CONFERENCE 2018 the President’s Report:

NCWGB held its annual conference on October 5-7 at the Royal Station Hotel in Newcastle upon Tyne, and it was a pleasure to meet so many members, and to see the National Council of Women at its most active.  It was a particular satisfaction to welcome so many young NCW and NCYW members and school representatives, and to witness the mixing of the generations in both presentations and discussions.

The theme this year was “Beyond the Ballot: Women and Parliament’ and the conference began with a lively talk by Guy Opperman MP, describing his own route to Parliament and outlining the ways in which he and fellow MPs are actively encouraging more women to stand for election. Following on from this, Leah Shahzad described her role as a Member of Youth Parliament and her participation in the Make Your Mark project, which invites young people to prioritise issues of concern to them that they believe should be debated in the youth parliament. The round table discussion that followed was based on some of the ten issues on which young people taking part in Make Your Mark were invited to vote this year.

Saturday morning began with the President’s address, following which the Sheriff of Newcastle, Councillor David Cook, welcomed delegates to the city. A message from the Queen was also read out. The Resolutions session that occupied the remainder of the morning was distinguished by the presentation of resolutions by two of our 18+ NCW group members, Helena and Rachel. In Helena’s case, since she was unable to attend conference, she appeared on screen, having videotaped her speech from her university room. We were also pleased to receive a resolution from one of our Associate organisations, the Josephine Butler Society, in conjunction with the Salvation Army. All resolutions were passed by the conference attendees and will be sent to the appropriate government departments and ministers

The afternoon began with a visit to the nearby Discovery Museum, where we had a talk on the Women on Tyneside project, inspected a small exhibition of suffragette memorabilia and were taken on a tour of the costume store. Returning to the hotel, we had a session on local government, with presentations by two local councillors, Professor Ron Beadle of Gateshead Council and Veronica Jones of Northumberland County Council, followed by question and answer. Our conference dinner in the evening was preceded by a recital by Werca’s Folk, a women’s choir from all over Northumberland, and our after-dinner speaker, local guide Marion Anderson, gave a very entertaining account of the suffrage movement in Newcastle and some of its colourful characters.

The first session on the Sunday morning was our AGM, during which the officers of NCW were re-elected and the President’s and National Treasurer’s reports were presented.  The Company Secretary, Dr Wendy North, introduced some proposed changes to the constitution, to be considered by members and branches over the coming year.  This is a step that has been under discussion by Management Committee for some time, since there is general recognition that the structures of the past maybe less suited to our present situation, but we are anxious that there should be full consultation with the membership.

The final session was a talk by Baroness (Joyce) Quin, who gave a fascinating description of her life as an MP and an MEP, following which she kindly signed copies of her latest book, written with Moira Kilkenny, Angels of the North: Notable Women of the North East. The conference ended with lunch and a general feeling that the conference had been both enjoyable and productive.

You may be interested to read the email sent by a Year 13 student from Croydon High School:

“Many thanks to you for funding my amazing trip to the annual NCW conference that was held this year in Newcastle. I learnt so much about the council, its importance and its connections not just nationally but also globally. I most enjoyed hearing and supporting the resolutions brought up at the conference.”

The funding generously donated by branches and by individuals to bring our young women to conference is an important contribution to the future of our organisation, and it is greatly appreciated by the recipients.

In October 2019 we shall be returning to Leamington Spa for our conference.