One of our fab committee members, Bex, went to a WI convention at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in March. She had a fantastic day and has written this blog post to share it with us....
It was 05:30 on a misty Saturday in March. I was seriously questioning my decision to book an early train to London but little did I know quite what the day had in store. From coffee, cake and conversation to suffrage, solidarity blankets, swans and security guards, it all had one thing in common: I wouldn’t have experienced any of it if I hadn’t joined the WI!
The Royal Albert Hall organised the three-part talk, entitled ‘The WI: Past, Present, Future’, as part of its ‘Women and the Hall’ and ‘Talks and Screenings’ series. Members from across the country joined together in the striking North Circle Bar for three inspiring and informative talks from three wonderful WI women:
It’s quite well-known that early leaders of the Women’s Institute were also involved in the suffrage movement. So it’s no surprise that one of the primary aims of the Women’s Institute was to give women the tools to become partakers of public life. Lady Gertrude Denman, national chairman, wrote ‘Procedure at Meetings’ to teach members how to run meetings – it’s apparently a very serious book!
Democracy and self-governance is at the heart of the WI.
In fact, WIs were voting by secret ballot at a time when Parish councils were not!
The jam and Jerusalem stereotype doesn’t do justice to the hard work the WI puts in to campaigning on important issues and there’s no shying away from tricky issues. The first resolution was encouraging adequate and affordable housing, the second was in favour of female representation on Parish and District councils, and by 1922 the WI was raising awareness of venereal disease, then campaigning for research into AIDs and HIV in the 1980s.
This longstanding tradition of campaigning remains relevant today with 2017 resolutions on Plastic Soup and Alleviating Loneliness. A number of newer WIs are embracing “Craftivism” – the combination of craft and activism – to raise awareness and bring women together. The Shoreditch Sisters’ have some great examples and channel the media attention they receive into raising awareness and promoting the causes they believe in: in 2008/9 they took part in Tara Scott’s ‘Embroideries’ campaign and created a vulva quilt to raise awareness of FGM. More recently Shoreditch Sisters have created a solidarity blanket to not only raise awareness but also to stand in solidarity with the women being held in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre. This year they’re working with Bloody Good Period, a charity which provides menstrual supplies for asylum seekers, refugees and others who can’t afford them.
I’ll finish with one of my favourite anecdotes of the session: how Lynne Stubbings, NFWI Chair, ended up joining the WI. Lynne told us how she’d moved to a new town and was invited to go along to a WI meeting. Reluctantly, she attended with the intention of getting to know a few people and slipping away, but 38 years and a few months later…. She’s not only still a member but NFWI Chair. There have been plenty of other roles at local, federation and national level, and lots of training to go along with it between those two points. What a motivating and relatable story!
I left the session feeling immensely proud to be part of such a wonderful organisation and inspired to play my part in its future. It was a day of trios and there were 3 key aspects of the WI which really resonate with me:
As for the swans and security guards… that’s another story for another blog post!
We're well in to March and at last the spring feels like it might be on its way. Here at Chesterfield Town WI we haven't been hibernating over the cold winter months though! We've enjoyed a bingo night (and some winnings!), sampled burlesque dancing with the fabulous ladies from Absinthe and Lace, and learned how to perform reflexology and other relaxing therapies. And all that before our April meeting in a couple of weeks, where we'll be enjoying a night of comedy! We've also managed to squeeze in being transformed into a choir for one night only - and of course our Christmas party, complete with quizzes, music and Secret Santa.
Next month we will be starting our popular knit and crochet-a-longs, and our craft and cinema clubs will also be running as usual. If you'd like to come along and haven't been before - we'd love to see you and we really are a friendly bunch. Come and have a cup of tea and see what we're like. Next meeting is 3rd April.
If you're already a member, don't forget to enter our photography competition - the theme is 'Spring'! We love to see our members getting creative!
See you soon
Our November meeting is nearly here. We are all really looking forward to an evening of Christmas crafts! One of the things we will be doing is completing our crocheted leaves, which will adorn the Chesterfield Town WI Christmas Tree. This is our contribution to the Chesterfield Festival of Christmas Trees in the famous Crooked Spire church. It's a great favourite for people of all ages to come and see the beautiful church full to the brim of Christmas trees representing many local groups and businesses.
Our December meeting is a Christmassy sociable affair. We have quizzes and games, and perhaps some festive nibbles! We're also hosting our local WI family (De Rodes group) in a special Christmas meeting where we'll be transformed into a choir for the night!
We have a well-earned break in January, but we're back with a vengeance in 2018. Take a look at our fantastic programme, which we have just completed. There really is something for everyone, from dancing to crafts and even a murder mystery night. So come along and give us a try! You will be made welcome and are sure to have a fun night!
Unbelievably, we're nearly half way through our calendar of events this year! This means only one thing to the committee... time to start planning 2018! We will start the process this week. Over the next few months we'll try to put together a programme which pleases as many people as possible - wish us luck!
June's meeting is a visit from the Spire Brewery - one that I'm really looking forward to. I love hearing from local businesses and of course sampling their wares! After we welcomed Derbyshire Winery, it was only fair that we had the grain as well as the grape...
Other news this month - two members of the committee went to see the incredible new Macmillan facility at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. We raised money for this project last year and it really seemed to be something that all members cared about. This year we're supporting local homelessness support charity, the Church on the Bus. Again, this is something which members clearly feel passionate about. Every month we have generous donations of money, but also warm clothes, bedding and so on.
The Craft Group has been busy this month as well. They've produced some fabulous plates decorated with Sharpie pens (who knew you could do that?) They are gorgeous. Check out our Facebook page for some pictures.
See you all at June's meeting for a beer or two!
This week (Tuesday) sees our May meeting and AGM. We'll be looking back at the last year and deciding which of the WI resolution proposals we'd like to support. This year the proposals are about alleviating loneliness in the community, and about reducing 'plastic soup' (tiny synthetic fibres generating during clothes washing) in our oceans and waterways. As usual, two very different but thought-provoking issues to discuss.
We're also having a demonstration from Tropic Skincare, which sounds fab and just in time for summer (which I'm sure is just round the corner!)
Those of you who have received your copy of WI Life this week will have noticed that the theme of the issue is 'Friendship'. It's a nice reminder of why lots of us join the WI and really highlights some of the fantastic bonds made, sometimes over many years. I know I've made some great friends through our WI and I hope that it offers that opportunity to everyone!
We hope you like our new look website! It hopefully gives you a flavour of what we're all about. This is the first post of our new blog, so here goes...
Our WI is relatively new, and has been running for a couple of years now. We meet in the evening to accommodate those who are busy during the day. We now have about 50 members and we're so pleased that we have such a wide variety of people who enjoy coming to our meetings.
The committee runs the WI on behalf of the members. We're all volunteers, and none of us has done this before! We try really hard to provide a programme which is varied, fun and offers something for everyone. As you can imagine, this is not always as straightforward as it sounds - but hopefully we manage to achieve it.
If you like the sound of our programme, and you'd like to meet new people in a relaxed and informal way, why not give us a go? We're a friendly group and we always welcome new faces. You are welcome to come as a guest and give us a try. Our meeting dates are all listed in our What's On page. Feedback and suggestions are also welcomed at any time - we always take our members' comments into consideration when we're planning new events. Please feel free to email us.
Best wishes and hope to see you soon
Michelle, Mel, Karen, Sally, Samantha, Jeannette, Becky and Bex
Your WI committee