This week the National Association of Master Bakers’ (NA) conference made history – in more ways than one (pgs 3, 8, 9). Firstly, it appointed its first ever lady president, Shirley Ryder. Shirley has a strong character, a ready laugh and an ambition to increase membership by diversifying appeal towards allied businesses, such as sandwich shops.

My thoughts are that as they have never shown the need for affiliations outside of the British Sandwich Association it will be a tall order, but I wish her well. The NA does provide excellent member services and it had some very strong achievements to boast of.

It was also David Smith’s last ever conference as chief executive before he retires from the post in November. As a former baker he has understood the problems of fellow bakers well. Among other things he has helped put the plight of small shops very successfully to the All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group.

Employment expert Gill Brooks-Lonican made history as the first chief executive designate who will be promoted from within.

There were controversial comments from the floor about a lack of debating time. I certainly would like to have heard about the topic of Sunday trading hours from those with shops and cafés in tourist areas, versus traditional high streets. I also wanted to know if the NA had been lobbying on the issue.

The proposal from Christopher Freeman to co-opt a director with an upper age limit of 35 onto the board, so that youth can have its say, prompted some strong debate.

Carol Gatto-Hall, daughter of the late Peter Herd, supported the motion pointing out passionately that younger family bakers do not want to accompany their parents to conference but need their own role to play in the NA.

Personally I was elated that the motion was carried. All ages should be represented in an association. Youth, middle and old age. All enable an association to move forward,

but wisely.

I am almost certain that conference and NA board chairman Noel Grout made history. He chaired the whole proceedings while undergoing treatment for lung cancer. His ability, his efforts and his good humour were a testament to his strength of character and his Christian faith. He thanked everyone for their support – may it continue.