District Conference 13 – 15 October – Cheltenham – Lasting Memories

Our first traditional conference for five years. It was well attended, including nine Winchester Rotarians plus Thomas Bwambale, our own conference speaker.

The conference began on Friday evening: there were many greetings between old friends, introductions to new ones plus a lively gathering at the bar.

After dinner we were entertained by the versatile Cotswold Male Voice Choir who gave a memorable performance.

Saturday morning saw the conference begin in earnest. We were going to enjoy a programme of great variety – ranging from entertaining, well known speakers from all walks of public life to the most important, current global Rotary projects and concerns.

District Governor George Phillips welcomed us warmly to the Cheltenham Conference. 

Dr John Philip, co-ordinator of medical aid to Ukraine since the onset of the war explained that due to his close contact with Rotarian doctors in Ukraine and other countries, he has gained a deep understanding of the Ukrainian needs, thus targeting aid where its is most needed. Thirty seven hospitals have received medical equipment.

Connor Bryant, Co-founder and Director of Rubbish Ideas, gave us a refreshing insight into building a sustainable future: reduce, re-think, re-use, repair, recycle. He demonstrated innovative ways of turning our ‘rubbish’ into a variety of unusual and useful objects for everyday use.

2024 is the Centenary year of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Appropriately, we were treated to the history and actually saw the original Cheltenham Gold Cup of 1924, thanks to André Klein, Assistant General Manager of Cheltenham Racecourse.

The morning continued with presentations by Jane Craven of the Woodland Trust, Rotarians Steve Marriott and Mike Hurley brought us up to date with the variety of opportunities Rotary Clubs and District 1110 are offering to young people.

Graham Duff, distinguished RAF fighter pilot, past Red Arrow Pilot, entrepreneur and adventurer, took us into his world of the hair raising incidents of training as a Red Arrow pilot. Very cool, extremely funny, he also showed us an excellent action film of the training and performances of the Red Arrows.

After a free afternoon to explore Cheltenham, the gala dinner was a very lively affair, full of fun, laughter and fellowship – all the ingredients so often enjoyed at a Rotary social gathering. There was even some unfathomable ‘magic’ performed by Wyn Jones, a professional magician.

Sunday morning we met Rotarian Steve Cartwright, a Trustee of KidsOut, the charity which gives help and fun days out to disadvantaged children in the UK.  Steve provides a link between the KidsOut Charity, Rotary GB&I, Clubs and Members.

We then heard from four young Rotary sponsored students who were chosen as delegates to attend the 2023 World Affairs Seminar in Canada. Aptly, the title of the seminar was Climate Change: Youth Take Action. There they experienced  the opportunity to discuss the realities of climate change. They brought to the conference ideas about how their generation can share the lead to embrace and devise ideas to create a more sustainable world.

Our very own Thomas Bwambale, from  Kasese, Uganda, then took the stage to describe his background, his new life experiences as part of our community in England, and as a first year student studying Computer Science at Winchester University. He expressed his appreciation to Winchester for their sponsorship for his UK university education. His amusing and interesting presentation was warmly received, with much laughter from his audience.

Adam Henson, farmer from the Cotswolds and well known TV personality, gave us a warm and amusing window into his farm life, including the amazing technological advances in farming today. There were also serious moments, including concerns about the much needed improvement to our national diet to reduce obesity and food poverty.

The memories of this excellent conference are a balanced mix of fun, the making of new friendships, the strengthening of established ones, the discussion of serious Rotary issues, our achievements and what we aim to do in the future.

 Conference 2024 11th – 13th October in Arundel – don’t miss it!

Diana Brooks

Photos here:  District conference 2023 

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