Blog: Reaching across the nation

Published: 24 Oct 2018

Author: Julia Weston
Blog: Reaching across the nation

One flight, twelve trains, five hotel rooms, six speeches, four dinners and a lot of beautiful scenery and coastline have filled the last ten days for me. I’ve been in Belfast, Blackpool, Bangor, Preston and Dundee meeting Churchill Fellows, visiting our Regional Associations and speaking at local events - and it’s been fantastic.

I’ve listened to Fellows talking about the challenges and achievements of walking to the North Pole, the importance of investing in staff when you run a charity, the development of a virtual patient for training doctors and nurses, and the best way to stop school holiday hunger among low-income children. (I would also have heard Fellows talking about crane flies, bereavement by suicide and Tiffany glass, if Arriva Trains Wales had delivered me on time.)

So right there, in that list, the breadth of our Fellowship is perfectly illustrated. And despite their different subjects, each Fellow had one thing in common: when they talked about their subject, their passion and commitment radiated from every pore.

Below: Fellow Misba Khan talks about walking to the North Pole at the North West Association's meeting in Preston

Misba Khan

It’s been fantastic to get out of London for a few days, to see the stunning landscape, now touched by the reds and golds of autumn, to breathe considerably fresher air and to meet Fellows from every decade that we have been awarding Fellowships - including Ken Jackson from our very first cohort of 1966. Ken had applied as a Youth Leader and travelled to the States to learn from their Scouting movement. He had also chaired the North West Association for twenty years!

In Blackpool I attended a conference on social sector leadership hosted by our long-term partners, The Rank Foundation. They had invited me to host a workshop to showcase the potential of the Fellowships as part of our partnership with them and with help from Fellows Kerry Astin and Catherine Makin. Kerry is a youth work director who had travelled to the USA to explore approaches to maintaining sustainable youth work organisations. Catherine is a project manager at Bristol City Council who had travelled to Canada, Mexico and the USA to research innovation and entrepreneurialism in public sector organisations. Their presentations perfectly demonstrated what can be achieved through a Fellowship, and the change it can enable in the UK.

Below: Julia speaks to the crowd at the community regeneration festival at the Dundee V&A Museum

Julia at the Dundee event

In Dundee I spoke at a community regeneration festival in the spectacular new V&A Museum, again hosted by the Rank Foundation. Scottish Fellow Lindsay Graham was the keynote speaker, telling a crowd of hundreds of local community leaders about her ideas for addressing school holiday hunger, which has resulted in millions of pounds’ worth of government projects across all nations of the UK. She inspired the local Dundee Bairns project, which has supplied over 100,000 free lunches and breakfasts to local children since 2016.

Fellows’ Association events in Belfast, Bangor and Preston were fascinating and fun, as they always are, and I’m looking forward to the East Pennine meeting in Wakefield in November for what I know will be another great day.

At times we may wonder what is happening to our world. But one thing I know, from listening to so many Fellows on my trip and from recently reading almost 1,800 applications for next year’s Fellowships. The future is safe as long as there are so many individuals who just want to get on with the business of making life better for others. The commitment of our Fellows and those who want to be Fellows is incredibly humbling.

Julia Weston is Chief Executive of WCMT.

Top photo: Bangor Pier.

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