Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) held its annual conference last week (30th – 31st October 2020). It was the 86th SIGBI Conference, which was broadcast from Belfast – the first virtual conference ever!
Held in a different destination each year (usually face-to-face), Conference is a time for Soroptimists to meet friends old and new, and to listen to inspiring speakers.
Several SI Peterborough members attended this year’s virtual event, and a couple kindly share their experience below…
Of course nothing compares to the atmosphere of a live event. But SIGBI, like all the SI clubs, has adapted.
Both Conference days kicked off literally with a wonderful welcome from the Irish dance group, Celtic Storm.
The speakers were excellent, talking about subjects that are close to every Soroptimist’s heart; celebrating women’s achievement in law, building slavery-free communities etc.
My favourite was the Professor of Computer Science and Technology, Dr Susan Black OBE from Durham University. She gave an inspiring account of how she has overcome her personal challenges and how she supports other women to embrace technology.
It’s always amazing to hear the great work other SI clubs but particularly how they have adapted to technology, such as Zoom and WhatsApp – and somehow still persisted with many programme actions.
Having attended many Conferences over the years – at home or abroad – this was a first, sitting in my own home in a comfortable armchair with a cup of tea by my side.
I tuned into my laptop and waited for the first session to start. There was a bit of a hiccup to start as the internet connection to Belfast was lost. Eventually, this was sorted and Ann Dawson (Conference Chair) appeared on screen and welcomed us all. The roll call followed, not by the usual entrance by the flags but by pictures on screen of each country of SIGBI, followed by United Nations and Soroptimist International flags.
Next it was onto the first speaker, Lady Hale – very interesting! After a break, we moved on to part 1 of membership activities. Surprisingly, many SI clubs have managed to be very active during the year despite Covid-19.
President Isobel gave her annual report before we moved on to second speaker, Dr Sue Black. It was a pleasure to listen to her and I enjoyed her talk.
On Day 2 we received the sad news that Barbara Dixon had passed away after a fight against cancer (she was to become Federation President that day).
Our first speaker was Dr Alison Gardener from Nottingham University who talked about modern slavery. I found it heavy going as there were lots of statistics, which I don’t enjoy!
Part 2 of membership activities and we heard about more SI clubs doing remarkably work.
Our last speaker was Jane Garvey from the Radio 4 programme Woman’s Hour who talked about how she got into radio and about her life. It was a very good talk and was live rather than recorded beforehand!
Overall, it was a good two days. The speakers were good, and a lot of time had been spent getting Conference put together as a virtual event. But I really missed the friendship that is gained from attending Conference face-to-face. The plus points: it wasn’t as expensive, I could get to the loo when I needed to, no queuing for coffee, no “Conference feet” and no missed meals!!
You can read more of the action from the Belfast 2020 Conference by reading the blogs on the Belfast 2020 Conference Website.