The 2022 Annual General Meeting of our Region took place in the immediate aftermath of the death of Her Majesty The Queen on 8th September. Our meeting was held – as planned – on Saturday 10th, as the overwhelming desire of members was to come together and celebrate her life and legacy, and also to honour her memory through our service and Programme Action work.
Regional President Judith Carder opened the meeting and gave a heartfelt and personal address against a backdrop of beautiful photographs of Queen Elizabeth’s life. A Book of Condolence was opened and we observed two minutes’ silence. Judith’s words are reproduced here:
“When I woke up yesterday morning I felt a feeling of profound sadness – couldn’t quite take in the news from the previous day…Had the Queen really died ?
The Queen has always been there in my life as a constant and positive influence in an ever changing and often troublesome world. Our monarch was someone we could all rely on to choose the right time as well as the right words to say. It was hard to believe that it was only on Tuesday that Liz Truss officially became the UK’s new Prime Minister after meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle. Liz Truss as we know was the 15th PM in her time as Queen – the first one being Sir Winston Churchill.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary born 21st April 1926 in London’s Mayfair just 3 months before my mother was born. She was always talking about Elizabeth and her sister Margaret – it was almost as though my mother knew her. I was brought up to respect the Royal Family and of course to listen to the Queen’s Speech every Christmas Day at 3.00pm. The first one was in 1940 with her sister Margaret. This continued every year – her Covid speech from 2 years ago offering us all hope… “We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again.”
But Queen Elizabeth II created a special, personal relationship with all of us. Nobody under the age of 70 has known anything other than Queen Elizabeth II on the throne. For most of us , the late Queen has simply been the Queen , the only Queen , but more importantly OUR Queen.
As we mourn her loss we can remember what a role model she has been for us all especially as Soroptimists . The Queen was a public servant , wife, grandmother and great grandmother . Extraordinary that when Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 , she already had two children Charles and Anne and was only 25 years old! A working mother with two young children.
Many significant events including the Second World War , the Falklands, Covid-19, and the turbulence of politics as well as well-documented events within her own family life.
Happy events included the Coronation in 1953 and her Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees. But who can forget the most recent Platinum one with Paddington Bear – marmalade sandwiches and the rhythm of “We will rock you” tapped out on the teacup with Brian May and his amazing guitar playing?
For over 70 years she dedicated her life to service for her country and the Commonwealth and has led with quiet determination and selfless devotion. As the longest reigning British monarch Queen Elizabeth leaves behind a remarkable legacy.
Queen Elizabeth embraced change, realising the need to adapt to our ever changing culture in order to make necessary PROGRESS. In time the Queen’s life will be celebrated as it should be. She was the most remarkable sovereign who embodied the very best of values including decency, dedication and kindness. As women and as Soroptimists we can learn so much from her.
As our great second Elizabethan era comes to an end, let’s all do our best as Soroptimists to honour the Queen’s memory . We can do this through our Programme Action work as we continue to strive in our quest to improve the lives of women and girls.
Our thoughts are with the Royal Family .
May Queen Elizabeth II Rest in Peace.”
Mel Wardle-Woodend, Staffordshire Poet Laureate then gave the first public reading of the poem she had written on the death of the Queen. It was deeply moving.
We also heard the obituaries of three members who have recently passed away – Gill Wilson of SI Bilston; Joan Edmunds of SI Cannock & District and June Griffiths of SI Sutton Coldfield. A minute’s silence was observed as we remembered them and their contribution to Soroptimism.
The business of the AGM then followed. Tabled reports were 100% accepted. The reappointment of Scordis & Co as our auditors was unanimously approved; and the following were successfully elected – again unanimously – to take office from 18th November (immediately after the Change of Insignia Dinner at Whittington Heath Golf Club):
- Maureen Little (SI Lichfield & District) – Regional Secretary
- Bozena Benton (SI Sutton Coldfield) – Communications Officer & Website Administrator
- Nichola Balmer (SI Lichfield & District) – Programme Action Officer
- Judith Healey (SI The Wrekin) – Benevolent Fund Representative
Our hosts SI Lichfield & District, provided wonderful home-made cakes for our coffee break which was extended to allow delegates plenty of time to circulate, chat and share memories of HM The Queen. We also lightened the mood with a video clip anecdote which highlighted the Queen’s wicked and self-deprecating sense of humour.
Mel Wardle-Woodend, Staffordshire Poet Laureate and President Judith then presented the prizes for our very well-subscribed Poetry Competition. Each poet read out their work and were then presented with the prize of a donation to their Club’s charity account and a signed/dedicated copy of one of Mel’s works. Mel also read out another of her own poems.
The winners were (photos left to right):
- First Prize – Margaret Clarke, SI Tamworth – “What If”
- Second Prize – Debbie Brayshaw, SI Tamworth – “Perfect Moments on a Progressive Journey”
- Third Prize – Linda Devey, SI The Wrekin – “The Speaker’s Story”
Ann Grainger CEO of Voice of Hope, President Judith’s chosen charity, was presented with a cheque for £1,500 raised at our Summer Garden Party. She talked eloquently about the inception and development of the charity and about the “Language of Containment” which is often used to keep people “in their place” e.g. Who do you think you are to…” “Don’t do that, it’s too dangerous/difficult/hard/delete as applicable”…All designed to prevent people achieving a dream. Ann urged us to tune it out and go for it regardless. The money we raised will go towards a community centre to be opened by Voice of Hope.
Christine Corless our Programme Action Lead, opened the PA session with a presentation of the long-awaited Specialist Domestic Abuse Courts (SDAC) Project report. The report has been circulated to all clubs. Chris pointed up the 18 recommendations made by the report and informed us of the next steps in the project.
She then introduced promotional postcards for Orange the World; 16 Days of Activism; We are Soroptimists and International Women’s Day. The latter three items are available to purchase via the SIGBI Online Shop.
Delegates also brought along good quality adult clothing suitable for job interviews to be used by survivors of modern day slavery. These were collected by a sub contractor of The Salvation Army – who should perhaps have come in a much larger vehicle! We also hope to assist with job interview practice in the future.
Finally, Nichola Balmer introduced a short group exercise based on the Planet “P”. She encouraged clubs to plant more trees and shrubs as these are net carbon sinks and to work together to step up their efforts to combat the effects of climate change. In mixed club groups delegates worked on ideas for the future direction of their clubs’ Planet activity, and shared them to the full group. One idea which may gain traction is a means of “advertising” and passing on unwanted items within our own local Soroptimist community…two chests of drawers changed hands at the meeting itself, so we will look at ways in which we might be able to extend this activity in the near future.
So a little later than expected we ended what was a meeting of mixed emotions. A deep sense of loss tempered by the joy of a life well-lived and an enduring legacy. We will not see her like again…