By Alison Pearson
What’s more important than our recent local elections, London Mayoral elections or the upcoming vote on the EU…? Our Borough Belles WI Annual General Meeting with voting opportunities aplenty, that’s what!
A slide show of pictorial moments of 2015-16 and a stirring rendition of Jerusalem began setting the scene for our ‘more structured than last year’ AGM. Every year each WI must hold a meeting to both celebrate and share what’s happened in the last year by members holding official posts (President and Treasurer) and to give all members a chance to get involved in who runs the show by placing votes for Committee members (both existing and new volunteers). We also vote on who’s going to be the President for 2016-17 and decide to support (or not) National Federation causes amongst other things.
The AGM process simply makes sure that all members know what’s happening/has happened, where the money’s been spent/squirreled away into Amelia’s cocktail fund and ensures everyone has a fair chance to get involved in running their WI and to enable the ousting of a dictatorship should anything like that have arisen in the last year 😉
Official business started with an agreement that we’d cap our Borough Belles membership at 70 people for this year (due to space at our venue*). So if you’re one of the 70** joined by Dec 2016 then consider yourselves super lucky beings!
*we always keep room for guests
**we’re currently up to 48
The WI Resolutions are issues suggested and voted on my members nationwide that will be shortlisted for the national body of the WI to campaign on. This year BBWI members helped us understand the shortlisted two 1) Avoid food waste, address food poverty 2) Appropriate care in hospitals for people with dementia, by listing the pros and cons and Belles in the room added their personal views and experience to the mix. We decided to support the dementia resolution going forward to the National WI AGM for discussion. Both topics are complex but we decided that the food waste resolution could be more focussed on people as individuals, rather than highlighting only the role of supermarkets, to have a greater impact. The dementia resolution touched on the experiences of some Belles in the room who shared that they thought better NHS procedures could have helped a great deal to ensure their relatives or friends received the specific care they needed and that it would be a very worthy resolution to support.
Next up each of our clubs and interest groups gave a brief run-down of what they’ve been up to in the last twelve months. Sophie’s Campaigns & Community highlights involved hundreds of mince pies, wading through mud and celeb-spotting Vanessa Feltz. Phoebe and Katie have hated literally all the Cocktails & Pages books so far (6) but since they’re such lovely people they still designed stimulating questions for us to discuss and stoically consumed several cocktails at each session to make sure they did a good job. Alison and eight other Belles of Fire nutters worked themselves up (through mostly chatting + a little running) to an official first race at the Peckham Rye 10K this year. Muireann and the dancing gals especially loved Electroswing, the Rivoli Ballroom, a Prince night and wearing original 90s gear including CKOne (because Muireann never throws anything away… eek!). Ruth and Sarah are going to kick-start Craft Club with gusto at weekends after their weekday sessions were a little low on numbers. They’re going to lure us in with guided toiletries makes. And the new Wandering Belles haven’t wandered anywhere yet because that starts in July…
Our accredited Financial Statement was prepared and presented by our Treasurer Amelia who shared the ups and downs of our bank balance and where our membership fee goes. Everyone voted to adopt the Statement and especially since Amelia had to be professionally examined to make sure all was present and correct.
Finally Muireann our illustrious President gave her address. She said it’s been a pretty special year for the Borough Belles, as well as for the WI as a whole. The centenary celebrations brought the WI into the public eye in a big way and that translated into a lot of new members and guests as well as interest from the media – Sophie was even quoted in Grazia! Indeed our most popular month was the September WI Day celebration.
“Our monthly meetings covered a broad range of interests: we hosted the wonderful Choir With No Name who taught us to sing With A Little Help From My Friends among other things which is as perfect an anthem for the Belles as for them I think. Other joyful group activities we’ve tried: laughter yoga, gogo dancing with the Actionettes. We turned our hands to floristry and all made incredibly different floral crowns from the same choice of materials, and a similar result happened when the Skip Sisters showed us how to make oystercard holders using scrap papers. We heard fascinating speakers from Traveleyes about holidays for blind and partially sighted people (which resulted in two Belles taking a trip to Morocco with them), last month Louise Winter about modern approaches to funerals, and Odette Toilette on the history of perfume in the 20th century. In September our meeting coincided with the national WI Day and we celebrated the centenary in costumes and achievements from every decade.
Outside of meetings you’ve heard from our regular clubs. As well as those there were a number of events for the centenary that we were lucky to take part in: Christy went to the National AGM at the Albert Hall, Ruth and Rachel won tickets to the royal garden party at Buckingham Palace, Alison and Amy were on the GBBO Extra Slice, Muireann, Maureen, Emma and Phoebe were tasters for the Great British Menu. We’ve been to several exhibitions together, at the Foundling Museum, Design Museum and Imperial War Museum. And we had our second ever seaside day trip – to Margate, incredibly well executed by Emma and hopefully now a regular summer occurrence.
We also had stalls at Bermondsey St Fair and Borough Market, which raise funds to allow us to get great speakers and events each month. As of recently we have dedicated committee member for our partnership with Borough Market – Emily – and you can expect stalls and regular events with her, such as the Disco Soup session some committee members tried out where members of the public created a giant communal meal from produce that would otherwise have been binned.
So it’s been a pretty full year! And one steeped in the ideals of fellowship and community improvement that were the vision of our founding sisters. Looking to the future we have meetings planned on the subjects of Borough Market, vintage fashion, the WI’s Sports Week, London history and more.”
Our Tellers counted votes for the 2016-17 Committee and the supported members were written up on a board (welcome Polly!) and then we had the opportunity to vote in a new President.
Since Muireann subconsciously wore the same dress (or a very very similar one – check out the blog post if you don’t believe me!) as she did for her re-election last year, we were duped into making her our President for 2016-17… but it probably had more to do with the fact that she does a fantastic job and is still willing to do so!
We thanked Catherines S and R for their considerable contributions to the Committee since they were standing down. Then we had a toast of Prosecco to our next year of Borough Belles, made nice smelly bath tea bags and ate cake.