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Club News

May 2020

Collecting Shoes for Unicef

During the Corvid-19 lockdown our club members had time to clear out cupboards. At one of our Zoom meetings, it was decided to collect old and unwanted shoes and take them to our nearest Clarks shoe shop. Many of their shops have large Unicef collection boxes, where they run a scheme called Shoe Share. The shoes are re-sold or re-purposed by Unicef and the money raised is used by Unicef to support their work with children in 190 countries around the world. It also means that our old shoes will not be going to landfill.


Clarks shoe shops participate in this scheme


Angie’s  shoe collection.

Six go to Holland

A wonderful time was had by all when Anne, Tricia, Cath, Viv, Andrea and Angie visited our Friendship Link club in Holland.  The members of SI Wieringerland made us feel very welcome from start to finish.  We were met at the airport by 3 of their members and taken by train to Anna Paulowna.  We were guests in members homes for the weekend and were fed and entertained from Friday lunchtime until Sunday afternoon.  It was the King’s birthday while we were there and it was also the weekend of the local Flower Festival.  The date was chosen well by our hosts.  We couldn’t have asked for more from our happy Dutch friends.

Some of the photographs taken over the weekend

What Blackburn Soroptimists did for Mental Awareness Week

We have been challenged by the Federation President, as part of her theme “Think On It” for the year 2018/19, to not only look into the wider issues of Mental Health but also to think about our own wellbeing within our clubs.  With this in mind we decided to invite Bill Wilkinson, a Tai Chi instructor, to come to talk us and demonstrate this martial art.  We had a wonderful evening hearing about the origins of Tai Chi, watching a demonstration and joining in some of the moves and doing some meditation. Two members are already regular members at one of Bill’s classes, which he runs in various locations in the Ribble Valley. He set up these classes with backing from the local NHS to help improve the health and wellbeing of over 50s.  Members enjoyed the session so much that two more women are joining a class.  Tai Chi is a great exercise which is beneficial to both body and mind.


North West England and Isle of Man Regional Conference ‘Breaking Barriers#’

The Regional conference is held every two years when we invite members from the region and the South Lancashire region to join us for what is usually a very interesting day. The conference took place at the Preston Marriott Hotel on the Saturday with around 100 women attending including two of our Soroptimisses from a Schools club. The day started with Dr Erima Bell talking about her work as a peace activist and champion for social justice in Manchester. Erima had started her work after she had witnessed the stabbing of a friend and the events that followed made her want to change things. Despite difficulties put in her way she never gave up the fight for her community and continues to work for peace across the world. Following Erima was Steph Sherratt who started the charity Breaking Barriers NW after struggling to find support and services for her son who has autism.  Steph works with over 1000 families who have children with additional needs. The last speaker of the morning was Gail Newsham who spoke to us about the Dick, Kerr Ladies Football Club, which was one of the earliest know women’s association football teams in England.  The team was formed at a munitions factory in the 1st World War to raise funds for wounded soldiers.  Gail is the author of ‘In a League of their Own’, a book about the team and their struggles and successes.  It had been a great morning and all three speakers very relevant to our Breaking Barriers theme.  Following a really lovely lunch we heard from Chris Green who is the founder and President of White Ribbon (UK) and he talked about his work reaching out to men to back eliminating violence against women.  The fifth speaker of the day was Mary (Flowa) Houldsworth, a trained nurse and midwife who started going on missions with Medecines Sans Frontieres in 1998, going into conflict zones, nursing ebola patients and contracting typhoid and malaria.  What a brave, determined and fascinating lady.  The day ended with Rosie Dummer, aka Rosie Cake-Diva.  Rosie started with a career in the British Army flying helicopters but after retiring to have a family started a new career in baking cakes on a large scale and is now has her own TV series.  Rosie was a perfect end to the day leaving us all with a smile on our faces. As always this was an informative and interesting day with many attendees saying it was the best they had attended.  Couldn’t agree more!


Making Crakers in April?

No, we were not playing an April Fool’s joke when we invited everyone to join us on 1st April to learn how to make crackers – we were making Easter crackers!  Around 50 ladies had fun making crackers followed by an afternoon tea with home-made cakes and scones. We raised just under £300 for Save the Children, who are celebrating 100 years this year.  We all agreed that it had been a really worthwhile and lovely way to spend an afternoon.

February 2019

In February some members visited the new premises of Humraaz.  We were given a tour of the facilities and joined ladies at a coffee morning.  The new space gives the staff and volunteers more opportunities to help not only the women living in the refuge houses but also other women living in Blackburn.  There are areas for quiet relaxation and for confidential discussions but also space for learning new skills, which include sewing, computer skills and decorating.  As we enjoyed our coffee and cake we watched as the women were treated to pampering facials and shoulder massages.  It is always a pleasure to meet with the wonderful staff and volunteers who work hard to help the many women who come to the refuge following domestic violence.


January 2019

In January we were privileged to welcome speaker Christina Gabbitas, who is a children’s author and the organiser of the Blackburn Children’s Literature Festival.  Christina came to tell us about how she started writing and why she started the Children’s Literature Festivals.  She followed up her talk by reading one of her books and we could easily understand how children would enjoy listening to Christina bring the stories and characters to life with her enthusiasm.  Some of our members were stewards at the first Festival in 2018 and hope to help out again this year when the Festival takes place between 18th and 22nd June.  Readings and events will be held at Blackburn College, Blackburn Library and King Georges Hall.  To find out more see:


December 2018

Donations in December!!

Three suitcases filled with sponge bags full of essential toiletries were delivered to Humraaz by Liz, Siobhan and Angie.  The cases are also used once empty for the women to carry the items they have accumulated when they move to independent living. It is a pleasure to help this wonderful organisation which supports hundreds of women affected by domestic violence.  Women often come to the refuge with nothing so a bag of toiletries is the first thing they receive to begin the move from crisis to safety and independence.

The club collected chocolate items which Liz delivered to The Wish Centre for their chocolate tombola.

November 2018

Silent march through Preston town centre

A roadshow was organised by PLASP (Pan Lancashire Anti Slavery Partnership) in Preston town centre. This was the second roadshow of what is hoped to many held across Lancashire in the future. As part of the Preston event several Blackburn club members joined other Soroptimists from clubs in the North West Region to take part in a silent march through the centre of Preston. We started at the Flag Market and ended up at the “Walk Through Experience” which had been set up near the New Preston Market.

Soroptimist gather before the march on the Flag Market, Preston

November 2018

Not all of our meetings are on serious subjects and we proved that when we all got together in November. We had an evening of Belly Dancing!  We enjoyed watching the belly dancers in their colourful costumes performing several of their dances but then we all donned our hip scarves adorned with silver coins and joined in.  We didn’t realise that there were so many different moves and steps but we made a good attempt at a couple of routines. The main thing was we all had fun.

Club members and Soroptimists friends have been busy knitting squares to make blankets for the Hamlin Fistula Foundation, who will distribute them to women in Ethiopia with injuries caused by childbirth.  Marjorie knitted a large number of the squares and Margaret sews them together and finishes the blankets with a crocheted edge.  A lot of time and love goes into making these blankets and we know the women who receive them will appreciate having something for themselves that another woman somewhere has taken the time to make especially for them. Eighteen blankets were completed and taken to the Regional Meeting where a member of the Lancaster club  collects them to deliver to the foundation.  Well done ladies, they made a colourful display and will keep 18 more women warm.

The Regional meeting and AGM took place in November. Following the change of insignia the new Regional President, Alison Driver, explained the reasons for her theme for the year, ‘What’s a Soroptimist’.  Alison wants us all to work towards never hearing those words again and asked the clubs to shout about the wonderful work we do.  In the last four years the North West and Isle of Man Region has raised £327,587.57 and 38,263 people have benefited from the work of Soroptimists in the Region.  AMAZING!!  The Region’s Programme Action theme will be Mental Health, which is also the area Federation President Sue Williams wants clubs to focus on in her year of office.  The Region will also be having an Annual Week of Action with the first one taking place from 14th -19th of January 2019.  In the Programme Action section there were presentations and workshops about trafficking and modern day slavery.  Many of us thought we knew quite a lot about slavery but we all learnt something new.  It was a very interesting day and we are all looking forward to another busy year ahead.

November 2018

We joined members from across the North West Region on the

October 2018

At the end of October our Federation Conference took place in Liverpool.  Federation President Susan Biggs is a member in the North West and Isle of Man region and many members from the region were on the organising committee or acting as stewards, including several members from the Blackburn club.  Club member Tricia Coll was the Conference Chairman. The theme was ‘Empower Today – Enable Tomorrow’.  The parade of flags from all the countries in our Federation is always a moving experience at the opening ceremony.

Over two days we heard from some wonderful and inspiring speakers including Terry Waite, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Dr. Helen Pankhurst and learned about the achievements of women, club projects and the work of several charities.

We also had fun getting together with old friends and meeting new ones.  The closing ceremony took place on the Saturday evening when the new Regional Presidents received their regalia to begin their year at the helm and Sue Williams became the new Federation President.  Tricia Coll handed the Soroptimist International Flag to Eileen Hunter, Conference Chairman for 2019. Following the closing ceremony all the members from our region gathered for a meal in the Albert Dock area of Liverpool and everyone agreed that it had been a great conference.  We all left Liverpool knowing that we are members of a fantastic organisation.

October 2018

Our 10th annual Quiz night took place at Great Harwood Golf Club on 11th October.  Steven and Olwen have been the quiz masters since the first event testing our brains with a variety of subjects from food and drink to famous faces and literature.  The evening included several rounds of questions breaking midway for a hot supper.  Every year the quiz is a popular event in the club’s calendar and this year was no exception with over 20 teams entering.

Since the first quiz in 2009 the club has raised £6730 in total for local charities.  This year £718 will be presented to ‘Lancashire Women’. which was previously the Women’s Centre.  Thank you to everyone who has supported this event over the last 9 years and we look forward to seeing you all next year.



September 2018

On 22nd September the first PLASP (Pan Lancashire Anti Slavery Partnership) Roadshow took place in Blackburn town centre.  Soroptimists were asked to complete a walk around the cathedral and shopping areas giving out leaflets and information. Two Blackburn members, both in pink above, are pictured with Soroptimists from the Preston club.  They are standing in front of the ‘Walk Through Experience’, which gives a very clear visual and audio view of the journey of victims of trafficking.  The Roadshow will travel around Lancashire with the next to take place in Preston on 24th November.


September 2018

Regional President Maureen held the Regional Lunch at Wyrebank in Garstang.  Several members of the Blackburn club attended along with members from across the North West England and IOM Region.  Following a wonderful lunch we were entertained by Barbara, from the Kirkham and Rural Fylde Tangent club, with the history of hats followed by a hat show.  The Rose Bowl was presented to Blackpool Soroptimists for their entry in the competition set by President Maureen at the beginning of her year of office.  Each club was challenged to complete a project with the title ‘Together we can…….’.  Blackpool members were the worthy winners with their signing choir having learned songs in sign language and presenting to the other clubs in May.

September 2018

Early in September Elaine Jennings from Age UK came to talk to us about the services they can provide in the Blackburn area.  The range of services and activities they are able to give was a surprise to most of us.

July 2018

Our summer outing this year was to Levens Hall, which is famous for the topiary trees.  The weather was not as nice as it had been recently but we were able to get out into the gardens and it stayed dry enough to enjoy tea and cake outside at the end of our visit.  It is a very interesting house and the gardens are lovely.

June 2018

On the evening of 27th June six members of the Blackburn Club went to Witton Park and took part in the Race for Life.  It was a beautiful evening, a little too hot for the 5K run, although I have to admit there was not too much running involved.  Dressed in pink we did our bit to raise awareness and funds for Cancer Research.  We also took part to remember loved ones who had lost their lives to cancer and especially several past members of the club.  We all enjoyed it and we raised well over £300 so we hope to persuade more members to take part next year to raise even more.

And we all finished!

June 2018

Several members attended the Regional meeting which took place on Saturday 23rd June at Lancaster University.  It was a very interesting day with some excellent speakers.

Gill Gilbert, a custody sergeant in Bury spoke to us first.  SI Pendleside have been supporting a project which started in Bury by providing toiletries, underwear and sanitary protection for women arriving in the custody suite.  In the past very little had been provided for women and men taken into custody.  Making time to allow those in custody to have a shower and clean their teeth etc. not only makes them feel better and react more positively to questioning but benefits the police working in a cleaner and better atmosphere.

Maggie Rey, a member of SI Preston, then spoke about ‘Maggie in a Minefield’.  Maggie had wanted to do some charity work and after looking on the internet found some information about Laos.  When she arrived she had expected it to be the beautiful country it is but did not expect there to be so much poverty. Maggie got involved with Mines Advisory Group (MAG). Bombs were dropped to destroy routes into Vietnam.  Maggie showed us a map with red dots and each red dot indicated a bombing raid.  Large areas on the map of Laos were completely red.  Work started to clear bombs in 1994 so they could safely cultivate the land, cluster bombs being the main problem.  Notice boards are put up daily with names of those injured.  It will take another 20 years to clear.  Hilary Clinton has been and President Obama pledged $90m to help when he went in 2016.

Di Hill, Federation Director without portfolio, then gave us an update on the 2021 Vision.  Following the general meeting presentations were made for the two Programme Action awards and the Membership award.  The Darwen Shield was won by SI Rishton and Great Harwood, the Carnforth Trophy was won by SI Blackpool and Si Blackburn won the Haslingden Trophy for membership retention.

June 2018

Adele, from Lancashire Women’s Centres came to speak at our speaker meeting on 4th June at Foxfields Hotel.  Adele gave an informative talk about the Women’s Centres and it is hoped that we will be raising funds and working with the Blackburn Centre over the next year.

May 2018

Five club members attended the Regional social evening for the Rose Bowl Competition at Cabus Village Hall.  This competition takes place every year and the Regional President sets the challenge.  This year the aim was for clubs to work with as many members as possible on a project with the title ‘Together We Can………. ‘, inserting whatever the club wanted to achieve together.  The Blackburn club had started some work on the problem of Period Poverty so decided to give our entry the title of ‘Together we can Spare Their Blushes’.  Siobhan put the presentation together and presented it to the audience, which was made up of around 60 members from clubs in the region.  Nine clubs took part in the competition and the entries were varied.  Some clubs put together scrapbooks of their activities and some started new projects or worked together to learn something new and useful. Each club present on the evening marked the presentations and the winning club will be announced later in the year when the Rose Bowl will also be presented.  Regional President Maureen was impressed with the work members had done and the variety of the projects.  The evening finished in the usual Soroptimist way with a delicious buffet supper.

May 2018


Four Blackburn members, Margaret, Andrea, Tricia and Angie attended the South Lancashire Regional Conference at Southport on Saturday 12th May.  The theme of the conference was ‘Reach Out’.

The morning started with Hannah Flint from Stop the Traffik.  Hannah gave us examples of human trafficking and modern slavery and highlighted ways in which Stop the Traffik is helping to raise awareness and help in many different areas, abroad and locally.  She said “There are more slaves today than at any other time in history”.

Following Hannah was SIGBI Ambassador for the Meru Garden Project, Patricia Gatherum.  Patricia along with several other Soroptimists had recently visited the project in Kenya and gave us an update on the progress.  When the women were asked what they most wanted the answer was always clean water.

Next up was Mike Crowther from the Empowerment charity in Blackpool.  This charity was set up to support children and young people who are affected by domestic violence.  The charity had set up ‘The Den’ which is a place the youngsters can go to feel safe and have fun.  The organisation helped in many ways with one to one support, drop in sessions in High schools, group sessions in Primary and Secondary schools and social activities. Mike said “A child who lives with violence is forever changed but not forever damaged.  There is a lot we can do to make tomorrow better”

After lunch Ben Mott gave a wonderful presentation on Living with Dementia.  When Ben started his career one of his first assignments was in a dementia ward and from the beginning he loved working in this field of nursing.  His presentation was so positive and he said that it could be a joyous life.  He felt that the elderly are not valued enough.  Each person should be treated for their particular needs as they do not all have the same problems.

Sue Williams, SIGBI President Elect had the final slot and told us all about her visit to Nepal after the earthquake and all the good work the members of the Kathmandu club were doing.  There was desolation in the capital city after the earthquake and the Soroptimists were living in terrible conditions but they met up the day after the disaster and decided they had to do something. They bought blankets and tarpaulins and walked to communities in need. A large sum of money had been sent from all the Soroptimist Federations and Sue was invited to go and oversee the expenditure of these funds.  She said the funds were in good hands with the local Soroptimists who were managing to keep records very well.  Sue also told us about her theme for her year in office, which starts in October this year.  The theme will be ‘Supporting Mental Health’ and will be raising awareness and action rather than fund raising.

The conference had certainly given us something to think about and had been a very pleasant day with friends old and new.  When all the formalities were completed South Lancashire President Margaret got us all on our feet and singing to ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ by the Four Tops, which was a perfect end to a very interesting day.

April 2018

Blackburn member Andrea Baker held a coffee morning at her home to raise awareness of Period Poverty.  Members and friends attended the event enjoying cake, coffee and conversation as well as raising funds for two local charities Nightsafe and Humraaz.  These charities frequently need to help women who find themselves in the embarrassing situation of having to choose between buying sanitary protection or food.  One member told her fellow keep fitters about this event and many of the ladies kindly donated sanitary products for the charities.

October 2017


Several Blackburn members attended the annual Federation Conference in Cardiff.  This is a very enjoyable event when we meet up with members across the federation from as far as the Caribbean, Nepal, Malta, Africa, Pakistan and India as well as from Ireland and the UK, including Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The keynote speakers were really fantastic with Michael Kaufman, founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, Dame Katherine Grainger, Olympic gold medalist rower and Mandy Hickson, a former RAF pilot, all wowing us with their inspirational talks and enthusiasm.

October 2017

What a wonderful evening we all had at the Friendship evening held at Foxfields Hotel.  Delicious cakes provided by members and great entertainment from poets and musicians all with a Lancashire theme.  There was a full house with Blackburn club members, friends and women from other groups in the area.  Money was raised from a raffle for the President’s chosen charity, Nightsafe.

July 2017

A summer outing to Gawthorpe Hall was enjoyed by several of our members. The hall has many interesting things to see including 17th century panelling and a wonderful textile collection amassed by Miss Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth.  In good Soroptimist style this visit was followed by afternoon tea at Mitton Hall in the Ribble Valley.

December 2016

At the Christmas lunch members and friends used the occasion to say goodbye to Immediate Past President Isobel Groves. Isobel is moving to Sevenoaks to be nearer to her family. A presentation was make of a picture of Pendle Hill to remind her of all the happy times had while living in Blackburn. Members thanked her for all the hard work she has done for the Club since she joined in 1990.

November 2016

Four members traveled to Malta to attend to annual Federation Conference. The conference speakers  theme was Engineering the Future and included Helen Sharman the first British person in space. Full details of the conference can be found on the SIGBI website.

Outgoing Regional President Margaret Hammond handed over the chain of office to Incoming Regional President Angie Christopher. Both are members of Blackburn Club , making this a special honor for the Club.

October 2016

The Club held its annual Friendship Evening at the beginning of October. Friends from other Soroptimist Clubs, Women’s Groups from Blackburn and the Mayoress of Blackburn listened to a fascinating talk on the Life of Bees by Dr Julia Piggott. The evening was themed with a Bees inspired raffle, cakes featuring honey and the walls decorated with bees.

June 2016

At the annual Regional Lunch the Club was delighted to be awarded the Carnforth Trophy in recognition of its work over the last five years in supporting the Asian Women’s refuge Humraaz. The Club members have donated toilet bags, knickers and food  to this project.

Regional President Margaret Hammond presenting the trophy.

April 2016

At the Club’s AGM Mrs Cath Read was installed as President. Cath is a recently retired processing manager for Communis, has added the role to her varied and busy life. Cath who lives in Leyland is married to Dennis whom she met when they were both Royal Navy Reserves based at Preston.  She joined Leyland Soroptimists in 1988 and has been president there. When that club closed, she joined Soroptimist International of Blackburn.

Her hobbies include African Drumming and being a member of West Lancs Masonic Classic Car Club

March 2016

The Club celebrated 80 years of service at a lunch at the Samlesbury Hotel. Members were joined by family and friends to listen to Baroness Hale of Richmond who proposed the toast to Soroptimist International and the response was given by Federation President Margaret Emsley.

The top picture shows President Isabel with fellow Presidents .

The bottom photo is previous Presidents of Blackburn Club with President Isobel and Lady Hale

February 2016

Members visited the Blackburn Food Bank to hear about the wonderful work being undertaken by these dedicated people. Members were told of just how much this is need . We now have two members who are actively involved with the running of the Centre.

June 2015

The 7th Annual Charity Quiz Night was held on the 11th at Wilpshire Golf Club. Twentyfour Teams took part and with the proceeds going to the East Lancs Hospice. A lively and fun evening with some fierce rivalry taking place.

Members dressed to impress, wearing Hospice Teeshirts.

April  2015

The AGM was held on 27th with  President Viv handing over to Isobel . Isobel presented the programme for the coming year and promised that we would have varied and interesting 80th year.

President Viv’s year was rounded off with a canal walk at Wheelton with members taking advantage of the spring weather . This was followed by refreshments at the nearby Malthouse.

March 2015

The 79th Charter celebration lunch was held at the Samlesbury Hotel on the 8th March. Seventytwo people attended including presidents from other Soroptimist clubs including our “mother” club Manchester. Regional President Tessa Jones congratulated the Club on the work it has been doing. The afternoon was rounded off with the wonderful choir Sing it Big.

Also in the Hotel that day were Barry Cryer and Tim Brooke-Taylor who joined the “Chain Gang” for the photocall.

February 2015

Gill Watson came and talked to about the needs for Food Banks and the reason people are having to use them. A very lively and energeric lady her commitment to others was inspiring.

January 2015

A knitting and sewing evening was held at a member’s house. In support of the project to make “pillowcase” dresses as part of the Dress A Girl Around the World campaign. We were asked to imagine a World where every little girl owned at least one dress!

Other members had their knitting needles busy creating squares to be joined together into blankets for mothers and babies at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia.

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