NWR AGM 2021

The date of this year’s NWR annual general meeting is 11 September 2021.

We hope members will be able to attend our AGM to hear from trustees and members as we report and reflect on developments of the past year. A quorum of 75 AGM attendees is required for the meeting to be valid. 

The NWR AGM 2021 will take place on 11 September 2021 at 10.15 am at The Burlington Hotel, New Street, Birmingham.

Access to the AGM is available via Zoom, as well as in person. If you would like to register to attend this year’s AGM - either via Zoom, or in person - please do so via EventStop - linked HERE. Our EventStop booking page will be open for AGM bookings until 11.59 pm on Friday, 10 September.

Members attending our National Conference on 10 - 12 September are not required to register for the AGM.

The AGM will be recorded and posted on the members’ area of the NWR website for viewing after the event.

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NWR announces new patron appointment, Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana

NWR is delighted to announce the appointment of Jasvinder Sanghera CBE as a patron of NWR.

Jasvinder is the founder of Karma Nirvana, a national award winning charity that supports both men and women affected by honour based abuse and forced marriages. A survivor of a forced marriage, Jasvinder is an expert advisor in matters of child, civil and criminal law proceedings, and her work is acknowledged as being pivotal in the creation of a specific UK forced marriage criminal offence in 2014.

Her memoir ‘Shame’ was a ‘Times’ Top 10 Bestseller’ and Jasvinder is widely recognised as bringing the issue of forced marriage into the public domain. She was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 2013 in recognition of her outstanding contribution for the victims of forced marriage and honour based abuse. 

Jasvinder’s work is recognised globally. She has been listed as one of ‘The Guardian's’ 100 Most Inspirational Women in the World, and is a recipient of the Global Punjabi Award.

Recognised as Legal Campaigner of the Year 2014, her successful claim of sexual harassment against a peer in the House of Lords was the first in its 479 year history and has led to an increase in reporting of similar offences, and resulted in significant changes in House of Lords policy and practice and a House of Lords independent inquiry into sexual harassment and bullying.

Jasvinder was born and brought up in Derby. She was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Derby in 2008, and in 2018 she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Law by De Montfort University, Leicester.

Josephine Burt, Chair of the Board of Trustees of NWR commented on the appointment:

“The NWR trustees are delighted that Jasvinder has accepted our invitation to join NWR as a patron. Our members told us that they were inspired by her commitment and bravery, and we hope to learn from her. She is a supporter of our goals and I know her involvement in NWR will bring our organisation to the attention of a wider audience and potential new members.”

Jasvinder Sanghera commented on her appointment:

“I am so looking forward to being a part of the NWR network and doing whatever I can to support its great friendship group.”

Jasvinder joins award winning author, Marion Molteno, as a patron of NWR.

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Navigating the world – and NWR local meetings – as we ease out of lockdown 

From Cath Heslop, Regional Membership Officer

The National Office team often hear from NWR members that they can’t wait for face-to-face meetings to start up again. Whilst this is the case for many, we understand that other members might feel anxious about returning to social situations, and not only because of COVID-related worries. 

News reports tell us how desperate people are to have the pubs and restaurants re-open. You’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone feels the same way. Whereas, in reality, some may want to ease themselves back into the world gently, and by meeting only occasionally a handful of friends at a time. Some aren’t ready to meet up at all. 

For me, it is important to accept how you are feeling as perfectly natural, and that there is no right or wrong way to behave provided you are doing what is right for you. 

If you are feeling anxious about meeting up with people – or frustrated by others who won’t meet yet – try to remember that everyone is different, has different experiences and can react differently to the same scenarios. This is so eloquently put in Damien Barr’s poem, “… we are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm…” Try not to compare yourself with others, instead, if you can, talk to friends and family about how you are feeling. They might be feeling the same way, and may offer you some reassurance. You may know of another member who might be feeling the same way? Offering support to others is a great way of helping you work through your own thoughts. 

The charity Mind offers excellent resources on its website: managing feelings about lockdown easing

If you are an Local Organiser or a programme planner navigating the changes in restrictions, try not to assume that everyone will want to take part when regulations allow larger meetings indoors. You might like to open a conversation with members by asking if they “feel comfortable meeting up”, and offer various options for meeting locations/sizes. That way, members will have the opportunity to decline meetings without feeling the need to apologise or explain themselves, and no one should feel excluded. If members are showing reluctance to attend ‘normal’ meetings, you could propose a walk or meeting for a coffee in a smaller group. 

For the foreseeable future, NWR will offer our online schedule of talks and from September, our new online groups will meet. We are immensely proud of how NWR members have adjusted to the pandemic and adopted new ways of ‘meeting’. Our Facebook discussion groups provide ongoing contact for some members, as do our other special interest book and correspondence magazine groups (details here).

Please do remain up to date with country specific COVID-19 restrictions applicable to your location:

NWR's priority remains the safety and well-being of our members.

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Member review: Schedule of Talks – with Dr Sophie Ward

From Andrea Bowness-Etur - Middlesbrough Group

Last week, we had the absolute treat of being able to listen to a fantastic Zoom interview with Dr Sophie Ward, hosted by Natalie, our multi-talented National Organiser.

For anyone who doesn't know, Sophie is an actress (starring in 40 episodes of Heartbeat, other TV programmes such as Holby City, Land Girls and Miss Marple and many films including Young Sherlock, Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment, and Jane Eyre), and an author (including ‘Love and Other Thought Experiments’).

She is the daughter of the late actor Simon Ward (she really looks like her dad!) and her mother, Alexandra Malcolm, who was also an actress. Sophie told us about her unusually liberal upbringing and unstructured schooling, and how she benefitted from such a diverse childhood and exciting introduction into acting and theatre school in London in the 60s and 70s. She was also 'a face of the 80s' as a Vogue model.

Natalie did a great job of ensuring the interview was light hearted and in doing so we got a very relaxed and down to earth insight into Sophie's fascinating life and career. After marrying quite young and having her two sons, Sophie decided to take her education further, with an Open University degree in Literature and Philosophy, and then she completed a PhD from Goldsmith's University in 2019, proving it's never too late to achieve personal goals, no matter how old you are!

She came out as a lesbian and has been happily married (three times now as each new way to express commitment as a gay couple became available) to Rena Brannan for over 25 years. She campaigns for equality and understanding of the LGBT community.

What an inspirational lady! Sophie was funny, articulate and a pleasure to listen to - it felt like you were having coffee with a long-standing dear friend! I, for one, really hope Sophie will come along to a future conference and talk to us in person, she was so interesting and warm. 

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Middlesbrough's Marvellous Meetings

In recent weeks, local groups have been sharing how they have responded to pandemic restrictions. While regular, local group meetings are a key benefit for NWR members, using Zoom for these meetings is a COVID-19-related development.

Andrea Bowness-Etur, Local Organiser from Middlesbrough group, shares their marvellous programme.

"As a consequence of lockdown restrictions, we hadn’t anticipated meeting in person, other than for walks or picnics, before June. And, it’s likely we will keep activities outside until September, but that’s not to say we haven’t been meeting. We hold a fortnightly Zoom call. They are only 40 minutes and over in a flash, but they’ve been varied and great fun! 

"This week, all Zoom callers have been asked to ,’Tell us something you particularly love about your own garden, or a famous one you love to visit’.

"Next week, the Middlesbrough group will be reading a play together online (with myself and another member delivering scripts to those who want to take part).

"In to June, we’ll be discussing, ‘Your favourite painter or painting’, and ‘Walls, interpreted any way you wish’. No doubt, some will be dressing up for our Zoom call on 16th June as we celebrate the Queen's 95th birthday.

"Later in June, if restrictions are still lifted, we will be meeting in person outdoors and celebrating NWR’s theme country for 2021 by sampling Spanish delicacies. And, there’s more food in July, as we’ll be walking on Saltburn pier, with our fish and chips! Before that, it’s hoped we’ll be having regular Sundays out together and monthly Friday meetings in person too, all going well.

"But this won’t be the first time Middlesbrough group have ‘walked’ this year. As a group, we walked, cycled and swam – virtually – from John O'Groats to Land's End! From January to April, we plotted our weekly progress, shared via our WhatsApp group. We enjoyed ourselves so much, that we’ve started meandering back up to Scotland at a far more leisurely pace. Currently, we are somewhere beyond Dorchester, making our way along the south coast of England, ‘dropping in’ on lovely places we have heard of, but not necessarily visited in real life. We are enjoying keeping fit together and having a goal gives us the motivation to add to our collective miles total. Our members with health or mobility problems, who can't contribute miles each week, have given us a huge boost, cheering us on from their armchairs! 

"Back in the ‘real’ world, July sees members attending an outdoor production of ‘Measure for Measure’ at Kirkleatham Hall, Redcar. And later that month, we will be hosting a guest speaker when author, Edna Hunnysett, tells us about her writing career."

With online meetings, conferences and a schedule of talks featuring guest speakers, and regular newsletters and magazine, NWR members have been able to enjoy a range of activities during lockdowns, but it’s a delight to hear groups arranging to meet in person again.

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Caversham group: ‘meeting’ online:

In response to our request to NWR groups to share how they have been fairing in lockdown, we’re pleased to have heard from Caversham group. Margaret Wall, Local Organiser (LO) for Caversham, told us how her group has been ‘meeting’ online:

“At the start of the first lockdown in 2020, it became apparent we were not going to be able to continue our meetings in the accustomed way ie meeting in members' houses with coffee and chat. But, as with other groups, we have adapted.

“We continue to meet once a week, now via Zoom on a Thursday morning for 40 minutes, and this has worked very well. Every week we have a topic pre-arranged according to our programme, some serious, some light-hearted, which we devise in advance according to members' suggestions.

“Each meeting has a leader to keep the meeting in order, and each person in turn has a few minutes to give their views. We always manage to keep to the 40 minutes limit without a problem. The only exception was the occasion on which we had a speaker (a very interesting session on forensic science) and we had a double session.

“In fact, the turn-out has been very good and most people turn up each week (although we are fairly small by the standards of some groups).

“At the moment, we haven't made any plans to meet in person, but when the lockdown eases a bit more, it's possible we may have a garden meeting or a walk.

“It's great that we have been able to keep things together in this way."

If NWR members would like to be put in touch with a group using Zoom, to learn about their experiences, hints and techniques, please contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Cross-border Support: Tavistock and Glasgow Groups ‘Twin’ to Master Zoom

We asked NWR groups to tell us how they have been fairing in lockdown, and were delighted to hear from Tavistock group. Sue White, Local Organiser (LO) for Tavistock, told us how her group had been helped to adapt to meeting online:

“At the outset of COVID, Tavistock NWR had been apprehensive about converting to Zoom meetings, however, we were anxious to participate in the November Telephone Treasure Trail, and four members agreed to go online supported by phone contact with other members. This led to a willingness to develop our IT competences further.

“Whilst clue holder that week for the TTT, I found myself speaking to a very friendly Scottish NWR group and that gave me the idea, ‘Could our group be shown the way by another NWR group?’, and as they say, the rest is history.

“Deena Kraven, LO for the Glasgow group, was most welcoming when asked if Tavistock could twin with Glasgow. Initially, three of us from Tavistock group joined a Glasgow Zoom meeting, and then participated in several online meetings. We learnt how Glasgow group ran their meetings, how Scotland was coping with the pandemic, and enjoyed an introduction to the city of Glasgow.

“So thanks to Deena and help from Glasgow’s NWR, Tavistock group now have regular fortnightly Zoom meetings and are going from strength-to-strength with the support from our friends north of the border.”

If NWR members would like to be put in touch with a group using Zoom, to learn about their experiences, hints and techniques, please contact the National Office team.

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NWR’s real women take a ‘lockdown tour’ of Edinburgh with Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains those who have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides. NWR was delighted to take a tour of Edinburgh with Invisible Cities in April, and members can take several more tours with Invisible Cities over the coming months (book HERE). Invisible Cities have adjusted their in-person tours in response to COVID-19 restrictions to enable participants to ‘walk’ with their guides without the need to visit locations.

paul virtual tour

NWR Communications Coordinator, Helen Page shares her experience of a recent NWR Schedule of Talks Invisible Cities tour

Paul, our guide for the ‘Real Women of Edinburgh’ tour, artfully combined sharing historical facts and topical information, with humour - and holding a camera phone - as he escorted us through the streets of Scotland’s capital. He was friendly, informative and it would appear undaunted leading our tour group of over 400 women!

Our tour began at Maggie Dickson’s pub on Grassmarket, where Paul told us Maggie’s story of surviving a hanging following her conviction under the concealment of pregnancy act during the 1720s. She became a celebrated figure known as Half-Hangit Maggie.

For me, several of Paul’s stories triggered reflection on women’s treatment by the authorities and under the law, particularly that of Jessie King who was the last women executed in Edinburgh in 1889. Jessie was found guilty of murder, but now her conviction is considered unsafe by many.

Paul’s account of body snatchers, Helen Torrance and Jean Waldie’s actions, was shocking. The duo, who were convicted of murder and hanged in the 1750s, predate Burke and Hare's activities.

We also heard about the medical pioneer and suffrage campaigner, Elsie Inglis, and, unbelievably, how her valiant work was not always welcomed.

As well as tales about Edinburgh’s women, Paul shared lots of facts about Edinburgh and its other residents. Before the tour, I hadn’t known Edinburgh Castle was the inspiration for The Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City. We were shown John Knox’s house and of course, visited the monument to Greyfriars Bobby.

No visit to Edinburgh and guide to its women inhabitants would be complete without reference to JK Rowling. The tour was peppered with mentions of buildings, locations and engravings that are understood to have influenced the Harry Potter books. Paul took us to The Elephant House café at George IV Bridge to see where Rowling spent time writing.

The tour also included an introduction to the Grassmarket Community Project which offers support to vulnerable people dealing with multiple complex issues, including homelessness, mental and physical health problems and substance abuse.

With the tour coming to an end at the bottom of the Royal Mile, unencumbered by traffic and seeing very few other ‘pedestrians’, it felt like a huge treat to ‘leave’ home under Paul’s guidance. It was a pleasure to meet him and hear his tales about Edinburgh and its women.

Responding to COVID-19 restrictions, NWR has adjusted its programme to offer online activities, which are now set to continue for the foreseeable future. Invisible Cities features in our online Schedule of Talks available to members, and our next tour takes place in Manchester on 25 May, which can be booked HERE.

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Catch-up with our patron, Marion Molteno

We are pleased to announce that NWR's patron, Marion Molteno has restarted her occasional blog to reconnect with friends and readers.

"... I’m celebrating by re-starting my blog, which, unsurprisingly, will be all about Real Lives. People whose lives have inspired mine, and whose spirit I want to capture, so that it is not lost. “Writing,” said a 14th century Persian scholar, “is the offspring of thought, the lamp of remembrance, the tongue of those who are far off, the life of those whose age has been blotted out.”

We look forward to catching-up with Marion, here

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COVID-19 NWR advice update

NWR's priority remains the safety of our members, and I would draw your attention to country specific COVID-19 restrictions applicable to your location:

And request that NWR members adhere to the following guidelines regardless of whether you have had the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Please ensure you are familiar with and remain up-to-date with your location’s COVID-19 restrictions for your own protection and that of others
  • Do not attend NWR meetings if you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • Stay 2m apart, wash your hands frequently (using soap and water for 20 seconds), use hand sanitiser and wear a face covering
  • Do not share food, beverages or catering utensils
  • Do not carpool and share vehicles

NWR’s advice for when meetings may take place indoors is as follows:

  • Select venues that can provide evidence of being ‘COVID safe’
  • Adhere to any NHS Test and Trace venue requirement (Please ensure one group member attending any meeting takes responsibility for recording the names and contact details of all members in attendance.)
  • Ensure your venue provides sufficient space to enable social distancing for the size of your group, and entrance and exit routes
  • Ensure rooms are ventilated and open windows wherever possible

If meeting in members’ homes (or gardens):

  • It is at the host’s discretion whether they require visitors to have taken the COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Hosts are requested to provide antibacterial wipes for bathroom cleaning use

If you have any queries regards the NWR COVID-19 advice, please do not hesitate to contact me or the NWR Office team.

 

Natalie 

National Organiser

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