Friday, 2 September 2011

WI cornucopia

If you are not in regular receipt of WI Life, by that I mean if you are not a WI member, do take a look at the cover of the latest edition on the NFWI website. I just love that hat, or is it a hatinator? Modelled by the lady who designed and made it, the hat heralds the article, which explains how a talk by a milliner at a WI meeting inspired member Helen Heath-Martin to take up the art of millinery herself.

This is, of course, just one of the many craft skills that can be learned within the WI. Over the years, many members have made a career from a skill first picked up at a WI meeting or from taking a short course at the WI’s own educational institution, Denman College. The college, formerly known as Marcham Park, was named in 1948 for the first NFWI Chairman, Lady Gertrude Denman. The Georgian magnificence of the property remains to this day and students may elect to stay in the house itself, or in one of the purpose built en-suite rooms or cottages dotted throughout the grounds. The gardens are breathtaking with herbaceous borders to drool over, a lake to linger by, and a walk-way bordered on either side by lime trees. It is an idyllic place where the world recedes and learning process are given full reign. You don’t have to be a WI member to attend courses, and gentlemen are very welcome too. Do have a look at the Denman College website to see what is on offer now and in the future.

The NFWI doesn’t take a holiday during the month of August but many individual WIs do not hold a formal meeting; my own WI being one of them. We do however still meet on what would be the WI evening, in either in a member’s garden or, as we did this year, in the local pub. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a couple of cheese and wine events during the month, an afternoon tea by WIs in my federation, and a regular WI meeting in my local area. At this meeting, the guest speaker was novelist Sarah Harrison, and she kept everyone in stitches – myself included. The whole evening was just so positive and happy and it made me think, yet again, that if I wasn’t a member already, I wouldn’t be able to join quickly enough.

Work on our campaigns continues. As part of the Legal Aid campaign I attended a focus group of women who had suffered domestic violence where they spoke of their situations and how access to and the use of legal aid had made a positive difference to them. Those of you who have read some of my previous posts will recall that the WI has told the government, in no uncertain terms, that their proposal to reform legal aid provisions is just not acceptable in cases of domestic violence. More focus groups are to be held presently, from which a report will be presented to government. All this work stems from a 1994 mandate on legal aid; the WI on the case yet again.

The current mandate on keeping local libraries open and fully functioning, Love Your Libraries, is gathering momentum, and if you feel strongly that libraries should remain open, please sign our online petition. Paper copies of the petition are also available from the Public Affairs Department: 104 New Kings Road, London SW6 4LY.