year

Next year the Annual Meeting will be in London. This is a fantastic opportunity for members of our link WI's to go to on a day trip. I was a little nervous attending on my own - who will I eat with and talk to? But the friendliness of everyone was amazing, I randomly ended up drinking sangria with some ladies from Lincoln on Bournemouth seafront and chatting to many women over lunch and in toilet queues, as well being taken under the wing of members from Rochford and Roach WIs. The atmosphere in the conference centre filled with 5,000 women singing Jerusalem is worth experiencing (though a little too high for me).

What to wear? Well by far the most popular choice was a summer dress, preferably floral, with jacket or cardigan in accent colour.


Resolution Results.

“A call against the decline in local bus services”

votes For: 5729

votes against:262

carried by 96%


Don’t fear the smear

votes for: 5788

votes against: 194

carried by 97%