RIBI Conference: I do love to be beside the Seaside

Spending a morning in work, we left Warrington on Thursday afternoon for the journey to Torquay.  After a bit of slow traffic around the Knutsford roadworks we had a good journey, checked into our guest house  – and went out in search of some food.   It’s a long journey but well worth the journey.    Apparently it was the first Rotary Conference in the West Country since 1924

We knew the Beafeater at the Premier Inn but were asked to wait for  an hour and a half so was guided to the main bar to order food where we  bumped into Allan and Rose Jagger.   Before we knew it we were in the restaurant with them enjoying a delicious steak.    Lots of chatter and banter and then we walked back with them to the Grand Hotel for a nightcap  where we met up with several of my fellow DGs.    Good to see everyone again for a natter.  A brisk walk back to the Hotel Montana and soon off to sleep.  After breakfast we walked down to the Torquay Riviera Conference Centre to register and  obtained our Voting Credentials  then walked into the Town to have a look around   It is a few years since I had been to Torquay and there was plenty of rejuvenation.   It was a lovely afternoon with the sun shining and a warm welcome to Torquay. The conference opened at  2.30 p.m. by RIBI President Denis with the first plenary session. One of the first to speak was RI President Ian Riseley on his third visit to England.

Liz Thomas, Inner Wheel President 2017/18 – a formidable lady who has led the Inner Wheel with distinction this year.   Her message was direct.    Inner Wheel will survive with or without Rotary.  Following the Inner Wheel presentation, National Federation of Women’s Institute Janice Langley – speaking on her organization that has adapted to change and Janice explained how the organization had moved and adapted with the times and what it offered to its members.

RIBI Awards: Of particular note was the Membership award for ‘Innovation and Change’ Jointly awarded this year to D1150 (South Wales) & D1200 (Somerset) for an innovative new satellite club project, raised by members of a club in Somerset but inaugurated at a location near Cardiff

Shaun Sawyer – Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police – gave out some very useful advice to all attendees.  End of the session  – Phil Bennett OBE was a popular speaker/entertainer.Friday evening 29 members from D1180 went to Amici Italian Restaurant for a delicious meal.    A huge thanks to DGN(D) David Hartley for arranging the evening and selecting such a good restaurant.  It was a shame that

David was not feeling too good and on antibiotics  but he did improve as the conference went on.

Rotarians attending the D1180 Celebration Dinner were: David Hartley Southport Meols, Angela & Nigel Williams Chester Riverside,


Sam Reeves Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr, Beryl and Tony                             Saughall





Paul Dutton                                   Ormskirk, Jenny Schwarz                               West Wirral




Janet and David Slinger Southport




Molly Youd Wrexham Yale,  Fiona and Stewart Bassett  Wrexhan Glyndwr,



Rita and Dennis Hunt Wrexham Yale, Chris Sweeney Conwy




Maria and Steve Martin Neston and Royden Revolve






Elizabeth & John Walton          Northwich


Val Godfrey                                  Northwich

Denise Watkinson                       Northwich




Kate and Bob Maskall                 Bangor




Linda and Peter Brayshaw       Bangor




Iain Henderson                              Wallasey,

Nick and Sue Gidney                   Northwich


Also at Conference:

Nancy and Graham Clarke  Tywyn, Ann & Roger Heath Liverpool City and Liverpool South, Keith  &  Ruth Foggin, West Wirral,



Neil Greg  &  Jenny Cassidy, Steve & Barbara Cole Newtown,  Andrew Kellaway,  Hershel  Levin &  Keith Housley Liverpool City


9  Rotaractors led by their President Emma from  University of Chester Rotaract  Club




Considering the distance travelled I think this was an excellent showing from our District.  My apologies in advance if I have missed anyone off this list. Rotary Music Night on the Riviera:  

At Friday’s evening entertainment we were treated to some wonderful songs performed by the Bridgend Male Voice Choir.This was followed by an illusionist act, ‘Matricks’.  Then more popular songs from a talented Tribute act.  A fabulous evening combining a celebration of music making from the Welsh tradition followed by a tribute to Popular culture. 

Saturday morning: everyone was up bright eyed and bushy tailed for the second plenary session which was opened by Liz Johnson – a Paralympic swimmer holding a gold, silver and bronze medal.   She had a very charismatic and bubbly personality.  She delivered a truly inspiring story on her journey with cerebral palsy in addition to losing her mother whilst she was  en route to The Bejing Olympics

An excellent session was given on the Rotary Technology Tournament with a demonstration of a typical test project. Tom Silverson spoke about Rotaract in great Britain and Ireland.  

Following this, we enjoyed a Harp recital given by Huw Boucher, Winner Young Musician of the Year 2016/17.  Wow! He is some virtuoso on the harp.  I don’t think I have ever heard the harp played quite like this before.  Alex Leger gave an insight into Blue Peter as director and producer and cameraman for this best loved children’s programme.   How I treasure the Blue Peter badge that I was awarded many years ago.

Finally Rotary Young Citizen Award 2018 – honouring these very special young people. The award ceremony was presented by  BBC Personality Ellie Crisell



These are really good news stories about young people making a difference.    These Rotary awards started back in 2007.




We were also given a presentation on cyber crime with DS Ian Kellaway and DS Gary Brown BSM.

I had chosen to attend the Foundation lunch which was indeed a delicious plated ham and cheese salad.   We were delighted to hear Jessica Tissell, rotary peace fellow 2017/18 class XVI  – currently working towards a Masters in Middle East Politics and Security at the University of Bradford.    Jessica aims to gain new perspectives on how NGO’s can support reconciliation and long term peace making goals in the Middle East while meeting the urgent needs of the region’s most vulnerable people. 


After lunch Rtn. Paul Harvey spoke on  Rotary Polio Vaccination in India and acknowledged the NID attendees at Conference.

Angela Rippon OBE, CBE spoke with great passion about Dementia – “A whole community response”

We were delighted that the Princess Royal was able to attend Conference.  Prior to her coming into the conference  she was introduced to several Rotarians and we were all delighted that Fiona Bassett from District 1180 had been selected.    What a thrill!!  Denis had selected a wide selection of Rotarians representing all Districts.     I understand she spent time speaking to every Rotarian!  Meantime we were all in the main hall waiting for her appearance.  Several of the DGs had been asked if they were prepared to sit behind the princess as the Police like to know who is actually sitting close to her.    Hence, I was delighted to be asked to sit right behind her with DG Nick Stilltoe, DG Chris Davies and DG Cheryl Law.     We eagerly awaited her appearance.

Then HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne was invited onto the stage to speak and she did not disappoint.  She is an Honorary Rotarian of  Elgin Rotary and praised Rotarians for the work they undertake in the eradication of Polio,   Wow – she had done her homework!  When we all left the hall it was prepared for the ABM and I think we must have missed the bell because we were a fraction late.   We were not the last but managed to make it just in time……..

Now we move onto the Annual Business meeting.   With the Princess visiting Conference things were delayed and we were running about 45 minutes late – but who cares when Royalty drops in!!  Whilst the business meeting was held there were several workshops.

I understand these were well attended but I cannot comment on them as I was in the voting hall.  The delegates voted by an emphatic majority  to modernise the RIBI committee structure,  make changes  to RIBI Executive, modernisation of General Council, eventual replacement of the RIBI Presidency and to broaden the role of the RI Director within our Zones (17 & 18a).   These changes will take several years to  complete but the ball has started to roll.      A quick dash back to the Guest House to get changed ready for the Beach Party dinner and dance. 

I was so thrilled  that we were sitting beside Rotarians from Newtown and it gave us a good opportunity to get to know them.



Also, Iain Henderson from Wallasey was excellent company.   Iain regularly serves as a steward at Conferences and enjoys this role immensely.


As always at these events, there was a ‘Fancy Dress Competition’ I am delighted to report two teams from D1180 were awarded prizes:

Congratulations to John & Elizabeth Walton who came 2nd and Nick Gidney & Steve Cole, runners-up.



At the beach party more Rotarians attended and we all thoroughly enjoyed the band.





Sunday morning – BBC Songs of Praise presenter Pam Rhodes gave the thought for the day.

This was followed by an inspirational speech from RI President Ian Riseley and then Michel Zaffran from the World Health Organisation – he was just so inspirational and explained the need for Rotary to continue right to the end.  He let the audience know that he had become a Rotarian himself as a result of getting to know the work that Rotary undertakes with Polio Eradication.  After Coffee we saw again the advert for the RI Convention 2018, delivered  by our very own PDG Roger Heath and more information about the 2019 Convention which I plan to attend in Hamburg.  Also, information on the 2019 RIBI Showcase event at Nottingham and the next Rotary Institute which will be held in Stratford upon Avon.
We were all delighted to hear  Chris Tarrant.  He told stories of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ days and also praised Rotarians  for the good work they undertake and his interest in the Rotary ‘End Polio Now’ Campaign.   He gave mention of one of his school friends aged eight who contracted the disease, how they thought initially  it was just a chill and then the paralysis set in and he was diagnosed as having Polio and sadly died. As a child he said it was something he and his family dreaded.  Donna Wallbank introduced Chris and spoke about her childhood passion for the legendary Saturday morning show TISWAS. and her dream to be given the custard pie treatment. Chris obliged and got covered in custard (or whatever it was!!) all down his crisp expensive suit. Donna certainly got what she wanted and disappeared to get changed leaving Chris to give his presentation.

Closing speaker was Lydia Slack – who was absolutely hilarious. As a farmers daughter I can very much relate to her presentation!   She had everyone in hysterics.





I think that President Denis Spiller and his Conference team should be justly proud of the organization and content of the Conference.

It was a great weekend and much fun and fellowship was enjoyed by members of District 1180.   As Governor it is very gratifying that so many Rotarians from D1180 attended the Conference.  Long may it continue.






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