CHAOS, in particular ‘Positivity in an era of chaos’

CHAOS, in particular ‘Positivity in an era of chaos’

Carlisle one day Conference.

Val Bassindale, Carlisle NWR

It was May 2017, I had just taken over as LO, and we were all sat having our annual dinner enjoying a glass or two of wine, when I made an off hand comment about hosting an NWR conference in Carlisle. After receiving such a positive response, I decided to follow it up (making sure it wasn’t just the wine speaking) with an email to all members, who again confirmed their support. I quickly set up a small sub-committee with volunteers and we had our first meeting in July. Well, since then we have never looked back !!!

Fast forward to 19th April 2018, the day of our Conference.

The venue was a modern hotel in the centre of Carlisle, within easy walking distance of the train station. We had 120 delegates, representing 30 NWR branches from as far north as Arbroath and Marchington in the south. The furthest person travelled 191 miles from Grantham, which we acknowledged with a £20.00 book token.

We had three fantastic speakers, who all have strong links to Cumbria and coincidentally their first names all began with the letter M.

The first speaker, Marcia Reid Fotheringham, a retired clinical psychologist, currently performs the role of a Magistrate and is the chair of the North & West Cumbria Bench and High Sheriff of Cumbria elect for 2019/20. She talked about her fascinating life and career in the USA & UK and how she drew positivity from the racism she has encountered. Telling us an extraordinary story about a group of Morris Dancers who blacked their faces and sang slave songs. Well that was until the formidable Marcia intervened!!

The second speaker, Marie-Elsa Bragg, writer, Jesuit Spiritual Director, ordained Anglican priest and Duty Chaplain of Westminster Abbey. Delivered a mesmerising talk on how she became one of the first women to become an ordained priest and how she led a minute silence in respect of those lost and injured in the terrorist attack in London 2017.

The third speaker, Miranda Kirschel MBE, founded ‘Women in Nuclear UK’ in 2014 to improve gender balance and encourage capacity building in the nuclear industry and to improve engagement on nuclear with women in public. Delivered a very personal and stimulating power point presentation.

We had 12 tables with 10 delegates around each table, and after each speaker there was a 20 minutes table discussion, which was led by a Carlisle member, who would produce a question. Following this, each speaker would be asked 10 minutes worth of questions.

The last event of the day was a plenary with Marie-Elsa Braggs and Miranda Kirschel, with questions provided by the delegates, providing a further interesting insight into their lives and careers.

My top 5 tips for organising a one day conference:

  1. Choose a subject that is relevant & enables your speakers to put their own slant on it.
  2. Confirm your speakers as early as possible and aim high.
  3. Confirm venue & price asap – within easy reach of a train station & car parking.
  4. Be organised and don’t forget the detail.
  5. Have fun.
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