Annual Reports and Accounts

Annual Reports 2023

2023 has been a busy year.

A year without any covid restrictions has given us all a lot more confidence to get out and about and join in CFWI activities. Our sub committees put on a huge variety of different events for us all to enjoy. This year we continued to organise coffee mornings, afternoon teas and delicious lunches – but we have also branched out into the evening by offering two taster menu events.  Thank you to Elaine Bailey (Oakington WI and CFWI Trustee), who is our catering coordinator and the driving force behind these events.

Coach trips have been popular this year, particularly theatre trips.  We managed to get additional tickets for Strictly Ballroom and take over 100 people on two coaches to Milton Keynes in April and the trip to the King and I in October was oversubscribed.

Our big fundraising event this year was the Auction of Promises which raised in the region of £3,000 for the Federation.  Thank you all the WIs and individuals who generously donated “promises” and to everyone who bid at the auction.

I am pleased to report that the Annual Council Meeting was well attended, with local speakers Tim Hayward and Alison Wright entertaining us with stories about Fitzbillies bakery and cafes.

The NFWI Annual Meeting was in Cardiff.  Our delegates enjoyed a busy day with inspiring talks by Ebony Rainford-Brent MBE and Laura McAllister CBE, plus an interesting debate on the proposed Clean Rivers resolution, which was approved with over 98% of the votes.

Membership numbers are growing. So far this year – in the 9 months from 1st April - we have received subscriptions from 1650 members. Sadly, we have had to suspend Shepreth WI, which takes our number of WIs at the end of 2023 to 52.

Your subscriptions make up a large part of our income, but we also rely on raising money from events to balance our accounts each year. I am pleased to report that the combination of income from the Auction of Promises together with surplus from our busy activities programme, plus several generous donations from WIs and individuals has meant that we have ended the year with a small surplus - for the first time since 2019.  We couldn’t do it without you – so a huge thank you to everyone who has supported the Federation with donations and event bookings.

There were some changes to the Board and Committees in 2023.  Jacky Sparks (Willingham WI) stood down from the Board of Trustees and chair of Public Affairs Committee and Lesley Challands (Mill Road WI and Trustee) took over as Public Affairs Chair.  We welcomed two new members on Public Affairs, Jane Holmes (Cam City WI) and Elizabeth May (East Chesterton WI and Climate Ambassador). We also welcomed Sally Kingman (Harston WI), who has joined Craft and Cookery Committee again after a two-year break.

Thank you to the office team.  To Jules McGuire, our bookkeeper for keeping the accounts in order and for patiently explaining accounting procedures to me (again).  Thanks also to Helen Comiskey, our Federation Secretary, for keeping the office running smoothly, while working two days in the office and one day remotely.  We have been very fortunate to have help in the office this year.  Diane Oakley (Newton WI and CFWI Trustee) started volunteering in January 2023, supporting our Federation Secretary, focussing mainly on the Year Books and the administration for the events.  In addition, Vicki Reti (Queen Edith WI) helps with the monthly newsletter by editing the Out and About pages. Their help has been invaluable.

My final thank you goes to my fellow Trustees and committee members for their support and commitment.  The WI is an amazing organisation and it has been a privilege to be chair in 2023.

Sue Smales, Chair

Finance Advisory Panel

The Finance Advisory Panel meets every two months with its main purpose being to oversee the Federation finances and monitor its financial position.  On behalf of the Board of Trustees we are responsible for the preparation of the Federation’s budget.  This is then submitted to the Board for final approval before it is circulated to all WIs.

The work of the panel through 2023 has been to continue to monitor the improvement in activity levels following the COVID lockdown.  The Federation office has had its alarm system and emergency lighting checked and maintained.  Other work, such as the improvement in car parking area by the removal of the raised beds in front of the office, has been carried out by volunteers. The Federation Office Hire Agreement has been reviewed and revised.

The payroll is managed by Prentis & Co. We would like to thank our book-keeper, Jules McGuire, for all her hard work in keeping the accounts in good order.  The Finance Advisory Panel now meets in the afternoon of a day when another committee meets in the morning, and committee meetings are occasionally held via Zoom.  This helps to reduce travel expenses.

A Treasurers’ Training day was held in May, with the Independent Financial Examiners, giving new and less experienced WI Treasurers the opportunity to ask questions about the accounts system, and to discuss common issues.

The work of the sub-committees is vital as they strive to arrange events for our members.  Any surplus that is made helps to fund the overheads of running and maintaining the office.  We are very grateful to Diane Oakley, who has been volunteering in the office, and supporting the Secretary, Helen Comiskey.  Helen’s work is greatly appreciated, as we move forward, developing new systems together.  Flexibility is essential in providing a good service to members.

It is extremely encouraging to see more members taking part in activities, and it is to be hoped this trend will continue into 2024.

Valerie Ridgman, Chair

Public Affairs Committee

Although we are a smaller committee than others, what we lack in numbers we make up for in enthusiasm and 2023 was no different!  This year we held a couple of successful coffee mornings – one to celebrate International Women’s Day and the other with guest speaker Anne Miller of Cam Valley Forum who spoke about designated water areas in support of the 2022/2023 resolution ‘Clean Rivers for People and Wildlife’.  Following this we sent a letter of support for Bathing Water Designation at Sheep’s Green and our support was not only noted but also mentioned in the local newspaper.  Prior to the resolution being passed we held an information evening in March which provided discussion points for members to take back to their WI’s.

In October a PA representative attended the resolution selection meeting for 2023/24.  A comprehensive report of that meeting was sent to all WIs to provide members with the information needed to make their vote.  This year we have focused on information sharing and have had articles in the newsletter on a regular basis. We had a representative attend the Climate Conference and we have successfully had a new environmentally friendly sanitary disposal system introduced at Girton.

Towards the end of the year, our Chair Jacky Sparks decided to stand down.  Our thanks go to her for her years of support and enthusiasm for all things PA and we wish her well.  Thanks also go to my fellow committee members and to Helen and Diane in the office who always support us and keep me focused!

Lesley Challands, Chair

Combined Activities Committee

July 2022 saw the combining of three Committees, namely, Events, Combined Arts and Leisure into one new Combined Activities Committee and 2023 saw the new hybrid bed in well.

Highlights from 2023 included the Winter Warmer Lunch, a Chinese New Year themed evening, a coffee morning with a beetle drive, the Literary Lunch with author Emily Winslow Stark, Autumn Lunch and, to end the year, a very successful Indian themed evening.  We also held a very interesting evening with Frances Carlaw, aka The Pearl Lady, and many members are sporting lovely pearl necklaces as a result.

Theatre trips included Strictly Ballroom, Southwold Theatre and, of course, our home-grown Curtain Up!  We also had an outing to the National Memorial Arboretum on probably the only wet day of the summer but this was offset by a lovely walk at Landbeach including their Tithe Barn.  Several hardy members joined together for a cycle ride from Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen on another hot day.

Other popular events during the year included the jigsaw challenge, quiz night and Christmas Celebration.  These continue to be popular and are now set into the calendar.

Post the pandemic, it is so good to be able to get together with members again and see that confidence in mixing is growing.

The new committee has got to grips with arranging an extensive programme for the coming year and it is hoped that as many members as possible will participate in these throughout the year.

Christine Wylde and Olive Swain, Joint-Chairs

Craft and Cookery Committee

The year began with a Crazy Patchwork Cushion Cover workshop (January). This was followed in February by a Beginners Crochet workshop where attendees made small baskets, and in April we held a Sugarcraft Pulled Flowers Course. We hadn’t expected to hold another large event quite so soon after our very successful Queens’ Platinum Jubilee Tea in 2022, but following the sad death of Queen Elizabeth II, we held in May, a Coronation Tea and raised a glass to King Charles III.

We admired beautiful examples of embroidery from Ely Cathedral with speaker Margaret Waring at our Ecclesiastical Embroidery Afternoon Cream Tea in July and in August we held our annual patchwork weekend. The tutor was Linda Phillips, who guided the group through a diamond in the square project.

Beth Chatto's Gardens was our September’s coach outing. The gardens were at their best and some of us managed to drop into the tea rooms as well!

What an amazing afternoon the Auction of Promises was, organised to raise funds for the CFWI. The event was well attended and supported. The highly entertaining auctioneer David Palmer, managed to bring an element of fun and light heartedness to the event, while also enabling us to raise an incredible total. Incredible hard work by a dedicated team on the committee.

An early morning start was needed to get to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in October and in November we held a Macrame plant hanger half day workshop, led by an experienced tutor Mel Pinter. Our final event in December was our Festive Coffee Morning with a fun Christmas Quiz.

Craft, Coffee and Chat drop in sessions continued to be held on the second Tuesday and fourth Thursday of the month at Girton HQ and have been well attended.

Elaine Bailey, Chair

Membership Committee

The WIs of Cambridge Federation have continued to be the focus for many members, both for those of long-standing membership and those just realising what the WI is able to offer them in terms of new knowledge, friendships and participation in the projects of the whole national organisation as well as enjoyment.

As ever, change has taken place, but the essence of the WI ideals of truth, tolerance, fellowship and justice remains. The objects of the WI as set out in the constitution have remained constant throughout its 108 years history, but how those years have embraced change, as it must continue to do so.

Across the federation the recurring issue of members willing to take on officer roles remains but WI Advisers have explained how these roles may be shared and enjoyed with all members.  During the summer months drop-in sessions were held in the office on how to use the MSC and how to log on to and use MY WI on the NFWI website.  There was also, an informal session to give insight into the roles of Board and sub-committee membership.  A session for Treasurers too, with IFEs, helped a number with better understanding of those accounts.

In 2024 the status of Associate Members will cease while a two tier WI Supporter system is a new designation for those who are interested in the WI but cannot or do not want to be a member of a specific WI.

Membership has increased across the Federation during 2023 with our morning WI becoming more popular.  Indeed, it is hoped to establish more morning WIs in the coming months as well as investigating the possibility of beginning a virtual WI; both types too becoming more popular across the country.

The Year Book as presented for many decades, is now in the form of two separate publications – the Year Book itself, for WI Committees only, and not to be shared beyond, due to GDPR, and a Speakers’ details book.  The Speakers’ Showcase held in June provided eight new WI approved speakers with auditionees queuing up to fill those speakers’ slots in WI meetings.

The WI Advisers role is to be a listening ear for members’ concerns and to help whenever necessary but none of us should forget that being a WI member is the best possible hobby.

Ruth Bond, Chair


Officers of the Federation 2023/2

CFWI Accounts 2023