In the club area before the meeting, there was a distinct buzz as members old and new filtered in, catching up after Christmas, tucking into homemade cake and poring over our snazzy new programmes! We’ve been at our venue Electric Works for a whole year now so it brought a smile to my face to see new members getting excited about their first ever go on the helter skelter!
Then it was into the conference room for the meeting, where SHWI president Lindsay gave an introduction to Seven Hills for those new to the group. There was lots of exciting news to share – spin-off group events, the Sheffield Food Festival in May and a welcome meeting arranged just for newbies on 4th February. Members were also reminded that they could nominate a charity for us to support this year which we’ll be voting on at February’s meeting.
Getting 2014 off to an arresting start (geddit?), our speakers for the evening were Chief Superintendent Rachel Barber and Chief Inspector Caroline Rollitt from South Yorkshire Police. Both have acquired their own notoriety locally, after taking part in charity stand-up challenge, Funny Business, in aid of Weston Park Cancer Charity. A few gags even made it into their talk, showing that they can crack jokes as well as crime. (Thankfully, their jokes were were better than mine).
Both started in the police force in the late 1980s and shared how they had handled being a woman in a male-dominated environment. The indelible description of Rachel having to hitch her police-issue skirt up to her crotch so she could give chase showed just how far things have come. The comical spin showed a softer side of policing, but there were also glimpses of gallows humour. Insight into how it serves as a coping mechanism for the more challenging aspects of their work, perhaps? Prostitution, guns and erm, international football all featured as they gave us a potted history of their careers in the force, with a few life lessons shared along the way.
Caroline and Rachel seemed largely unphased by many of the challenges – both in their work and in the organisation – although I suspect that’s come with experience. It was inspiring to see how down-to-earth and pragmatic they both were without being jaded or cynical.
As the meeting came to a close, Lindsay announced that we were now full for 2014 which means we’re now at 135 members. No doubt it’ll be a merry meeting next month, as we welcome Beer Central to Electric Works to give our members a taste of some of the best brews.