It was the WI AGM in Cardiff yesterday and a packed agenda meant that it was going to be quite a long day, even for those of us who didn’t have that far to travel.
I was lucky to have a seat with a great view. First thing was to try to spot the Gloucestershire delegates…
Oh my goodness, they were right there, centre front and Gwyneth, my WI’s delegate had a terrific seat on the second row.
It’s always a well organised event and the items on the agenda are swiftly dealt with. On this occasion, however, there were a few “business” items and amendments to the constitution which involved a great deal of legal terminology and not everyone had done their homework… Nevertheless, our Chairman Ruth made sure that things were resolved quickly. Chairman of the Charity commission, William Shawcross’s presentation was well prepared (by his daughter, he claimed) but surprisingly, it was read rather than spoken – so lost much of its impact, I felt.
An extended lunchtime brought a boost to Cardiff city centre shops!
Afternoon speakers included Griff Rhys-Jones, returning, he said to “The Land of my Aunties” and speaking as Chairman of Civic Voice. His presentation took us nicely into our resolution debate about the need to support our High Streets. Following discussion, the resolution was passed, though not without clarification about what we might do about small towns where local businesses are no longer there to support and what might constitute a “High Street” anyway?
The second afternoon speaker was John Humphrys. At the end of the morning session, Ruth relayed a message from the man himself, inviting questions from the audience which he would answer during his presentation.
“Hmmm…” said the ladies to my left, “saves him preparing a talk, then”.
My thoughts exactly!
Choosing to speak from the centre stage then, he went on to answer these questions, mostly with anecdotes from his career as a journalist. He quickly sized up his audience, tested the water with a slight anti-Blair comment before launching into a pretty full-on (and rather risqué) tale about the former Prime Minister and his wife, the like of which is probably more the norm for some after-dinner business speech than the WI AGM.
The afternoon ended with some audience participation led by Jonathan Willcocks who has been commissioned to compose a choral work to celebrate the centenary of the WI in 2015. On this occasion, he invited the audience to join in an action song (composed, I imagine, for children, with rather higher voices than me or the ladies sitting nearby!) The “real” singing which followed was far more impressive – Jerusalem again, followed by the Welsh national anthem and finally, God Save the Queen.
Definitely one of those “you have to be there” moments!
The meeting finished around 5.15pm. Of course, emptying an arena of that size takes time and there’s still a bit of further catching up to do. But worst of all were the transport arrangements, which had the Gloucestershire coaches a long way down the order to leave.
Though we’d been given a time of 7.15pm (yes! really!) we hoped that it wouldn’t actually take that long and that someone, somewhere was being pessimistic when they drew up that schedule. But as the time went by, it was clear, it was indeed going to be 7.15pm.
Leaving only the cleaners behind, we eventually made our way home!