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Change of Insignia/Gala Concert

Blog by Deborah Kingsley, SI Surrey Hills

Gosh what a task to write up a summary of the final session of our two-day conference in Llandudno. This is my first conference as a very new Soroptimist and I had not known what to expect. Well, wow! What an inspiring and impactful two days this has been. To be part of such a large, international community, to see all the great work from my small corner of the Surrey Hills in the South East of England has been a real privilege.

The Change of Insignia was marked differently this year, not just because of the virtual conference but due to the huge loss of President Johanna. In a pre-recorded ceremony, Chair of Conference Anne MacDonald presented the Chain of Office to Federation President Cathy Cottridge. President Cathy presented the Chain of Office to Federation President Elect Ruth Healey, who stands down from her position as financial controller.

We were then introduced to the new (and in some cases continuing) regional directors, a great chance for me as a newbie to understand Federation hierarchy and get to know some names.

President Cathy’s inaugural address started with a thanks to the conference organisers, a sentiment I am sure echoed by us all. As she pointed out, no one ever expected our 87th conference to be virtual but Anne and her team, with a particular shout out to Kathy Warrick as technical lead, really pulled off a masterpiece.

President Cathy reflected that taking on her role is both an honour and a privilege, as she leads our organisation into its second century. She particularly noted the pride she feels for the 67,000 trees that have been planted throughout the region during this centenary year, quoting a lovely sentiment which resonated with her and with me too:

“A civilisation flourishes when men and women plant trees under which they will never sit.”

Yet there is still work to be done. President Cathy reminded us that 80 years on from the band of women who first got together, we must continue to work together to tackle on the on-going issues that challenge us:

  • Under-age marriage
  • Lack of education
  • Gender violence
  • Women being used as weapons of war
  • Climate change
  • Modern slavery

Our next chance to make our voice heard is on the world stage at Cop26 where SIGBI has a stand. Climate for Change was President Cathy’s theme when she stood as Federation President two years ago and it is great to have this chance to be seen and heard amongst world leaders.

In closing, she reminded us to continue our work with CEDAW, of the importance of keeping ourselves up to date and relevant to younger audiences, and to make the most of our global reach which is truly the answer to bringing about change.

And so, with the conference flag handover from Anne MacDonald to Joyce Boorman, we passed into the very final phase of the conference; the gala concert. The question in my mind – how on earth do you stage a virtual gala concert! The answer lies in some great, clever and very talented club films presenting a series of songs, poetry and inspiring images.

The excitement started with the silhouette of a virtual orchestra taking its place before Pat Shore, as our compare, introduced the acts. Among all the wonderful songs from the children, we enjoyed fantastic renditions from SI Darlington & District and South East England, along with uplifting recitals of I Can Touch the Sun, closing out with The World in Union. And of course, who can forget Yorkshire’s answer to Pam Ayers as Lesley Berry, dressed as Alice, took us into the imagined world of conference organisation all in entertaining and charming rhyme.


And so, with virtual fireworks, we bid the conference farewell. It truly has been a remarkable feat to put this all together and to take the opportunity as the writer of this blog and first-time conference participant, I’d like to add my thanks to everyone involved in making it not just so technically successful but also to creating a feeling of community and inspiration. As one of the commentators remarked in the chat, this is when we miss being together because there would surely be a standing ovation now for our speakers, our leaders and our organisers.


Here’s to 2022 in Belfast. I look forward to seeing you all there.