CFWI Visits the Royal Albert Hall!

Last week, a coach full of happy WI members from Cornwall set off for the NFWI Annual Meeting in London.

We arrived at our hotel in Kensington on Tuesday 4 June in the afternoon and members scattered to see the sights. Some went to see a show, others hit the museums and others met up with friends.

The next morning was the day of the Annual Meeting! We strolled the 20 minute walk to the Royal Albert Hall and got there in plenty of time for some photos outside before the meeting.

And what a meeting it was! Quite a number of us had never been to the Royal Albert Hall before, and others had never been to an Annual Meeting. What a treat we had! We started, of course, with Jerusalem. As moving as it can often be to hear WI members singing Jerusalem, if you haven’t heard it in the Royal Albert Hall, you have missed out. It was wonderful.

We first heard from outgoing NFWI Chair Ann Jones, who has led us so beautifully for the past three years. She will be missed. Hon Treasurer Jeryl Stone (who is the new NFWI Chair!) then gave a rundown of the WI’s finances. It’s never an easy job, but she presented it clearly and comprehensively. 

It was then time for the first of three truly inspiring guest speakers, all of whom spoke on the subject of violence against women – an important WI campaign. Nazir Afzal OBE, a former Crown Prosecutor who is now Chancellor of Manchester University, is best known for tackling cases involving violence against women and the sexual exploitation of children. He talked about some of his high profile cases and brought many of us nearly to tears as he discussed women thanking him for finally “being believed.” 

We then heard Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association, who spoke in favour of the 2024 Dental Health Matters resolution. Following this, questions were taken from the floor before all the delegates cast their votes. As you’ll probably have heard by now, the resolution passed by an overwhelming majority.

During the lunch break, hundreds and hundreds of members converged on the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens to eat their packed lunches. This is a scene that has been repeated over the years for decades, and it’s lovely to see the tradition continue (see 2024 and 1971 below).

Embed from Getty Images

Our second guest speaker of the day was no stranger to any of us! Mel B aka Scary Spice! Mel was interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire of the BBC’s Newsnight, and she spoke about her horrific experiences in an abusive marriage. She explained the concept of coercive control and did it all in a remarkably eloquent yet down to earth and honest way.

The final speaker was actor Timothy Watson whom many know better as Rob Titchener from The Archers. He spoke about the Archers’ storyline involving Rob and his abuse of Helen Archer. Timothy was joined on stage by Teresa Parker of Women’s Aid, who had acted as a consultant to The Archers, making sure the story rang true.

It was a very full day and we all left with plenty to think about.

The coach collected us outside the Royal Albert Hall and we made our slow and steady journey back to Cornwall!

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