QPSW Representative Council, September 10-12 2004.

It was a delight to be back at Woodbrooke, its grounds even more splendid, my room far too grand, the food superb. Good also to meet old friends and make new ones. We kicked of with presentations by three young people, one a Quaker, fresh back from the Quaker Geneva Summer School, hosted by Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO). Very impressed (probably a life changing event), enthusiastic, refreshing. They said it was amazing what the core staff of only three were able to achieve.
Our main session was a half day on Exclusion and Demonisation, as requested by the previous Rep Council. We were split into groups of about 12, each with a very able facilitator from the Turning the Tide programme. After we'd clarified the terms, and realised we were all prone to exhibit these faults, we discussed the many ways we as individuals and Meetings could tackle such widespread problems. A couple of my suggestions were said to be patronising. In another exercise each of us rated whether we could take part in action varying from writing letters to cutting fences and immobilising vehicles. (A participant claimed that letting down police car tyres has been declared not criminal.)
Another half day was spent discussing the effect of the RECAST proposals on Representative Councils the main effect of which is to include Listed Informal Groups (LIGs). Central Committee (CC) objected to a sentence which I think some of us had not noticed, to the effect that CCs would relate much more formally with the Forums than they do currently with the Rep Councils. Though many LIGs are likely to be uninterested (Quaker Caravanners were mentioned) it was realised that some LIGs are very effective, one might say over-pushy, campaigners. The Minute was rather ambivalent though on balance seemed to accept that radical change is inevitable.
There was a hurried session in which the three senior staff of QPSW scurried from room group to group to answer questions on QPSW work. We had received a sheaf of Programme Managers' reports. I took the opportunity to quiz them on how decisions are made to take up and lay down work, and how resources are allocated. It seems to me that the processes are mainly staff driven, though apparently two members of CC are involved in the process that might lead to a project being laid down. I indicated my regret that consultation is not wider, and that we have very little quantitaive information about QPSW work. (However, acting on information from my support group, I emphasised that on the whole Friends keenly support the work of QPSW and have been satisfied when they have made specific requests for help from the staff.)

The last session on the busy Saturday was to pool information about what QPSW-type projects our MMs are engaged in. I reported our Prison Ministers and our Living Lightly project. This data is to form the basis of a directory.

The day's final session of course was Woodbrooke's traditional epilogue. I led this, relying on two of the Nayler sonnets, plus a reading from a QPSW field worker's journal letter. The session was deepened by a Friend's plea for support in his interaction with a Death Row prisoner.

On Sunday we had a leisurely start, a fine Meeting for Worship (the theme being despair, and hope). This was followed by two most impressive presentations by QPSW's Economic Issues programme manager. First she spoke on the work of the Ecuemenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) which uses a variety of techniques including shareholder pressure to get major corporations to set and maintain responsible policies. Then she gave an inspiring talk on our involvement with the Trade Justice Movement. Waving a kilo of butter, she gave graphic details of how the EU and USA subsidise food (not the farmers so much as the processing companies - Down With DairyCrest) , and create surplusses which undersell producers in counties such as Mali where tens of thousands of farmers have been driven out of business. We and many churches are campaigning now with a post card petition, and demonstrations such as that at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. All Meetings are asked to take part.

I hope to report more fully to my Support Group at a meeting which others may attend. Thanks for sending me, but I didn't really need an ensuite double room with own hair dryer.

Stephen Petter, 13/9/04 (QPSW_Sept04)


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