Thoughts on the WI – our Annual Meeting

At the moment, I can’t drag my thoughts much beyond the WI – it was our Annual Meeting on Tuesday, and on Saturday it is our Winter Bazaar.  I’ve written about our Bazaars before – I hope this year’s  effort is as positive and life-affirming as our previous ones.  After the Annual Meeting, yet again I am President for another year….

Here’s my special silver WI President’s badge

     As President, I find this time of year very stressful. Fortunately, we have an efficient Secretary (Hello Angela!) and an equally efficient Treasurer (Hello Jan!), and the rest of the Committee also get stuck in and work their socks off, which is a great relief.  Even so, I do inevitably feel the weight of responsibility, and it also feels a bit lonely and thankless sometimes. But hey, I am Battleaxe. It’s what I do…. and between you me and the internet, I always enjoy Being In Charge…. When I was young, nobody would have thought for a single second that I could do this sort of thing…. 
     For the Annual Meeting, there are so many official bits to remember, and we also have to present cheques to the local charities we support. This year it is Emmaus Hastings and Rother, and the Halton Dementia Group. People from the charities are invited to attend the meeting and speak to us about latest developments in their groups before receiving their cheques.
      This year also we were losing three of our most prominent committee members, who have decided to retire. Two, Shirley and Jean, have been on the Committee since the WI started over six years ago. Jean was Secretary until recently, and Shirley, Membership Secretary. The thrid person,  Jen, has been Treasurer for several years and did an excellent job – it is probably to hardest job of the lot.  We got together a really staggering amont of money in a collection for the three. Each had an engraved crystal paperweight, an Oxfam ‘gift’ – a well, an allotment and an education project, a plant and a small gift voucher.  They will be greatly missed.
      In earlier times, WI Presidents were remote figures who were deferred to, and largely played a ceremonial role.  In village WIs, the President was usually the lady of the manor. They usually wore a hat and gloves…..  Here are a couple of photographs from the internet. These women do remind me of my Mum. Oh horrors, I am her….

Southdown (Essex) WI in the 1950s
These ladies are actually from a New Zealand WI, but they are fabulous…

     Some old-style WIs still have a very formal set-up – she is addressed as ‘Madam President’ and sits at a top table. Needless to say, like most modern ‘reformed’ WI groups, ours is very different, I am a ‘hands-on’ President who mucks in with everything, and we have no ceremony at all. I do stand up at the front of the hall to speak to them – with so many, it would be hard to get their attention otherwise.   The Annual Meeting is the only time in the year when we do formal stuff.  The order of the meeting laid down by the National Federation reminds us that we are part of a 100 year tradition. We only ever sing ‘Jerusalem’ once a year, at this meeting.
     We had an excellent attendance this year – 55 members out of our 70, which is good for an evening where there is no exciting happenings and we have to trundle through reports. Fortunately all kept it brief and the Secretary even did hers in the form of a poem…. a sort of version of Hiawatha….
     My President’s address is largely a load of thanks – to the members, to members singled out because they have done something special, to the Committee etc etc.  Then we had presentations to departing committee members, and elected the new committee – thank goodness we have three come forward to replace the three who had gone, so we didn’t need an election.

Presentations to retiring committee members

      Then, everyone has to elect the President. They all have to write on a piece of paper the name of the person they want, and the votes are counted up. It is actually good to see that a few people do nominate persons other than me. It isn’t North Korea, you know… (I hope), and I don’t propose to do this for ever. Also, I know my style doesn’t appeal to everyone – some like a more correct, predictable type of leader.  Anyway, after all that, it is still me. I’ve done this for three years now – this will be my fourth. I will give up after five.
     At each meeting I do the ‘notices’ – tell them all what is going on, coming up etc etc.
     Finally, there is presenting cheques, posing for photos with the people from the charities, and then it is done thank goodness.
     Philosopher is getting much better. I shall miss his help at the Bazaar this year – how will we manage with the clothes rails….. few men could have more expertise in clothes rail erection….
     Here he is walking on the sea front. We are so lucky to have the sea….



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