Another year, another conference. This year the District Team experimented with a more local conference venue to allow people to join daily for the plenary and House of Friendship sessions so selected the East Midland Conference Centre and Orchard Hotel in Nottingham. Unfortunately not everyone wanted a more flexible and local venue and a much smaller conference audience attended. What they missed was one of the better conferences in recent years in a superb venue with a wide range of speakers and a House of Friendship the like of I've never seen before.
Travel for most of us was under 1.5 hours, there was sufficient parking and the hotel, rooms, and conference venue were modern and very suitable for the event. The six of us, Peter and Annette, Steve and Val and Pauline and I went for an Italian meal in Beeston on Friday night but sadly due to ill health John and Mike weren't able to join us. The meal was very good and the company as chatty and fun as usual. Our taxi driver had interesting route choices on the way there and Steve seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to exchange phone numbers with him apparently agreeing to meet him later in the evening.
On Saturday, after a tasty breakfast, we headed for the House of Friendship which seemed bigger than most previous years with a wide range of projects and charities presenting their work. Sailability had a Hansa 303 dinghy so everyone, except Peter, had a chance to see the boat we are striving to raise money for. Peter claimed he hadn't seen it, which was odd since it was just inside the main doors to the conference centre, had bright yellow sails and was approximately 3m long and 5m high.
DG John Dehnel opened the Conference and was followed by a range of speakers discussing topics we knew something about and some in new areas. Some were interesting and others were entertaining and the main focus was on response to heart attacks, blood pressure awareness and aortic aneurism. The RI President's representative was Past RI President Ray Burman. Compared to previous RI and RIBI Reps he was entertaining and brief interspersing his message with anecdotes of his previous careers and time in Rotary which struck a chord with delegates. We were also joined by this year's RIBI President, Eve Conway, who introduced the RIBI Conference in Manchester. We also had the Slam Jam competition winners performing their poetry / speeches. This is an interesting competition that gives young people the platform to express, in 3 minutes, their feelings and desires whilst improving their confidence and self belief. The final speaker of the day was Lars Tharp, antiques expert from Antiques Roadshow and son of one of our District's Rotarians. Lars gave an interesting talk on the history of the Foundling Hospital followed later in the afternoon by an antiques appraisal session.
We had the afternoon off and Steve and Peter took the opportunity to update the Charity Commission documentation whilst I did some work, breaking only to try on a range of interesting 'hats'. We met again for pre-drinks hosted by Pauline and I before the gala dinner. After some light nibbles and several bottles of champagne we staggered over to the gala dinner, where we managed to arrive slightly late due to the wait at the bar. We enjoyed the meal, met with old and new friends from a range of clubs across the district and were entertained by the close up magic of Bertie the magician. After the meal we were entertained by an 11 piece show band and some dancing may have broken out. We later retired to the bar for a few nightcaps.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny with a prospect of headaches. Fortunately the guest speakers on the Calvert Trust were engaging and kept the interest until the throbbing subsided. Calvert Trust runs 3 centres in the Lake District, Keilder and Exmoor for disabled people to take part in outward bound activities. (Think of RYLA for the disabled.). They are always looking out for suitable delegates and supporters to help them. I also met with Jennifer Scott from Calvert Trust in the Lake District in the House of Friendship who is interested in attending some of our online meetings. Other speakers included Eve Conway and Konnie Huq telling us about Purple for Polio. Steve was also asked to take part in a question and answer session with the DG and Eve Conway, (again). The conference session ended with Bertie the Magician's talk on the history of illusion, with entertaining magic tricks throughout.
So that was a whirlwind tour of what you missed at conference if you didn't go. Why did I go, apart from being the President and that its customary for the role. I enjoy the company and fellowship from my club members, enjoy the new and old acquaintances that I make and I get enthused by the inspirational speakers and projects that are presented both on stage and in the House of Friendship. I also enjoy the adversity of the coffee queue each year. Next year conference is in Llandudno which offers a weekend to the seaside. Hopefully more people will come to this event, but there won't be the cheaper options of attending as a day delegate, so price will be a barrier for some. If you've not been to conference then I encourage you to do so. It is fun, interesting and reinvigorates your friendships and love of Rotary.