I was interested to read Phoebe Frangoul's piece last week in The Fashion Schmooze about the launch of WI member Jazz Domino Holly's book, Queen of Craft. I first met Jazz some three years ago when she and I, with two other members and a journalist, visited HM Wandsworth Prison. This was at the beginning of what is now known as the WI's Care not Custody campaign, and we were shown around the prison and spoke with prison officers. After this, we visited The St Giles Centre; a charity which, amongst many things, sends people to meet ex-offenders at the prison gate at the time of their release. The operative words here are 'some' and ' few'.
Work on the Care not Custody campaign continues going strong with a variety of projects including WI members mentoring a few women in the Asha Centre in Worcestershire, and establishing a WI in a female prison.
Back to the Queen of Craft and Phoebe's comment that Jazz was instrumental in introducing the ‘new wave’ of WI groups found in London; in fact, the first of the new wave, which includes other major cities across the country, happened in September 2003 when the Fulham WI was formed. This month they are celebrating eight years – long may they continue! The Shoreditch Sisters WI emerged in September 2007 and there have been many others set up in those intervening years. Within London there are now 38 WIs – all welcoming women of any age.
Only last week two meetings were held for officers of the London WIs at the NFWI headquarters at 104 New Kings Road. It was a chance for some to learn about the London WIs Forum and where it could be found on the Moodle, the WI's prize-winning online learners' tool. The forum is specifically created for London WIs to make connections and to tell each other what they are doing. The meetings were also a great opportunity for fellow London WI members to swap hints and tips on good speakers and activities for meetings – there is always something new to learn from the WI!