The Annual Conference was held at Telford this year. This is a new venue for Inner Wheel, being middle England with easy access by road and rail from all parts of GB & I. It had a purpose built arena which was very functional, but characterless, but it was near to a large shopping area, the access to which will be a lot better when all the road works around it are completed. In his welcoming address, the Mayor of Telford kept apologising for the disruption!
His welcome came after our Service of Friendship, conducted by the Chairman of District 129, who was excellent. We had a Salvation Band Corps to play for the hymns, and the Inner Wheel prayer and the readings, all poems, were delivered by members from the 4 countries in GB & I. A break with tradition was the choir, which came from a local Primary School, about 40 children, who sang without music or words, about friendship, hope and care.
The soloist, a Welsh Bass was wonderful, with eyes closed it could have been Bryn Terfel. His final song, “My living has not been in vain” had us reaching for our hankies. We had them to hand before, when the last soloist in the choir, a small boy, had dissolved into tears because he had made a mistake. We all we all wanted to give him a hug. This was a very poignant service and the collection raised £8,566. for Hope and Homes for Children.
We continued after the break with the Italian President of International Inner Wheel, who kept her address fairly short, but reminding us that the rules of IIW should be obeyed. I’m not sure what she meant, but as she was talking to us in GB & I, I wondered if perhaps we are guilty of not doing so. The first guest speaker, Caroline Wilkinson, had a very interesting job in the field of emergency nutrition, dealing especially with malnutrition in children caught up in conflicts and famines, but her presentation skills were not good, and her talk was more of a travelogue, and information about the make-up and efficacy of the “food” we see on our televisions being fed to severely malnourished babies would have been more enlightening.
The afternoon session was amazing, we heard first from the President of Rotary in GB & I, who is a woman, and a member of Inner Wheel, and who must be a breathe of fresh air through Rotary. This was followed by a very moving presentation from Hope and Homes and then the “Wheels Project” committee showed us a well presented and slick DVD of what we had got up to all over GB & I. Under this title, the ingenuity of some clubs was amazing, and the reactions of men, women and children who were the recipients of all this effort was heartwarming. There were more tears when the inventor of a wheelchair, a “Wizzybug” developed especially for very small disabled children, expressed his thanks, and we saw how the tiny children enjoyed being in them. This was also a “Wheels Project”.
The afternoon ended with Jan Leeming, who admitted she had a hard act to follow, but we did hear about what it was like to be one of the first women to read the news on television which was another male bastion overcome!
Next day was the AGM. On the whole the meeting went well. The reports from the Officers started with the Treasurer. We are okay financially, so there was no proposal to raise capitation which was good news. The Editor told us that the website was now live, but it is still ‘work in progress’. Then we had the Home Service Report, as usual highlighting the way some clubs find new ideas for raising money. ‘Come Dine with Me’ parties seemed to be popular, and a pyjama walk sounded like fun. Troughout the 4 countries in GB & I, we raised £1,150,289.31p had been raised. What an amazing achievement.
The Overseas Report was also inspirational with a very good DVD of Trish Douglas in Africa with Sight Savers doing their most valuable work and this brought on more tears. She told us that £72,500 had been given to that charity. The other statistics were impressive; £45,555. 80 for the Indonesian typhoon, 30 Aqua Boxes, 23 Shelterboxes, 9,949 Christmas boxes went to Eastern Europe, and 750 kilos of used stamps were collected. We watched another DVD with ‘My Heart was Broken’ as its theme music which brought out more hankies, but it highlighted the fact that we should all be very proud of what we do achieve for overseas projects.
The proposals to change the constitution were dealt with; most went through on the nod, and the only one changing the word ‘Overseas’ to ‘International’ provoked some discussion. This proposal was carried, as was District 17’s proposal for Day Tickets to Conference.
In the afternoon session, we had a very good address by Association President Gill who introduced next year’s Executive. The Golf Trophies were presented, and as the golfers had played in torrential rain on Monday afternoon, they all deserved a trophy. Monty Don, the final Speaker, was very entertaining, and his message was that if we love our gardens they will flourish.
The Gala Dinner went with a swing. Most people had dressed up for the occasion with feather boas of all colours shedding feathers everywhere, as did the variety of feathers worn in the hair. We ate, and drank talked and danced and left to calls of “See you in Bournemouth”.
In all, 2001 members attended this 2014 Conference, and if you have never attended one before, do come next year – it is an amazing experience and each one is different to the one before.