Special Edition – Big Weekend Away: District Conference 2017

Firstly, after two years of planning, I had an amazing Conference Team consisting of: 

Chair – Andrew Errington (Saughall), Kirsty Cotton (Royden Revolve), 





Tony Cotton (Saughall), Mike Lade (Oswestry Cambrian),

Linda Lade (Oswestry Cambrian), Colin Jerrett & Debra Jerrett




With grateful help from: Andy Fergus (conference Brochure), Chris Hopewell (live streaming),

Paul Cotton (table plan and printing of place mats etc) and Bob Maskall and Molly Youd were Conference Photographers.









The personal representative of RI President Ian Riseley was PDG Catherine Taylor Yank from Illinois.
It is customary for the DGE to host the RI representative and Steve had kindly agreed to do this and he picked Catherine and Greg up from Manchester Airport (where they left a hire car).

It was lovely to meet them both when they arrived at the Lion quays Spa and Resort and they were able to chill out for 24 hours and meet several Rotarians prior to our Conference.

Great to have visiting District Governors – DG Chris Davies from District 1070 and her husband Rotarian Jim Davies

DG Dr. Charan Bunger MBE from District 1060 and is wife Dalibir.

I had attended both of their conferences in Llandudno over the past couple of moths. We were also joined by DG Carol Reilly and AG Malcolm Hallewell from District 1120 for Saturday and Saturday evening.


The function room was being prepared for the Allo Allo Event and on Friday morning the conference team had a quick rehersal. Everyone had their jobs to undertake. Colin Jerrett (Willaston and South Wirral) was our Treasurer and met most of the delegates, assisted by Debra Jerrett who was our Master of Ceremonies.





Linda Lade (Oswestry Cambrian looked after and had organized our House of Friendship)

Kirsty Cotton was in charge of décor:

Mike Lade had already done the risk assessment and checked everything over and was in charge of our IT.



Tony and myself had loaded the van with all our props for the events, easels, candelabra, waxed bottles etc etc.     It was like moving house.

Delegates were arriving from 12 noon onwards and had been encouraged to visit the British Ironworks to view the Knife Angel.


Grateful thanks were given to all Rotarians from Oswestry (who helped with the stewarding) and Oswestry Cambrian club for help with registration and some hosting. Etc.  Lots of Rotarians from Oswestry Borderland Rotary supported the evening Allo Allo event and it was lovely to have them with us.

Before we knew it, we were all getting dressed for Allo Allo event and there were many Rene’s around.   It was a lively event.     There were three acts by the Kingsley Players in between meal courses and everyone entered into the spirit of the frivolity – especially two of our audience Andrew and Ged!   We will say no more.

I understand there was quite a bit of late night drinking taking place which led to a few heavy heads the following day.   Personally not guilty!!   Had to keep a clear ahead for what was ahead the following day…..

At 9 a.m. the District Flags were paraded by Club Presidents – led by Denise Harding from Saughall, David Davies from Oswestry, Sherie Soper from Oswestry Borderland along with Ian Slipper from Oswestry Cambrian and the President of the University of Chester Rotaract Club followed by a whole line up of Club Presidents in attendance.   I had prepared a list but there seemed to be twice as many Club Presidents in the parade, which was amazing.


We were full on from that point.   DG Beryl welcomed all our distinguished guests and set out the theme for the day – explaining about all the leaflets in the delegate packs

– asking that they be read and then passed onto an appropriate person – to help invite a new member or as a Foundation donor.

It was great to have Catherine Taylor Yank and her husband, along with RIBI President Denis and Rotarian Penny with us all.


The Mayor of Oswestry, Councillor Vince Hunt welcomed delegates to Oswestry. 

He was accompanied by the Mayoress – his daughter Amber who was invited onto the stage with him.  It was amazing that after speaking he decided he would take Amber home (so she could go horseriding) and came back to enjoy conference and have lunch.

Catherine Taylor Yank gave a thought provoking presentation- right from the heart…

Next up was Jamie Andrew – an incredibleble Scottish mountaineer, who despite having no hands and feet, has made some amazing ascents all over the world. As a quadruple amputee, Jamie has also made many other remarkable achievements, raising thousands of pounds for charity along the way.   He lost both hands and both feet following a climbing accident but within four months had learnt to walk on prosthetic legs and had sufficiently relearnt everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and feeding to be able to leave hospital.   Since the accident he has been active in many sporting activities including swimming, running, skiing, show-boarding, paragliding, caveing, orienteering and sailing.   But it was returning to mountaineering that was to provide Jamie’s greatest goal and the biggest challenge.   He is truly a remarkable and inspirational person.

Jamie received a standing ovation.

After Coffee everyone was interested to hear Sandra Morris’ presentation – Chair of Inner Wheel Distrit 18.   Sandra had told me she would be brief and indeed she kept her word but gave an exceptional presentation on “geese”.   I understand many asked for her presentation afterwards.   Well done Sandra.

Per Lindstrand – an aeronautical Engineer and Pioneer – a remarkable engineer, pilot and adventurer with world wide recognition for his achievements in breaking through the boundaries of lighter than air technology.

He has held every absolute world record for hot air balloon flight in terms of distance, duration and altitude and is particularly known for his record breaking trans-oceanic balloon flights with Sir Richard Branson.   Per has an airline transport pilot’s license for single and multi engine land and sea airplanes and helicopters and a commercial pilot’s licence for auto-gyros, airships and gliders.   Lindstrand Technologies Ltd. Based in Oswestry at its purpose designed 40,000 feet factory, designs, manufactures and repairs airships, aerostats and gas balloons, passenger carrying aerostats and a host of other products.

Next on stage was our very own RIBI President Denis Spiller from RC Strood in Kent.   Denis gave a thoroughly inspirational speech on change and the future of Rotary explaining Rotary 2 and the way forward.   A breath of fresh air.


Tristan Hartey – The Charlotte Hartey Foundation was established by Charlotte Hartey’s family in her memory after she died tragically at the age of 16 due to complications arising from being misdiagnosed of swine flu by a local doctor. The Foundation provides local financial resources in the form of gifts for youth clubs, schools and organizations.   It funds structured, purposeful projects and ventures in an around Shropshire and Cheshire, enabling young people the opportunity to reach their full potential. To date, over £25,000 has been donated in team funding, sports equipment and kits, school funding, sports equipment and kits, school projects, fundraising activities. Guides, Scouts and Youth Clubs.   Tristan is Charlotte’s brother, who is a Foundation Board member and the Managing Director of event sponsors Hartey Wealth Management Ltd.

The last speaker before lunch was Clive Knowles from the British Ironworks Centre Oswestry – Clive created a large metalworking company and realised it was of sufficient size and creative spirit to represent the UK decorative metalworking.  He has built up the company and developed this 90 acre sculpture park, which is fondly referred to as the Mecca of Metalworking.   The British Ironwork Centre is taking on national issues from WW1 projects to supporting military and wildlife charities.
Their latest venture is collecting 1 million tin cans to create a huge sculpture of the Queen.  

The biggest campaign to date is Save a Life, Surrender your Knife.   A major initiative designed to raise awareness of the devastation of knife crime. The knives collected have been used to create the Knife Angel, the National monument against Violence and Aggression. Clive is a Rotarian, commerce and community leader.


After our buffet lunch break which was speedily undertaken by the hotel staff, we all settled down to the afternoon session.

First up was Sarah Newcombe who showcased our newest club in the District and a corporate club – Bentley Cheshire.     Sarah was quite worried about giving her presentation but she excelled and everyone was delighted to hear all about Bentley Cheshire Rotary, how it was formed and their success to date.


Andrew, Conference Chair introduced our next speaker Kris Overend.  Andrew is an Ambassador for the Princes Trust and had been at a ceremony the evening before when Kris Overend had been presented with a special award.  Kris is a drama facilitator, actor, director,  producer and composer who founded Little Finn Productions in 2015 to share opportunities with young people in the world of the performing arts.   He now acts as a Young Ambassador for the Princes Trust. The Trust believes that every young person should have the chance to succeed, so they help 11 to 30 year olds who are unemployed or struggling at school to transform their lives.   More than three in four will achieve a positive outcome, moving into jobs, education and training.   Many of the young people who are involved are facing issues such as homelessness or mental health problems or have been in trouble with the law.   The trust has returned £1.4 billion in value to society through help for disadvantaged young people over the last ten years alone.  Another Star of the Day and keynote speaker was Sir Malcolm Walker CBE – executive Chairman of Iceland.  Andrew, Conference Chair introduced Sir Malcolm and gave us an insight into their previous escapades together.       Having founded Iceland with a single shop in Oswestry in 1970, Malcolm was Chairman and CEO of what would become an international company, showing a solid 30 years of growth.

Fired in 2001 he returned to rescue the business four years later and led a £1.5 billion management buyout in 2012. Malcolm  has many other business interests ranging from food manufacturing to restaurants and property. Outside work, his greatest enthusiasms are for his home, garden and family, good food and wine,  ski-ing, sailing and shooting. Malcolm was awarded the CBE in 1995 and his appointment as a Knight Bachelor was announced in the Queens Birthday Honours list in 2017.

Next on stage: Jean Best – Peace Officer from District 1020

Jean has been involved in Education for over 38 years as a teacher, head teacher, and schools inspector.   Now retired, her work as a Peace Officer has ena bled her to work with the Peace Centre in Bradford to encourage Rotarians to use their expertise in working with young people to develop peaceful conflict resolution strategies. In June 2014 at the Rotary International Convention in Sydney, Jean and her husband Keith a past District Governor, launched the new skills based “Rotary Peace Project”

The project creates school peace advocates who develop their leadership capacity to bring about more service in their schools, local communities and the world. Jean has received a Presidential Citation and Paul Harris Fellowship and in 2014 was recognized as a Rotary International Champion of Change.

A Week after our Conference Jean travelled to Geneva for the Rotary Day at the United Nations. Rotary International General Secretary, John Hewko introduced Rotary’s 2017 People of Action:
Champions of Peace award winners. Jean was honoured to receive one of the 6  World Peace Awards.


It would not be a good conference if we did not showcase our youth and Jennifer Burlingame spoke on behalf of Rotaract.   

Jenn arrived in the UK from Ohio in 2013 to study journalism at the University of Chester.     A Rotaract club was formed sponsored by Saughall Rotary and Jenn was the inaugural President.

The club has many achievements upholding Rotary ideals and is still going strong in its fifth year.   Throughout Jenn’s degree she worked in Chester Cathedral’s marketing department, helping to win the Marketing Cheshire’s Large Visitor Attraction award in 2015.   Jenn is now studying for an MSc in Digital Marketing.  After Rotary legislation passed to allow Rotaractors to simultaneously be Rotarians Jenn became a member of Saughall Rotary.   In March 2017 Jenn became the first Rotaractor in District 1180 to become a Rotarian as well.

A short tea break followed by:  Derwen on Tour

Derwen College is a further education college situated in Oswestry, Shropshire which provides further education for students with learning difficulties and disabilities.  The college works with young people to provide inspirational learning, development and care to enable the achievement of aspirtions which transforms lives.

Derwen College promotes the vocational, educational, social and personal development of a wide range of young people offering residential and day placements, a post college living and work programme, apprenticeships and supported internships.

We were joined by Derwen on Tour (DOT) a talented troupe of young people from the college who offer an exciting Makaton sing song and dance performance.
DOT received a standing ovation and gave so much pleasure to delegates watching them.

Following tea, we continued with yet  another exceptional speaker – Catrin Pugh.   Catrin is from Rossett near Wrexham.

She told her story that in April 2013 she was returning home from five months in France when her life was turned upside down.     A serious coach crash left her with burns over 96 per cent of her body – and a chance of survival of 1 in 1,000. However, after hundreds of operations and 8 months in hospital, Catrin returned home in time for Christmas.   This was just the beginning of a long and arduous rehabilitation process that is still ongoing today.   Sheer determination, constant motivation and fighting through pain, Catrin has defied the odds. She has worked tirelessly to learn to walk, use her hands again and try to regain a somewhat normal life, all with a smile on her face.
Catrin has gone from being a victim to a survivor and is now a thriver using her own experiences to help others.   A remarkable young woman who was given a standing ovation by the delegates.

Our final guest speaker of the day was Tomos Day.   Tomos Day is 21 years of age and from Newtown, Pows. He recently graduated from Aberystwth University where he studied Politics and History.     Tomos currently works in the Japanese Embassy in London as a Personal Assistant to the Minister of Plenipotentiary and hopes to work in Parliament in the near future.  

The RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards is an intensive experience organized by Rotary Clubs and Districts where young people develop leadership skills whilst having fun and making connection.     In District 1180 the RYLA event takes the form of an activity training course for ages 16-18 years at the Arthog Activity Centre near Barmouth, North Wales.



At the end of the conference PDG Catherine Taylor Yank and her husband Grey Yank, RI Director 2017/19 Zones 30/31 summarised the conference together.   It was great to have them both on stage – working together.    We thoroughly enjoyed having them both in D1180.

After our speakers had finished some of the District Trophies were awarded:


New Centurians Youth Trophy – City of Liverpool


Wallasey Cup – Mawddach

Llangollen Community Cup – Mawddach




International Plate – North Wirral


Paul Harris Trophy for the most new members – Bala and Penllyn


Tom Weber Trophy – attendance at Conference – Southport Meols

Steve Martin DGE assisted  with awarding the trophies.


We invited Ann Heath, Conference Chair 2018 to give her presentation on the next District Conference and Roger Heath invited delegates to consider visiting the RI Convention in Toronto.   The video was played for the RIBI Conference in Torquay.  I was able to thank everyone for their attendance, sum the day up and invite the Conference team up onto the stage to give thanks.

What a energizing and inspiring day we had all received.







Once the room had been cleared, – no mean feat getting 250 bodies out of the room.   Kirsty got to work on the decoration of the room for the Gatsby themed ball and when we all returned in our glad rags at 7 p.m  when the impact of the gold sequined cloths and candelabra decorated with candles and pearls looked just stunning and gave a real WOW factor.

I hope everyone saw the stunning Table Plan created by PaulCotton – all in the Gatzby theme.

More delicious food, a five course meal, enjoyed and served to perfection by the hotel staff and then dancing until midnight to the Shambolics.

Another late night but great to see delegates having a leisurely Sunday breakfast in the hotel .    Some travelled back home on Saturday evening, other stayed at other local hotels.

I cannot thank everyone enough for making it a marvellous District Conference – one to remember – with exceptional speakers, good food and great Rotary fellowship.

Lots of new Rotarians in attendance and lots of Rotarians who had never attended a Conference before.  We were delighted to welcome 6 Rotaractors from the University of Chester Rotaract Club.   They came on the 7.20  a.m. train from Chester to Gobowen and as a consequence of attending District Assembly they now want to attend the RIBI Conference in Torquay.

The hotel were exceptional in service and attention to detail and could not have done more to assist us, sort any small problems out quickly and generally be accommodating and helpful.   I would highly recommend them.

The AVS technician Charlie must also receive acknowledgement.   He worked so well with Mike Lade.   I have to say, Mike had put in hours of work into the running music and power point presentations for the conference.

His work ensured the smooth running of the conference and lighting and sound undertaken by Charlie and his company who  was great to work with.






At 7 p.m. on Sunday morning Tony and I were up early to wave goodbye to Catherine and Greg.   We helped them down with their luggage to Steve’s car who took them off to Manchester Airport.

So that was it – all over bar the superb thank you notes and emails that I received the following week.   Thank you to those who took time out to write and praise the Conference team and who had enjoyed the Conference experience.    I guess you can’t please all of the people, all of the time but I think we all did a pretty good job of pleasing the majority of the people most of the time!

The attention to detail and planning of the event had paid off.  Again, a massive  thank you to all the Conference Team.

A huge thank you to all the Rotarians who attended and made it a very special District Conference 2017.   We hope to see you all back next year.

We had our Conference wash up meeting a couple of weeks after Conference.

The team could not believe how shattered they had been afterwards and how much energy it had all taken out of them.      It was enjoyable to watch a film show (created by Tony) of all the photos taken.     Everyone looked so happy.

What could we have done better?  We wondered how we could have improved the Presidents Parade but felt it had been so important to include all our Club Presidents.    A little more space would have helped.

We had problems with late arrivals on Saturday getting them down the room to the spare seats.    Something to consider for the future.  All our speakers kept to time with our special 5 minute/time up  lollipop.  The length of presentations seemed good – leaving the audience perhaps even wanting more.

We kept within our budget but having sponsorship allowed us to have some exceptional speakers and add a few finishing touches.




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