The Big Day

The Big Day


Meetings at the Albert Hall are always special, even when your seat is up in the Gods (like mine was yesterday).


It makes for a spectacular view of the goings on!


I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to learn that the day began with a queue.  It was a good natured queue, though.  We were enjoying the sunshine, the anticipation and the chance to chat and catch up with friends.  (And how come I didn’t notice that bag at the time!?)


Once again, security was high and we were all on strict instructions about what we could bring and what we needed to identify ourselves – and once again, in practice this wasn’t anything like as strict as we’d imagined it would be.


We took our places and the meeting began – not as it usually does, with Jerusalem, because that was to be saved for Her Majesty the Queen, who would be arriving shortly.  In the meantime, there were some short business items to be dealt with, a few introductions and a little clarification of the agenda.  For the first time, we had a live link to Llanfair PG, where the first UK WI began one hundred years ago and later in the day, this link was extended to other WIs around the country, where the meeting was broadcast live throughout the day.

Of course, the highlight of the day was the arrival of Her Majesty, the Princess Royal and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.  Thankfully, their attendance was widely reported in the media, because we were asked not to take photographs whilst they were there.  Of course, I complied with the request – I didn’t want to be removed from the hall!


The morning speaker was Lucy Worsley.  She’d been watching the TED presentation on “power poses”, I’m sure, for several times she stretched her arms above her head and from time to time, stood with her hands on her hips.  We know the secrets, Lucy! 

Actually, she was very good and delivered a really interesting presentation about the history of the WI, trailing her new programme “Cake Bakers and Trouble Makers” which will be aired on BBC2 later this month.


All that remained of the morning was to deal with the resolution voting.  Now, this year, the resolution was generally regarded as weak. 

Failing to care–assessment of need in long term care

This meeting calls on HM government to remove the distinction between nursing care and personal care in the assessment of the needs of individuals, in order to advance health and wellbeing.

Few members I’ve spoken to felt able to vote in support of it (I voted against when my WI discussed the subject) and even a last minute slight change of wording made little difference.  It’s not that any of us disagree with the sentiment, just the way in which it has been put together – no mention of money at all and in these times of austerity, there simply isn’t enough of that to go round.  Anyway, the usual proposal was heard and seconded, and a brief discussion took place regarding the change of wording.  A vote was taken to agree the latter and with lunchtime not only fast approaching but almost past completely, there was a proposal to “move to the next business” – in other words, forget the resolution altogether and leave well alone.  A three quarters majority was needed for this to happen and sure enough, that was achieved.


With a show of hands, the 2015 resolution was consigned to…well, perhaps not the bin, but to further discussion.  What a pity there wasn’t a stronger, more confident centenary resolution to add to all of those which have gone before.  But that’s democracy in action, I suppose.


Speaking of resolutions, in 1983, they were the subject of a photograph taken in front of the Albert Memorial and yesterday, that same photograph was recreated.


What fun, eh?

The boards were handed out randomly just before the photo was taken, so we simply held them high and didn’t have much chance to read which one we were holding.  How serendipitous then to discover I’m holding “Adult Education”  - I can’t say if Mary felt the same about “Family Planning” though!


As we then moved onto the serious business of enjoying our lunch, someone was doing a piece to camera just along the way.  BBC News, we learned.


Later on, we learned we’d featured fleetingly on the BBC News at 6…and can also be seen briefly 56 seconds into the video on the website link here.


Lunch on the steps of the Albert Memorial is just one of the traditions!


All sorts of friends are there and it’s fun when they stop and say Hello!


The afternoon speaker was the inspiring Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson who spoke eloquently about the challenges and the joys of her career in sport and in politics.  she was followed by Helena Morrissey who would have proved equally inspiring if only we could all have got over wondering how on earth this slim, youthful looking woman could possibly have nine children?!  She did, however, inspire me to find out more about the 30% Club with her statistic that “there are more men called John than women of any name leading UK FTSE 100 companies” – pretty shocking, eh?


The afternoon ended with a fashion show, celebrating the success of the Kingston University/NFWI project I’ve been involved in, but sadly it wasn’t explained well enough for the members to understand what it was all about and the garments were not shown to best effect.  Here’s hoping there will be a fuller, more detailed account in WI Life soon!


All that remained was for a closing round of Jerusalem, followed by Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers) and the National Anthem.  Spine tingling?  Oh yes.

So here’s to the next 100 years!  In the meantime, we can relive (and you can watch) every minute of the meeting on YouTube

I wonder how the next centenary meeting will be enjoyed?

YouTube timings: 

HM Queen arrives and the National Anthem is sung 1:00

Jerusalem and HM Queen’s address 1:19

Lucy Worsley 1:43

Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson 5:07

Helena Morrissey 5:48

Kingston/NFWI  Fashion Show 6:38

Closing Jerusalem/Land of my Fathers/National Anthem 6:45

Done!  Finished!

Done! Finished!

After the ball was over…

After the ball was over…