Skip links

SIGBI Conference On-Line (from Belfast) October 30th – 31st 2020

In our Centenary year seven members of SI Bristol joined the annual conference online this year and there were over 900 other delegates.

It was very different as Coronavirus had not allowed us to travel to Ireland where could also have enjoyed the sites and the atmosphere of this beautiful city.  We could not see the delegates but we understand that The South West and Channel Islands Region was well represented.

On Thursday 29th October prior to Conference they ran the Federation Programme Action Committee meeting.  It was introduced and compared by SIGBI Programme Director, Kay Richmond and there were presentations throughout the day.

The Conference ran from 13.30 – 17.00 each day and we could watch or catch up in the comfort of our own homes.  SI Bristol set up a WhatsApp group which enabled us to contact each other in a chatty way just like we would at Conference during the breaks.

On day one we were welcomed by SIGBI President Isobel Smith and then in the usual tradition the flags were displayed, but sadly not carried on to the podium.   We listened to two inspirational speakers.  Baroness Brenda Hale – President of the UK Supreme Court 2017-2020, “Celebrating Women in the Law”.  Spoke about her work and told us about all the women who had made their names known and made a difference to women in the law.  From the early 1900s these women made their way in a “man’s world” and overcame many challenges.

Later in the afternoon we listened to Susan Black – Professor of Computer Science and Technology at the University of Durham. Her talk “If I can do it so can you” was truly inspirational.  She told us that she was a “geek” from an early age.  She left school at age 16 and tried different jobs and had three children by the age of 23.  She then joined a Maths Course, graduated with a computing degree followed by a PhD in 2001.  However, in 1998, she attended a Conference in Brussels and her career took off.  She set up a women’s networking group and was then invited to Bletchley Park.  In 2008 she was told that Bletchley Park was in financial trouble and she reached people through Twitter with the news.  Stephen Fry made contact and by 2011 she had raised funds including £4.1 million from the lottery fund.  Later she set up workshops for children to get them excited about technology and won awards for her work.  She is an amazing woman with lots of drive and a wicked sense of humour, she grew from having difficulty talking to one person to addressing 17,000 people at a Conference.

It has become a tradition to meet with our Friendship Link Clubs but sadly of course we couldn’t this year,  However, we were able to enjoy the Irish dancing and music throughout the event.

Day two started with Alison Gardner – Associate Director University of Nottingham Rights Lab – “Building Communities that are Resilient to Modern Slavery”.  She covered areas that we are familiar with and mentioned Unseen.

The last speaker of the day, Jane Garvey – presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour – “Speaking Up”.  When she told her father she was going to be a Disk Jockey her said “well you are on your own now love” and then she told us how she has got where she is today. In the 1990s she joined the local radio station in Hereford and Worcester where people rely on the local news to know what is happening traffic problems etc. In 1993 she joined the Breakfast Show 5 Live, and later moved to the well-known Women’s Hour which has been running since 1946. She is now ready for another challenge and at the end of the year will join another interview programme on radio 4 but this will not be live.

During the course of the conference we heard about Programme Action projects. We were “entertained” by the winners of “the Best Practice” awards and informed of the other work we are involved in – very impressive. We also heard about the Centenery#Planttrees Project.  Sadly we didn’t get a mention even though back in August we had sent a 200 word article and photographs as requested.

This was followed by change of insignia and it was lovely to see our very own South West and Channel Islands outgoing President Margaret Parkinson and incoming President Irene Hocking. The outgoing SIGBI President Isobel Smith and Incoming SIGBI President Margaret Maguire gave their addresses.  Although very different it was another very successful conference, but we really missed the social contact.