On a very hot June today, thirty-three Worcestershire members from eighteen WIs shared happy and informative archive workshops at WI House. We were also pleased to welcome Herefordshire Federation’s archive team, and were very thankful for the air conditioning!
In the first part, 25 artefacts were used to illustrate best practice for selecting, storing and conserving WI documents, memorabilia and items of regalia. The quiet and concentration during the “test” at the end of both sessions was as in a serious exam room; and they had been listening! Correct answers were given by all for each of the items displayed and often extra information was included. A*’s everyone. How to access and deposit items at the archive service at The Hive, Worcester, formed the second part of the workshop.
There were a lot of questions along the way and at the end. Members left keen to put best practice into action as far as possible. One was using acid free plastic sleeves already.
It is encouraging that there was so much interest in this Cinderella of the WI world. Our archives together form an important historical and social record of the activities of countrywomen in Worcestershire for over 100 years and show the breadth and depth of our activities. Look after them and they will be treasured in future, not just by WI members but social historians of the future if they are kept in the best available condition.
Between 22 and 24 June Rubery Village held its first ever ‘Enjoy Rubery’ weekend as part of the annual Bromsgrove Festival programme. Rubery WI were keen to take an active part in the programme of events.
We kicked off by providing refreshments for the Friday evening concert in our local church, which gave us an ideal opportunity to support four WI members who were singing – as members of Rubery Singers – in their first public performance.
Throughout the Saturday – alongside street entertainers, skateboarding performances, and a Teddy Bears’ Picnic! – several members entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the event by yarnbombing the main street through the village. We also hosted a Rubery WI stall providing cakes, crafts and general WI information. Cakes and craftwork quickly disappeared and we received a lot of interest in the WI and some lovely compliments on our yarnbombing efforts. We were delighted with the response.
Looking back it proved to be a long haul with much planning, organisation and hard work. Was it worth it? Well, although we were tired and relieved when it was over, the answer is a resounding YES! Whilst we are now turning our attention and crafty fingers to more immediate events, we hope to build on our experience by working quietly in the background towards a repeat performance next year. Plans are already afoot!
And what a fabulous week. This June I experienced my first ever WI Annual Meeting, my second time representing the Adviser team and the Marketing and Development Committee at the Three Counties Show and learnt all about the Huxley Cup.
My first Annual Meeting was, I understand, a very good one to start with! I’ve heard so many positive comments about the meeting, and I have to say that I was very impressed with the whole experience. Cardiff (my home city!) was a brilliant host, and there was a sense of anticipation in the arena as the day started. As well as a report of activities and finances over the past year, we saw an inspiring retrospective showing the resolutions over the past 100 years, learnt about developments at Denman, walking netball, and the repair of the WI tablecloth by the School of Needlework.
Much discussion took place over the resolution on mental health, with Louise Jones of Callow End WI speaking passionately on why it should be adopted. Speakers on the floor spoke articulately and honestly about their own experiences and of those close to them. The resolution was voted for with an overwhelming majority of 98%.
The speakers this year were varied and interesting, with Dame Stella Rimington in the morning and Huw Edwards in the afternoon. Dame Stella gave a humorous account of her experiences in MI5, including her introduction to the service when someone asked, at a dinner party, ‘Do you want to be a spy?’! Huw Edwards spoke passionately about the role of news, particularly in such a fast-moving online world. He also, unexpectedly, spoke of his own appreciation of the link between mental and physical health following weight gain and loss the previous year. He admitted to being very nervous, speaking in front of so many women!
I had barely recovered from the excitement of the Annual Meeting when it was time for Three Counties! We, the Worcestershire Federation, host the WI tent once every three years – providing refreshments (the bacon butties are legendary!) as well as crafts, haberdashery and advice and information. This year we also, for the first time, hosted the Huxley Cup. This is a floral competition in which competitors were all given the materials to work with and, in just one and a half hours, expected to complete a floral design. And they did… the results were amazing.
In the WI tent, with colleagues from the Adviser and Marketing and Development Team, we talked and talked and talked about the WI to women from all over the UK. A significant number were from Worcestershire, and interested to hear about what we do. Hopefully we will have gained some new members as a result!
A varied and exciting WI week. I’m already looking forward to the Annual Meeting next year, and the next Three Counties in 2021!
Vice-Chair of Marketing and Development Committee, WI Adviser for Malvern Hills Group of WIs.