Claire June 21st, 2012
Hi, my name is Claire and I am a member of the Women’s Institute. Very proud member in fact; so much so I volunteer on the committee too. Our WI is one of the newer generation of WIs where most of our members are in their 20′s/30′s, most work full time or are studying but all have an interest in cooking, crafting, gardening and generally meeting other interesting people. I think that the perception of the WI is changing, mainly thanks to some of the other, newer WIs springing up all over the place, and popular media is helping too with films, TV shows and documentaries.
I probably had one of the best introductions to being in a WI as the first meeting I went to was a baking taster evening in Oct 2010 – the range of baked goods that evening was amazing and I met loads of other new people who were also new to the WI. I’m actually quite reserved (I hesitate to use the word shy) with people that I don’t know, and wondered if this would be somewhere that people would be friendly (I can feel quite panicky in new social situations) but I need not have worried. I even got chatting to a lady from Ballymoney where David’s family live, really proving that it is a genuinely small world! One of the nicest things about our WI (and the other couple of WIs I have visited) is that they are really friendly, so you never really feel on your own as there’s usually a bunch of people that introduce themselves to you before you’ve had a chance to get a cuppa!
So, what do we do, apart from eat cake? Well cake clearly does feature significantly in most of the things we are associated with, but there’s more to us than that. Each month we have a guest speaker on a topic that is of interest to the group – last month we had a talk on organic gardening from Ecoworks. We have also had talks on vintage fashion, eating seasonably, and the work of the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance. Sometimes we book guest speakers, other times we have really fascinating talks from within the membership, such as our January meeting where one of our members spoke about her experiences of volunteering to help clear up the damage left by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Next month we are having Robin Hood guide us on a walk around Nottingham.
The WI also have a long history of (and a fearsome reputation for) campaigning on a variety of issues, from environmental campaigns such as helping save the bumblebee, to reducing packaging on foods (I love that some WIs took back all of their excess packaging to the supermarket and dumped it on the manager for them to deal with). The current resolution (what members vote on and what will be campaigned on in the following year) is to call for more midwives, and for more midwife training. The resolutions are proposed by members, and voted on so whatever causes are close to people’s hearts they have a chance to submit proposals each year to be (hopefully) selected and voted on – I like the democracy of the process, which seems to make a refreshing change in the current climate!
One of the things we do really well in Nottingham City WI is our fetes – this year will be the third fete we have held, and the second one that I have been involved in. This is one of the main ways we raise money for charity – this year’s nominated charity is The Friary Drop In, an organisation I work with closely in my day job and who do some pretty phenomenal work with really disadvantaged people, on next to no money. We raise money for this by selling cakes – have a look at the cake table from last year:
(Excuse the rubbish picture – these were taken on my phone as I had sensibly left the camera at home…!) and by having a raffle, which last year was epic and covered the bar upstairs completely.
Speaking personally it’s the only place pretty much I sell my Pinky and Boo bits and bobs now, and there are lots of other really talented crafters out there who also sell their work too.
This year our fete is on 7th July at Cape Bar in Hockley, Nottingham from 11-3. I know I could be accused of being biased, but you really aught to come down and have a look. Not only is there the amazing cake stall and raffle (which lets face it is actually reason enough) but you can get hold of some lovely crafts, clothing, home grown plants, pottery, even get your nails manicured! And meet some lovely people in the process of it all too. Who knows, you may even end up joining us too!
P.S. We don’t sing Jerusalem either!