Author Archive: Penny

DG Blog 21 April 2021

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY… (I’ll bet you’re already singing an Abba song?)

As you know we voted recently to release £750 of district reserves to each club in the district to do with whatever each club wishes. When considering the use to which clubs will put the money, please spare a thought for the previously nominated district charity Yeovil Hospital Breast Cancer Unit (contact Stan Jones) and our own Rotary charity, Foundation, which, following the interruption of fundraising due to the pandemic, is desperately short of funds. 


Our conference film-maker Glen Wayman of Highwayman Films stitched together a significant number of random i-phone videos to create a 2-minute cameo showing the great work that we, as Rotarians, are doing to support the biggest project in the UK in the current year – the vaccination of the whole population against Covid-19. And over 200 Rotarians, friends and family in our district alone going out in all weathers to help. Glen’s wizardry produced a professional film which can be shared on zoom and is a great recruiting tool for volunteers considering joining Rotary. Do consider using Glen’s services – he is extremely good value for money and in his early 20’s is a film-maker just starting out, deserving of our support. I make no apologies for saying this and by the way, we are not personally connected to him in any way other than having discovered his services, and wanting to see a local young man succeed. (And, of course, trying to persuade him to join Rotary!) 


We delivered it – YAY! 

The virtual conference was without a doubt intensive and complicated to organise, with what transpired to be a bigger workload than in a face-to-face environment. A challenge, to say the least. But the virtual world offered us an opportunity to engage with a wide range of non-Rotarians and Rotarians who would not normally attend conference, alongside our stalwarts. So, we took it!

Live chat and evaluation feedback was overwhelmingly positive. And what of our outcomes? Here are the headlines – more detail on request: 

It had a commendable carbon footprint – no-one had to travel, and they could watch in their PJs without judgement (unless decorated with fluffy animal print!). 380 registrations, 98% attended; 16% were non-Rotarians, 7 people were in the ‘Join Rotary’ breakout room, with 13 others providing email addresses to find out more – so a key objective was achieved. 30% said more than 1 person viewed the conference with them – 1 person reported 5 at the screen; 2% were under 18 (potential Rotakids?); 86% said they planned to watch part of the conference again afterwards (on our legacy website which has additional content of presentations and Rotary showcases – and had 200 users whilst the conference was in full swing); 85% of the Rotarians said they were likely to show a presentation from our website or YouTube channel at a club meeting. As for a future format,  14% would prefer a virtual conference, 27% a blended (face-to-face plus virtual) approach, 25% a one-day event, 14% a weekend, and 20% with no preference.  

Mentoring and support for Simeon has been offered, and we are aware of several promising networking links established. We have also benefited from extensive press coverage leading up to and after the event, keeping Rotary in the public eye. Finally, the cost. Despite the conference being free the total cost came in significantly under budget which I know will please the District Treasurer.

I can’t thank the Taunton Vale conference committee and chair Richard Goring enough for their stalwart support in such difficult circumstances, including having to arrange a conference twice over, and many other Rotarians across the district who stepped up to the plate and became speakers’ friends, amongst other roles, on the day. I won’t name you all individually in case I miss out anyone. But you know who you are, and I am truly grateful to you all for your help and support. And also, credit to Rotarians in district 1150 in Wales, who stood by all day to take over in case we all went down with Covid-19, or Somerset imploded, or all our wi-fi went down.  

‘Made me proud to be a Rotarian.’ ‘It re-invigorated my interest in Rotary.’ ‘As a visitor, it opened my eyes to the reach of Rotary.’ ‘The live Q and As were a bonus – when they take place, rarely, at a traditional conference, it takes ages with a roving mic.’ And from one of our initial committee members: ‘I didn’t think you could or should do it. I was wrong.’ ‘The conference you gave us on Saturday was a real gift, not only because it was a great day, but also because you have taken us forward to a new place where we know a virtual conference is possible and beneficial.’  Just some of the dozens of positive comments we received.   

So please refer to the website and the interesting presentations in the various zones – they can all be shared in club meetings and provide valuable reference content. Within your zoom meetings, the host can visit the website, click on one of the presentations, and share their screen to play it at your meetings. Make sure you select ‘share sound’ bottom left of the share screen tab. Or visit the district’s YouTube channel if you have any problems accessing them on the website. Much of the content of the conference day itself will be there. (Minus Eddie the Eagle I’m afraid – as they say, if you snooze, you lose! If you didn’t join us on the day, you missed a treat.) We have had so many post-conference requests to view Simeon’s presentation that he has now agreed we can share his session within our website, so do log on to it to view it again or share with others.  

Due to issues with breakout rooms over lunch (those pesky internet gremlins weren’t taking a lunchbreak!) and competing presentations, some charities in the friendship zone did not get access to as many visitors as they might. I would encourage clubs to please consider contacting the various charity representatives who gave up their time to be with us in the breakout rooms on the day, to arrange speaker evenings over the coming months. A list is noted below with contact details (widely shared so not breaking GDPR!): 

Stand Against Violence     Dave Urwin

Purple Community Fund    Jane Walker

Aquabox                             Roger Cassidy

Bibic                                   Pip Buckley

Young people’s Trust for the Environment  Peter Littlewood

Hidden Needs Trust            Rachel Goodfellow

Go Create                            Liz Hutchin

District 1200 Ugandan Water Project  Cate Whitewood

Somerset Wildlife Trust branch Kate Wilson


24th April – save the date! District Final – Young Musician Competition. 

From the comfort of your own home without having to drive anywhere, watch these talented local youngsters perform – then see if you agree with the judges. Better than Britain’s Got Talent! 


Don’t forget to register for this free event which celebrates the work of volunteer organisations, is packed full of content, and has some amazing speakers. For those of you who missed Simeon Moore’s powerful presentation at our own conference, you can catch up with him again as he will be a keynote speaker. (But which district found him first…?!) 


There is a proposal by General Council to create a new board structure, having received the full support of the current year DG group. Imagine running a company where the directors serve for a year then retire at the end of the year with a replacement set of directors? There is no continuity and the incoming directors spend the first few weeks scratching their heads, trying to find out what is going on, and having to deal with proposals brought forward from their predecessors whilst trying to understand the rationale. That’s what we have in Rotary in GB&I! The proposal is for the creation of a leaner board structure where people have a 3-year term and I believe that it makes sense. 

There are no changes proposed to the districts and clubs and so for the average Rotarian there will be no perceived change. I urge you please to support the proposal. Any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me. 


Our successful inter-district collaboration over presentations on a wide range of topics continues. We recently had a very successful 4-district joint seminar on Friday 19th March and it was impressive to see how several young Rotarians formed a passport club, and in conjunction with established clubs, successfully completed several big projects within a short timescale. This underlines that there are now many different ways in which people can engage as Rotarians and that they are not in conflict with each other, but complementary, and do please contact Penny Underwood in the District Secretariat team for more details about passport clubs. She speaks so well about them that I’m sure she could also be persuaded to present, and answer your questions, at one of your club meetings…! 

Did you join the Rotary District 1200 Conference on 27th March?

If you have not completed the feedback form, we would be very grateful if you could take a minute and let us have your feedback via this short form

Rotary Logo

Last chance to sign up for our virtual conference

Last chance to sign up for our virtual conference, ‘Caring for our World’, and discover how people in Rotary can make the world of difference.


Registration closes midday tomorrow.

Yesterday, the 22nd March was World Water Day

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

World Water Day is an annual United Nations observance day held on 22 March that highlights the importance of fresh water. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. Also Rotary’s first Area of Focus

Come to the D1200 District Conference on Saturday and find out at the breakout, how the D1200 Ugandan Water Project is progressing and fulfilling the need to provide fresh water for Rural villages.

Caring for our world

Breakout Start time 1300.
Cate Whitewood Yeo Vale Rotary

Yesterday was Global Recycling Day

Yesterday was Global Recycling Day: check out Rotary conference

Be inspired by Damers First School, Young People’s Trust for the Environment & Taunton School Saturday Enrichment Programme: young people a great example of Caring for our World.



DG Blog 16th March 2021

At the weekend I hosted my penultimate District Forum as DG (and the next one will be Michael Fernando’s Assembly)  strange to think that my year is coming to an end without being able to meet any of you face-to-face, but then we’ve all had that problem and I feel for your club presidents, too, in the same boat.   I was delighted with the virtual attendance, though, with over 100 people who managed to get on – a couple having to wait for some space, for which I apologise. If anyone tried to attend and couldn’t get in, we do have it recorded and can send that to you. The licence is capped at 100, and I think it will need to be increased for future meetings as I suspect on-line meetings may continue into the future, out of necessity or indeed choice.

Useful information

A few key points arising – Penny Underwood gave a very useful and positive overview of the Rotary Global Hub.
Ric Canham highlighted the useful resources there are in My Rotary, when you are considering how to attract new members….

Vicki Davies of Bathavon raised the issue of joint presidents not being recognised by RIGB&I and the difficulties around, eg, recording entries of both post-holders on the club website, and President Tom Griffin advised that this was because a joint role is not recognised by RI. I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with Vickie – that this is such a mixed message, and that RI should acknowledge this as a positive step forward and modernise their thinking on it. Until I come to the end of my DG tenure I will lobby RIGB&I to address this with RI, and Michael Fernando, the next DG, has committed to do the same.

Suggestions around promoting the Rotary message included from Frome and Wellington clubs who have already/are going to host a pop-up shop jointly in their respective town, to showcase Rotary. Surely a useful idea especially with so many empty shops nowadays, and as lockdown eases.

A Rotarian identified that his local leisure centre had a poly-pocket inside every locker door, and gained agreement to put in them a leaflet about Rotary and the opportunity for people to continue to volunteer in their communities.  A stimmy for the clubs (a new pandemic-coined word I have learned!).  And he also advised attendees that there is no planned increase in subscriptions this year and that a proposal to reduce grants to District was withdrawn. (which I confess I’m delighted to have successfully contributed to).

Michael Fernando invited vice-presidents and presidents elect to join his Whatsapp group in future, as it was highlighted this can help incoming post-holders discuss common issues.

COUNTDOWN to conference

As I write this, it is UNDER 2 weeks to the day until the District Conference. We’re on countdown and we have passed 300 registrations! I hope you’ve picked up on some of the marketing which is actively being pushed out, including several facebook and twitter posts.   Again a reminder – please let us know if you see or hear any of the press coverage.   Or if you have personal contacts in any of the media channels local to you, please feel free to send them the press release provided below. You can also use the photos on your own websites/facebook pages as they are royalty-free, having been taken by us during filming.    We are tracking the analytics of website visits and after each facebook post or press release there has been a spike in interest.

(And by the way, for admin reasons we are now promoting a cut-off point for registrations for the conference by lunchtime on Thursday 25th.)

Teenage gang culture

As you know, we’ve already done some filming with Eddie the Eagle, and last Sunday we also did filming (covid and film-industry compliant of course with relevant permissions) with Simeon Moore up in Birmingham. He gave us a totally candid account of his life of serious crime, but is now passionate about mentoring young people including through his rap music and youtube channel. I’m sure you will have some interesting questions to ask him at the live Q and A on March 27th.

Once again, do encourage non-Rotarians to join in, as well as your colleagues in your club, and after the event there will be material released on the conference website for you to view at your leisure (though not Simeon’s or Eddie’s sessions), and to use as tools to help recruitment, or for interest at your own Rotary meetings.


Press Release:

An Olympian and a T Rex? A pairing to help attract more volunteers to join Rotary.

An Olympic ski jumper and a dinosaur will be among the highlights of a push to attract more members to Rotary.

Click here to download the full Press Release


Don’t be the product of your environment!

From prisoner to mentor: Simeon Moore shares his life story @ Rotary District 1200 virtual conference Mar 27.

What questions would you like to ask him?


Q: Wendy, what one piece of music sums up your presentation?

A: ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’ by Heather Small

Meet proud mum Wendy O’Carroll whose son Oliver cares passionately about the environment, is a successful landscape photographer featured on many TV programmes, and just happens to have Down Syndrome.  Rotary District 1200 Virtual Conference, March 27th. Book your seat now

A weekend packed full! The District 1200 Rotary Conference 2020/21 is one not to be missed! Book your tickets now.

Paws for Thought

Paws for Thought:  this should have been Crufts week!


Check out Rotary District 1200 virtual conference Mar 27:   @Westonrotaryclub share how they run their own (fund-raising) dog show.


DG Blog 8th March 2021

Rotary Conference 27th March

Spent a most enjoyable day with Eddie the Eagle recently at Gloucester dry ski slope where it all started. We filmed in accordance with film industry requirements and were covid compliant. Glen Wayman our young filmmaker of Highwayman Films has edited the footage and produced an inspiring and entertaining film.

Eddie will be with us on the day of the conference to answer your questions so do not miss the day Please remember to invite non Rotarian colleagues and friends who may be interested in Rotary – it will be a great showcase of who we are and what we do.


International Women’s Day

it’s International Women’s Day today, recognising positivity and success. Our Rotary conference is an opportunity to hear from a great example: ex-Young Scientist of the Year Sophie Banham, on wind-farms and ‘Caring for our World’.

District Forum 13th March

Remember to come to Forum this Saturday to listen to our committee chairs report on what has been happening in the District and hear our RIGB&I President Tom Griffin. We will also be putting before the meeting our budget for next year and a recommendation to release funds back to clubs

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