The theme of the Conference was ‘Be a Friend’, linked to showcasing all the work the Inner Wheel undertakes. It would be all too easy to write that the Conference had been interesting and a chance to meet and make new friends and say the presentations had been inspiring. That would present the wrong impression of what has been an inspirational two days.
The Celebration of Service and Friendship was just that. The Venerable Peggy Jackson smiled throughout and made us all feel so much part of the service. The hymns and readings reflected the friendship theme as did Peggy’s address. Using a mobile phone to talk to the assurance company about a crowd removing the roof to allow a sick man to be healed by Jesus was humorous and brought the point home of the reading from St Mark’s Chapter 2 Verse 4.
The President of the International Inner Wheel, Carole Young, spoke about three key issues that we can all relate to:
(1) Not being able to find members willing to take office, something all Clubs and District are experiencing, an ageing membership and the need to attract new members.
(2) The need to publicise our Inner Wheel events at all levels of the organisation. We are not a Coffee Club, we have the power to bring about change, and in publicising our activities we can attract new members.
(3) The need to change the format of the International Governing Body and reduce the membership from 16 and 5 and the Executive members to 10 elected members; of which one would be from the UK and the other from India as we have the largest number of Inner Wheel members. The other 8 would be elected from across the world and have a more proactive role.
Carole’s concluding remarks were that Inner Wheel needs to remember its core values and focus on our original objectives of service and friendship.
The last session of the morning was Lars Tharp of the Antiques Road Show, who captivated us all with his stories about the show. Lars specialism is in Chinese ceramics, because after leaving university with a degree in Paleolithic Archaeology, he realised he could not earn a living in archaeology. We now all know the average visitor to the Road Show takes 10 items in a plastic bag, which in some cases can result in more than 10 pieces by the time they get to the table to ask the experts advice. Richard Sanderson has the best techniques for letting visitors down gently and that their prize possession is not what they thought it was. Lars made the point about how many people change their mind about an object when they know its value and how often they then go on to sell the item after stating they will not. The one item that affected him greatly was the valueless broken china vase with the runny glaze. A man brought it in and said his father had picked it up when he had been in Hiroshima in 1945, and the glaze had re-run because of the 1300c temperature. Now a priceless object because it was a testament to an act of war.
The afternoon started with a very moving update on the work of Brainwave and a presentation to HRH The Countess of Wessex who had been involved with the charity for the last 10 years. The Countess spent a long time looking at the Inner Wheel stall, promoting all the charities we support and talking to members. Inner Wheel members were thanked for all their hard work in raising funds for the charity.
The President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, Rotarian John Minhinic, expressed the need for change and to stop talking about it and do it. He explained about the new districts in Rotary and the possibility of have joint Conferences.
Chris Moon’s talk was entitled ‘Brightside of the Street’. There really are no words that I can use to express what Chris had experienced in his life, but how at all times he had turned the negative into the positive. He talked about how we all bring change into our lives but often it was too much bother, we all have choices and we can focus on what we have lost or built on that loss and then move on. After a variety of careers, Chris joined the army, suffered capture at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, who free him and caused a whole section of their army to defect. Eventually he worked in the Bomb Disposal unit in Mozambique, and after an unexploded landmine detonated on the job, he lost the lower part of his right leg and an arm. He could, he told us, have given up due to the pain, but then thought he would not see his family, so he turned the negative into the positive and decided to work hard at recovering. He set himself the target or running the 1996 London Marathon, and since then he has been running to raising money for charity. Chris ended by saying we all have a choice and need to take ownership of our lives, to bring about changes not only in our own lives but in how we help other people bring about change in theirs. His philosophy in life is not to give in to the power of negativity and face the challenges of change with a positive attitude.
On Wednesday, the AGM was attended by 1.867 members, and greetings were read from the Queen. The Treasurer informed the Conference that there was a £37,149 surplus for the year 2012, although there had been drop in membership. The Editor read the Home Service report, detailing all the Inner Wheel activities to raise funds for the various charities and to date for this year Inner Wheel have raised the staggering sum of £1,269,113! The Overseas Chairman detailed all the amounts raised for overseas charities but did not give a final total. It will be in the next Newsletter.
The Open Forum prompted discussion on various topics. (1) ‘Whether the Inner Wheel should appoint a PR consultant’-the overwhelming feeling of the meeting was that word of mouth was the best way to attract new and non-Rotary members. (2) ‘Walk in showers should be installed in hotels to conserve water’ – there was mixed feelings about this suggestion and no overall decision was reached. (3) ‘That the emphasis be placed on members taking office need only
serve for two years and not three as at the moment’ – this would allow an increase in members standing for office for District and Association. The reason behind this discussion was that the skills gained whilst in office are lost, especially when a fallow year is taken into account. There is a need to make members feel that it is not compulsory to serve three years. (4) The meeting was asked what were the qualities required in the ideal Inner Wheel member – this was turned on its head and the meeting thought we are all unique and that it is the Clubs that need to change and adapt and be open to new ideas.
The afternoon guest speaker was Gail Stuart, Eric Morcambe’s daughter, who kept the meeting in fits of laughter, telling stories about life in the Morcambe house when she was growing up.
The Association President, Sheila Halliday-Pegg, then addressed the meeting. She spoke of the good that Inner Wheel members do and the legacy we leave behind, that often we never know about. Within the Clubs we need to care for our members as everyone has something to offer, and be aware of the needs of others and ‘Be a Friend’ at all times. The need to use all form of communications to spread the word of Inner Wheel was highlighted, from word of mouth to Facebook. Clubs and District need to evolve new ways of working and running their meetings to keep long-standing members and attract new members. We can all increase the profile of Inner Wheel by an act of service to the local and international community, whilst having fun at the same time.
The new officers for 2013/2014 will be:
Association President – Gill Rowley
Assistant Vice Chairman – Thelma Pacsoo
Treasurer – Elizabeth Thomas
Overseas – Trish Douglas
Publications – Pauline Dogulas
Constitution – Zena Coles
Conference Committee Chairman – Doreen Peach
The 2014 Conference will be held in Telford on 7 to 9 April
Jill Cobley, District Chairman