Planning is well under way for the 2018 NWR conference in Chester and those who have organised past conferences know just how much hard works goes into making sure these events are a success. The the details for 2018 will be up on the website soon, including details of how to book your place at the conference online. In the meantime, here's a look back to the Lincoln conference as seen through the eyes of NWR member Faith Oxford...
Lincoln conference 2017 through my eyes - as a committee member and chair on the day
Sandra's excellent report on the conference was a full and comprehensive account of a day that, we as a committee, were pleased to be able to say most delegates enjoyed. But how did we get to that day? What trials and tribulations did we go through? What emotions did we experience...... and how many emails passed between us?!
From my point of view, volunteering to be on the committee was not a hard decision. I had been part of the 2001 Nottingham conference committee so knew how much hard work was involved but also remembered what a fantastic buzz it gave me when it was all over.
Back then, planning began 18 months ahead of conference, which was a full weekend with the committee organising everything - accommodation, food, workshops, speakers, etc. etc. We also had to decide on a theme for the conference so when ten willing volunteers met up for the first time with Natalie on 3rd August last year and were told the theme for this year's conference was to be 'Wonder Women', we thought; at least that's one less thing to worry about. But was it? In the past conference titles have included 'Power' (Leicester 1995),'Fast Forward' (Nottingham 2001), 'Exploring Diversity' (York 2003) and 'Inspired' (Birmingham 2012). All stirring and inspirational themes but with the added bonus that you could make almost any speaker fit the brief. 'Wonder Women' on the other hand... That was pretty specific!
The original ten members dwindled to seven plus Natalie and our first couple of meetings were brain storming sessions to suggest speakers who would be interesting (ideally, having been heard by one of us previously) available (even more important), fulfilled the brief... and affordable! Helen Sharman, first British woman in space was certainly a Wonder Woman but way out of our budget.
We went away from our brainstorming sessions with our brains hurting! But over the next couple of meetings, we agreed on our speakers and booked them; feeling reasonably satisfied that they would be good. Workshops and retail stalls were also agreed upon and booked.
Does that sound as though it was all going too smoothly? That may be because I forgot to mention the frustration when we were trying to get information and people could not be contacted, when emails we thought we'd sent were not sent - or at least did not arrive or were not answered! Then there was the 'biggie' when one of our workshop leaders had to withdraw. Panic set in... Slightly! After all, we are capable, resourceful and determined 'Wonder Women'! Yet another brainstorming session ensued (by email) and we secured the services of the ‘Drumming Man’ - much to the delight I'm sure, of those delegates who attended the session.
The weekend arrived and the first 'disaster'! I do not intend to dwell on the Friday evening chicken - so much has already been said! With many thanks to Natalie, a refund has been arranged and, hopefully, everyone who went will have realised that we were equally disappointed.
Waking on Saturday morning with the evening before very much on my mind - plus the fact that I (as the compiler of the picture quiz) had mistakenly thought Cate Blanchett was Keira Knightley and was loudly shouted down! - I was nervous about the day ahead. As volunteer committees, we take on these tasks willingly and with a great sense of responsibility, knowing that the enjoyment of up to 300 women, at no little expense- is in our hands. It was daunting!
But..... from the moment the Town Crier rang her bell and her stirring voice rang out, I dared to hope that it was all going to be okay! There were moments - the AGM being one of them (almost a tradition since it moved from the end of the day to the middle) - that were tricky but we got through it.
Emotional - yes, of course it was. The whole process was emotional - frustrating at times and annoying at times but also immensely rewarding and, overall, it was fun. Working with and getting to know my fellow committee members was great. The lovely, heart-warming and kind comments from delegates during the day and as they went home made it all worthwhile and I went home on a high. However, unlike in 2001 when that buzz kept me awake and buzzing half the night, 2017 saw me having a glass of wine and falling into a long and deep sleep!
And those dozens (if not hundreds) of emails? I can't quite bring myself to delete the folder just yet - in case I should need to refer to them.
Good luck to Chester committee and I'm really looking forward to enjoying the product of other people's hard work.