A year ago, when five friends got together with thoughts about setting up a new WI for Beeston, ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ couldn’t be further from their minds! One year on they are celebrating the success of hundreds of women getting together to socialise, learn and have fun.
At their first exploratory public meeting, over 200 women turned up talk about the things that interest them at a ‘conversation café’, as Beeston WI President Claire Montgomery explains:
“After lots of research into different groups and support from the Nottinghamshire Federation of the WI, we felt ready to launch a new type of WI for Beeston.
“We were thrilled to see over 200 ladies at our first meeting – it was incredibly overwhelming experience, like nothing any of us had ever done before. Following that meeting we signed up 100 members and had a waiting list of over 80 ladies. We were left in no doubt there was a desire for this type of group in Beeston”
Over the following weeks committee members grew in numbers and as the year progressed, monthly meetings provided a wonderfully wide range of activities to take part in.
The first official meeting of the newly formed Beeston WI kicked off in April and the programme of events with a bang – quite literally, as Samba drumming proved a very popular way to de-stress!
Other activities over the past year have included a French Conversational Café with plenty of wine, cheese and an Edith Piaf based quiz. Leg warmers and day-glo clothing were essential for ‘80s dancing and in July the members got crafty making flower arrangements and decorating glasses – which came in very handy for Beeston WI’s first Christmas party which included cocktail making.
A year later and with over one hundred members, Beeston WI celebrated their first birthday in March 2018 with a ‘Beeston WI Bake-Off’ with women as the theme for their scrumptious cake creations. The cake entries were inventive, fun and very tasty. Five star bakers received prizes and all the WI members and guests enjoyed slices of the delicious treats created to celebrate a truly memorable year.
Beeston WI members also get to together for social events outside of the meetings, organise book swaps and support local charities and national campaigns. In 2017/18 the WI nationally has been a strong campaigner against the overuse of plastics as part of their ‘End Plastic Soup’ campaign. With a 98.9% majority nationally, members all over the country voted overwhelmingly to support the campaign highlighting the damage and contamination of the oceans caused by microplastic fibres. These fibres are shed from synthetic clothes when laundered and end up in the sea and wider environment, the campaign called for research and development of solutions to help end such contamination.
The activity both nationally and locally is something that means a lot to those involved. Claire continues to be overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of Beeston WI members:
“I think personally my proudest achievement has been the fact we have managed to create an opportunity for the women in our local area to meet, share experiences and ‘escape’ from normality, even if it’s just for a couple of hours in an evening each month and to be a part of something that makes a difference in so many ways.
“I’m so happy we took the initiative and together we have created a space for this to happen; opening the doors for women to get together and support each other, so much so, another WI (The Hive WI) opened their doors in January and they have been just as popular. Hearing our WI being referred to as ‘a brilliant group’ by members is truly awesome.”