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Report of Annual Council Meeting

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Annual Council Meeting – March 2022

Great Speakers, a great occasion

Becky Warburton Reports

AFTER last year’s virtual event there was much excitement as WI members from across Surrey came together for the Federation’s 104th Annual Council Meeting at Dorking Halls.

We were welcomed into the hall with a fantastic piano medley by Gina Eason and were delighted to welcome representatives from East Kent and West Sussex to join us.

The morning began with the formal business of the day and a welcome from our Chairman Carol Gartrell. She called for members to get involved with helping to run the Federation and drew our attention to the incredibly moving and powerful Violence Against Women bunting, created by Surrey Vixens Virtual WI, which was displayed around the hall, bearing the names and photos of women in the UK who have died due to male violence since Sarah Everard’s murder in 2021.

In her Chairman’s report, Carol said we had experienced one of the most difficult and challenging years the Federation had endured. She added: “At times it has been an uphill task, with precious little joy, the shedding of many tears and a mounting list of challenges. It has at the same time also been one of the most successful as members at all levels of the organization have pulled together, demonstrating ingenuity, imagination and determination. We have all learned new skills, reached the depths of despair, but have also attained heights of elation as the fruits of our endeavours have been realised.

“I am justly proud of all our members, but especially those in the hall today. You who have led your WIs through this crisis and have persevered when it would have been easy to step back.”

During the year five WIs have closed and Warlingham Village, Fairlands and the Surrey Vixens Virtual WIs opened — the latter the first virtual WI in the country.

Sheena Landgraf, Federation Treasurer, reported that, though it had been a challenging year, we’re still in a good place. The reappointment of our independent examiner and investment advisers was approved.

Angie Leach, vice-chairman, gave a round-up of forthcoming events and highlighted that Surrey Federation is now home to 158 WIs.

Following the formal business of the day we had our first speaker, Sally Varah, with her talk A Hand Up, Not a Handout. Sally chairs the Michael Varah Memorial Fund, set up by her children to create a lasting legacy for the work of her late husband Michael, who was Surrey’s Chief Probation Officer for 16 years.

She spoke with passion about a range of projects that the fund supports, including Pitstop Football, a football team supporting homeless men and the appropriately named Birdsong project, a choral co-operation between young male offenders and students from the Orpheus Centre.

She also spoke of the Our Time art project at HMP Send, which has involved members of Send Inspired WI. The fund finances art tuition at the prison with the help of the Watts Gallery and the artists stage exhibitions of their work, which develop their presentation and budget management skills — WI members are invited to apply to visit the next exhibition in June [see Page 4].

Our next speaker was Professor Patricia Wiltshire with her talk Forensic Ecology: Thinking Outside the Box. Patricia is a forensic ecologist, botanist and palynologist, skills she uses to gather evidence at crime scenes — including the murders of Jessica and Holly at Soham. Her role in helping the police can take her from the crime scene to the witness box at the Old Bailey. Palynology is the study of pollens, spores and microscopic plankton and it was fascinating to hear how it can provide evidence vital to securing a conviction.

The lunch break gave members the opportunity to visit Federation stalls in the Martineau Hall. The afternoon session began with Carol announcing the members of the new Board of Trustees for 2022-24 [see Page 4). Carol will serve a fourth year as chairman, with Angie Leach, Debbie Playle and Jill Mulryan as Vice Chairmen. She thanked the retiring trustees, Betty Dominy, Toto James and Becky Warburton, for their support and contribution to the Board.

Carol presented the Eileen Bowler Trophy for the last time to the winners, Mary Louise Kirk (Queen for a Day essay) of Felbridge WI and Ann Malcolm (Jubilee card for the Queen) of Purley Cross WI. The endowment for this award has now come to an end.

Our final incredibly inspiring speaker was Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, one of the country’s leading women firefighters. Sabrina had a challenging upbringing; despite being homeless at 15 she continued with her schooling, sold The Big Issue to raise money to rent a flat, joined the fire service in Wales, did an Open University degree in psychology and at the age of 36 she was appointed Chief Fire Officer for the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

A turning point in her life was an incident she was called to which she thought might involve injury to her firefighter husband Mike. It wasn’t him, but the impact it had led Sabrina to look into firefighter safety and the discovery that 80% of accidents are down to human error and can be avoided. This resulted in a PhD from Cardiff University and the creation of a set of decision controls, three quick questions that every firefighter across the UK uses to help assess critical situations. These controls have won ten global science awards.

Angie Leach then took the stage to say a heartfelt thank-you to Carol for her outstanding dedication over the last three years, which had been vital to the Federation’s success.

Carol in turn thanked the Trustees and office staff, Ruth Williams, Debbie Playle, Ruth Bolton, the stewards and Dorking Hall staff, the Events, Leisure and Fundraising sub-committee for running the raffle, all the other sub-committees and Lesley Earl for the beautiful floral displays, bringing to an end a most inspiring and enjoyable day.

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Invitation to HMP Send Artists’ Exhibition

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DURING her speech at the Annual Council Meeting Sally Varah issued an invitation to Surrey WI members from Mark Creaven, governor of HMP Send, to apply to attend the next Our Time art exhibition on Tuesday, June 28 (5pm-7pm) or Wednesday, June 29 (4pm-7pm). Entry will be at 30 minute intervals.

These acclaimed exhibitions are curated and organised by the prison’s artists in residence (some are members of Send Inspired WI) and supported through a partnership between the prison, the Watts Gallery and the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive an invitation, please email your name, address, phone number and the name of your WI to by May 30. If you are not online, call 07791 266552.

The prison is located south of Send village (between the A3 and the A246 Epsom Road) in Ripley Road. For satnavvers, the postcode is GU23 7LJ. Ripley Road is accessed by turning off the A246 at East Clandon. The prison is also signposted on the A247 (Send-West Clandon road) shortly after crossing over the A3 via Tithebarns Lane.

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Message from our Federation Chairman (May 2022)

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Help! The Future of our Federation is at risk!

Once a volunteer, always a volunteer. Are you one of those people who finds their hand mysteriously in the air, of its own free will, when help is asked for? I certainly am. I guess that you are, as you are a member of the largest femaIe volunteering organisation in the country. I imagine therefore that you are a born volunteer?

Are, or were you, a Brownie or Cub leader, a school governor, a Sunday school teacher, a volunteer for another charity? The answer will be yes for many of you.

Have you volunteered at your WI? Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, not just as members of the committee, but perhaps one who meets and greets, sends a birthday or get-well card, or is that mysterious person who ensures that the urn is switched on but does this in an invisible fashion. I am certainly one of those, although my volunteering ideal as a student was to do Voluntary Service Overseas, something I aspired to do, never achieved, but still hanker after.

This is probably why I became a WI President, followed by a Federation Sub-committee member and finally your Chairman, and now for a fourth year. It was certainly not my motive for joining the WI, it just, well sort of, happened.

I still ‘blame’ a breadmaking workshop run by Betty Dominy for catching me and thereafter I was slowly reeled in on the proverbial WI hook. My intention was always to complete only a three-year term of office, just as all but one SFWI Chairman has done in the last 104 years. But this was not to be as, for a variety of reasons, no-one currently felt able to accept the nomination of Chairman.

So, because of a sense of duty and commitment to the WI and its charity objects, but with some hesitancy, I introduce myself to you as Federation Chairman for one more year. Incidentally also as the Secretary of Bagshot WI as we approach our 100th birthday and Chairman of the Federation’s Home Economics Sub-committee. That proverbial hand in the air again?!

Currently many charities, the WI amongst them, are struggling with the recruitment of volunteers at all levels of their organisations. Many people now wish to reclaim that lost time they spent in lockdown, ‘imprisoned’ for two years, and regain it by making the most of their time.

For many this means crossing items off their bucket list, and thus volunteering drops off the agenda. The WI, and in particular the Federation, are in a position where we are not recruiting a sufficient number of members to become Federation Trustees.
Toto James, Betty Dominy and Becky Warburton are stepping down from the Board of Trustees. Ann Thomas (Warlingham Evening WI), who spearheads the WI marquee at the Edenbridge and Oxbridge Show and Chris Butterfield have agreed to become Trustees.*
But this means we have only ten Trustees out of a possible 15. If we drop below eight then the Federation will be in peril and, under Charity Commission rules, will no longer be permitted to function. The Federation is therefore currently at risk.

This is where YOU come in! View volunteering as an exciting opportunity to:
• Broaden your horizons;
• Learn new skills;
• Soup up your CV;
• Enrich your endeavours;
• Ramp up your retirement;
• Invest your inspiration;
• Employ the many and particular skills you have to the benefit of the Surrey Federation and its members;
• Give to your county and your community; l Raise your voice for the benefit of all women;
• Join a team that shares your dreams;
• Make a difference;
• Become a Surrey Federation of WIs trustee!

Our Federation is a wonderful one with a sparkling history and a glowing future. It has achieved so much in its 104-year history. Don’t let the Federation become another victim of Covid. We are not a high street chain, we are not a fuel supplier, we are the WI.
Please put your name forward, have a chat with a Trustee, observe a board meeting [see Page 4 for dates], join us, add to the rich legacy of the WI, make a difference to the lives of women. The Surrey Federation needs you so please, answer the call today and reap the benefits of volunteering. They are many, varied and ultimately rewarding for all!

Carol A. Gartrell
Federation Chairman

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May SWIN now available here

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May’s Surrey WI News is now available for you to read online.

In this month’s edition there is plenty of interesting reading including: Vixen’s pennants on display, Annual Council Meeting Report, Secrets of the swarm, E&O Show Schedule and much more.

It is available to view on your phone, tablet or computer via Flipsnack@ May Surrey WI News.

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