Yet again, it has been an eventful few days with the WI. On the train between Bangor and Welshpool I met a lady, who was not only on her way to meet her bridesmaids and choose their dresses, but she also works for Body Positive, an organisation which works for and with HIV/AIDS sufferers. This led to conversation around WI mandates, not least the one from 1986 “This meeting of the WI urges its members to support the campaign of the Department of Health to inform the general public of the true facts concerning the disease AIDS”. There are mandates on a huge range of issues that have beset the country since the WI began in 1915, and one that is especially pertinent right now is the call for more midwives and our report ‘Support Overdue’, produced with the NCT. On the day of its launch, Friday 3rd May, I discussed this briefly on the BBC 1’s Breakfast news programme after a live chat on BBC Radio Five Live on the topic. On ITV’s Daybreak at the same time, the NCT was discussing the findings too, which was a great result!
All of this media work took place just before I dashed off to the well-known village of LLanfairpwll on Anglesey for the opening of a museum in a famous Thomas Telford Toll House. The museum is to showcase the history of the WI and its history where the first ever WI meeting was held 98 years and 8 months ago and it is where the Anglesey Federation office now stands adjoined to the Toll House. The WI's inauguration in the main was to enable women across the country to help provide the nation with food during the dark days of the First World War. It was also the intention that it would educate women in a more general sense, and indeed it has and continues to do so. As you know, the WI movement has come a long way since then, but at that first meeting, the discussion was The Food Supply of the Country. This very year, WIs across England and Wales are holding WI Great Food Debates to highlight the many challenges of food growing, farming, food waste and not least, nine billion mouths to feed by 2050. Plus cą change, plus cą change.
My journey from Llanfairpwll via Bangor then took me on to Welshpool in the heart of the Powys Montgomery Federation of WIs where I attended their Spring Show. It was a joy to present prizes for such creative and imaginative items produced by very talented members. Sponge cakes, Welsh cakes, Bara Brith, photographs, flower arrangements, and displays of such a high standard, and so much of it was learned through the WI. A competitive spirit achieves, as we know from the Olympics last summer, but so much can also be learned from just taking part. One very lovely touch at this show was the beautifully hand written prize cards as each class was judged. The lady responsible, a WI member of course, was sat in the back room quietly using her calligraphic skills to enhance the final display, and utterly deserving of her own prize.