Welcome to London West End WI

Friday, 21 November 2014

AGM and graffiti knitting.

This year's AGM was just a little different as with our change to being part of Middlesex Federation we also, for the first time, had independent people (Liz and Sarah) to oversee the election of the committee and president. But before all that it was a last chance for our wonderful outgoing president Pam to give her overview of the year.

And what a year it's been!

It was a year of changes with us briefly moving in to the main church for two months before finally settling back in to our old home of the Upper Vestry but now on a Wednesday evening. The craft club moved too! An experiment to see whether we would be better off in a dedicated location with good lighting, tables and tea was a success so we've sadly now abandoned the Seven Dials Club to spend the first Tuesday of the month lurking in Atlantis Bookshop on Museum Street.

Our talks of the year have been varied as we've seen the Dangerous Women, heard about the No More page 3 campaign, had a guided tour of our church by the inimitable Frank, learnt about campaigning from the Chair of the NFWI Public Affairs Committee, had a little holistic therapy, made paper birds, found out about the What I See Project and BeanStalk, died laughing trying to morris dance, met the chair of the Ghost Club, learned more about women in the Great War and even feminist art of the 1970s.

Meanwhile in craft club we've learned the art of tea bag folding, crocheted, knitted, done patchwork chrimble decorations, made earrings and jewellery stands and even made hats for innocent smoothies. Well, except for me, I admitted defeat and stuck to making pom-poms.

Some of us went on marches, we baked, we visited other WIs, planted or picked poppies and we even had a visitor all the way from Canada!

Out in the community we had cake stalls at Phoenix Gardens, supported the St George's Open House and did our bit at the Covent Garden Street festival.

Next up Jane gave us her treasurers report of the year and we were all glad that she could announce we had a small surplus of £17.10 for the year though that didn't include the takings from the Covent Garden Street Festival which falls in the next financial year. With a mixture of the chaos from us having to move evenings along with the strong competition at Phoenix Gardens it really has been a very good year.

The election...

Having gathered the names of the those that would like to be on the committee, Liz asked the members present whether they were prepared to accept them as a block, which they did! It certainly was easier than voting in each and every person. So, our committee for 2015 is:
  • Pam
  • Victoria
  • Helena
  • Kate
  • Jane
  • Claude
  • Jenny
The next task was to elect the president. Only members of the committee could be president and because of the process explained by Liz they had to be present to say whether they would be willing to take on the role, this sadly meant that neither Kate nor Jenny could be press-ganged voted on as they weren't they to agree!

With this explained the members were asked to write down their preferred nomination and from these we were left with a nominated list of three.

For the final step each of the three would be asked to write down whether they would be prepared to take on the role and give this to Liz the rule being that if two or more said yes then we would have a private ballot of the members to decide. I'm sure that Liz told me what would happen if we all said no but to be honest by that point I may have forgotten what the rule was!

Without further ado Liz read and announced each decision and finally proclaimed yours truly as president.

The final step is for the committee to appoint the other officers and we'll give you an update as soon as this is done.

After a brief ceremony to hand over the presidential badge we finally got on with what everybody really wanted to hear about...

Graffiti Knitting

The graffiti knitter was Deadly Knitshade, aka Lauren O'Farrell, a fabulous lady who had looked cancer in the eye and tweaked its nose. She explained that she stumbled her way in to knitting as she endlessly waited for treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, he story is quite amazing and I really would recommend you spend time reading it on her blog.

Her talk moved on to how she first became a graffiti knitter and how, by chance she found she could do good with it and as it happens eventually make it her work.

What really struck me was the range of things that had been done as well as how many of the pieces that inspired her I'd also stumbled across. I certainly had the feeling that this was a story that had so much more to tell and I for one will be watching for her latest antics. Sadly as we'd turned the lights off so we could see the images that went with her wonderful talk I didn't take as many notes as I would have liked to have done! Or any really. But if how far we overrun by is a guide to how good a talk is then this was definitely a winner.

At the end of the evening we had the opportunity to chat with Lauren a little more as well as purchase one of her excellent books! We'll have to invite her back again...


As you may know we usually give our speakers a thank you gift of a teapot with a cosy knitted by Jane. The morning after the presentation I saw a wonderful tweet by Deadly Knitshade that included the Vine image of her teapot below that we are showing with with Lauren's kind permission.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Welcome to our new President!

Following our AGM on Wed 19th Nov, we are delighted to say that Victoria (on the left, below) is now our President, taking over from Pam after 3 years - both are in the pic below, at the ceremonial handing over of the Presidential badge. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

About an AGM...

As our AGM is rushing towards us we thought it might be useful to explain what this is all about...

We start with a review of the year from our president, this being followed by a report on our finances by our treasurer. Following this there is a vote by members to select the next years committee, needless to say if you would like to be on the committee it's self nominating! Any paid-up member can join a committee regardless of how much experience they have, all we ask is that they can attend committee meetings as required, usually held briefly after the monthly or craft club meetings as well as joining in with the email discussions of various topics.

Once we've voted for a committee we vote for the officers for 2014/15 these include the President, Treasurer and Secretary. These posts are filled by the committee members and again only paid-up members can vote.

This year we will, sadly, be looking for a new President as Pam has had to announce she intends to step down owing to personal commitments and demands of work. If you are interested in taking on the role and would like to learn more then please get in touch via email or speak with Pam on Wednesday night!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

October Meeting : Ghosts of Central London

This month we plan to have a talk about ghosts of Central London, ancient and modern and some of the different types of hauntings that have been experienced, and we'll look at what may lie behind these ghostly encounters. Our speaker will be Alan Murdie of the UK Ghost Club (http://www.ghostclub.org.uk/), an expert in the subject of ghosts and paranormal activity.  Just right for Halloween!

Monday, 29 September 2014

UN Climate March

Saturday the 21st saw the WI joining the UN Climate March in London, so whilst some of us were busying ourselves at St George's for Open House, Jenny was waving the flag as our representative on the march! You can't miss her, she's the one in the blue fleece below...

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Let them eat cake...

...and they did!  

Thanks to all our lovely members who baked and sold cakes at both Phoenix Gardens and Open House in September, and to those who came and bought cakes and jams, and chatted to us. We've got one more cake stall to go, on 4th October near Covent Garden - see you there!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

20th August - Morris Dancing

On 20th August we had a fun packed evening of Morris dancing!  Full blog will follow, but for now here's your first (and possibly last!) glimpse of the LWEWI Morris side in action...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Phoenix Gardens Agricultural Show

On Saturday 6th September we'll be back in Phoenix Gardens with our cake stall - if members can help out, please do let us know. And everyone else, do drop by for cake and to say hello. It's always a great day, so fingers crossed for sunshine!

Next Meeting, Wednesday 20 August : Morris Dancing

This Wednesday, Tish Collins will be giving us a brief talk on the origins of Morris dancing and the 4 main styles. Then the real fun will begin, when we all get to take part in a Cotswold style stick dance, and maybe a handkerchief one too if there's time.  She'll bring her partner Mick, who plays the melodeon (squeeze box), so we have some music to really get into the spirit of it!

As well as being a member of LWEWI, Tish has been dancing with the Dacre Morris, a women's side based in Lewisham (http://dacremorris.smallcogs.com/) for 17 years and for the last 3 years she's been in Three Spires Morris, a women's North West clog side based in Lichfield (http://threespiresmorris.com/)

Mick has been dancing for over 30 years, originally with the Earls of Essex, and is Squire of the Blackheath Morris Men.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Next Meeting, Wednesday 16 July : British Feminist Art, 1970-1978

A quick reminder our next meeting is almost upon us. 


This month's talk will be by Dr Hazel Frizell.  Her presentation is based on her doctoral thesis of 2009 entitled “Representations of Specific Concerns of the Women’s Liberation Movement in British Feminist Art 1970 – 1978.”
More information on our "This Month" page, here

June: Children's Literacy

At Craft Club, Victoria showed members how to make wonderful earring display stands out of old picture frames and fabric. Why spend a fortune when you can upcycle? Step aside Kirsty Allsop!

turning these...
into this

The monthly meeting began with an impromptu photo session outside the vestry hall, to provide Helena with some new images to update our publicity leaflets with. Hopefully we can share her work at the next meeting.

The NFWI Resolution, Organ Donation – Time to Talk, which we voted to support at our May meeting, was passed at the AGM with a 98% majority vote.   

More information on how we as a WI and as individuals can support this can be found here: http://www.thewi.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/84931/AM-Resolution-Briefing-Notes-Increasing-Organ-Donation-March-2014-web.pdf

And so on to our speaker!  Harriet Watson from Beanstalk spoke to us about the work they and their volunteers carry out to improve children’s literacy, through working in primary schools on a one-to-one basis with children who need help with their reading skills.  Our committee member, Jenny, also spoke about her experiences as a Beanstalk volunteer. 

If anyone is interested in finding out more about becoming a volunteer, please go to http://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/reading-helpers  or contact us at Londonwestendwi@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to give you Harriet’s contact details.

May - Advice for the Future

Apologies for the lack of updates recently!

We started May with card making at Craft Club, where Nicky taught us the intricate art of tea-bag folding for card making.  It's not the actual tea bags that get folded, it started with the pretty wrappers they used to come in.  We had a great time, and got some wonderful results

Our main meeting began with us taking a vote about whether to vote yes or no as a WI to the NFWI Resolution at the AGM. Toto, President of Fulham and Chelsea WI came along to collect our vote, as she is representing us at the AGM.  The resolution was on promoting more discussion of organ donation (more about it in notes from our June meeting) and we voted a resounding "Yes".

Our main speaker was Edwina Dunn, founder of the What I See Project. She talked to us about the project, and how it looks at what it is to be a woman today, globally, and what advice we'd give to young women today, and then it was our turn to be photographed with our words of wisdom! 

You can find out more about the What I See Project here: http://whatiseeproject.com/

More pictures of us with our whiteboards can be found here: http://whatiseewomensinstitute.tumblr.com/

Saturday, 17 May 2014

April and spring paper birds

With the lighter nights of April it was a real pleasure to saunter down to St George's in Bloomsbury for our monthly meeting...


Coming in May we have another trip to the British Museum for the Ancient Lives exhibition at the British Museum, this time we only had ten tickets on offer for the community preview so Victoria gambled that we could fill all spaces and already had an entry time of 2:50pm.

Our April craft club was small but perfectly formed, our theme for the month was simple jewellery making. We did learn that some of us really like shiny things and
some truly fabulous earrings were made on the night.

Next month we have Nicky giving us an introduction to tea bag folding! Apparently this is a form of paper folding... I for one was intrigued.

Pam reminded us that we do have the Phoenix Gardens in September and volunteers will be needed to make, bake and look after the stall.

Jane announced that there will be a coach trip on June the 5th taking in Rye and Hastings, tickets for this are £14 and you can get further details from Jane.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday the 21st of May when we will be hearing about and getting involved with the What I See project!

Paper crafting with Helena

This month we had a practical section lead by our very own Helena. She explained the idea behind the
craft before letting us loose on a plethora of coloured card along with the all essential scissors, glue sticks and guiding templates. The idea was pretty simple, creating garden birds with layers of card.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well nothing as it happened, with Helena on hand to give us hints and tips many of the
ladies got on with the task of creating whichever bird they had decided was perfect for them.

As the evening moved on the card rapidly started to turn in to some lovely interpretations of the real thing!

The grand finale came when Helena revealed just why she'd gone foraging for branches earlier as she demonstrated how we could add a piece of transparent thread and hang the birds in their natural habitat...

It was really quite impressive how good they looked! Well, except maybe for that blue-ish bird with the orange bits. It is certainly a good way to have some simple fun with very little in the way of materials.

Our thanks to Helena for taking the time and providing us with the card, templates and the guidance in creating our little pieces of arty nature.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

March and Holistic Therapy

Welcome to Wednesday! Yes we're back in the Upper Vestry but now on our new evening of the third Wednesday in the month... Sadly after all her work dealing with the practicalities of the change, President Pam couldn't be there to oversee the evening as she was away in sunnier climes on business.

Which meant that I had to do it...


Firstly a welcome to two new members, Kirsten and Bernadette!

As you may recall we are in the process of changing federation from Surrey to Middlesex, this is in progress and we are awaiting confirmation.

Knitting and, err, texting...
The trial for a new Craft Club venue went well, hence we have booked again for next month (1st of April) when I will be bringing along my box of bits so we can try our hand at basic jewellery making. The room certainly lived up to expectations with eight of us being there for the first evening. One of the ladies from Atlantis Bookshop even mad a special sign so late arrivals could find us:
Tea and 
Oh. Anyway, it was a really could craft evening with Jane explaining how to read patterns. Again thanks must go to Jane for her patience.

Also this month we had the community preview of the Vikings exhibition at the British Museum, it was certainly an interesting exhibition although it was apparent there were a few teething troubles with the new space.

Holistic Therapy

Our speaker for the evening was Julieanne Cresswell of Papillon Angels. Her talk opened with a deeply personal rendition of her journey from being a Deputy Headteacher at a Pupil Referral Unit to where she is today concentrating on her particular flavour of holistic therapy. It was quite apparent that she holds the benefits with high regard and she talked enthusiastically about meditation, massage, spirits and  even angel card readings.

We did get the opportunity to try the meditation as a group. Julieanne set the scene by playing some deeply calming music as she lead us through the steps needed to take us to a meditative state. Her voice is beautifully soothing, calm, reassuring and it was easy to relax in to the flow of the process.

I'm glad to say that I wasn't the only lady that reported having shed a few tears as we relaxed!

The range of questions that were put to Julieanne were as interesting as the responses given, as a flavour of these I noted:
  • Were you psychic when young?
  • What is angel card reading?
  • Does everybody have an angel?
  • How does this connect with counselling.
Towards the end of the session Julieanne offered the opportunity to try a little hand massage with two of us taking up the offer. I have to say I was astonished by the emotional release that came from this and I think it's safe to say I will be making time in my diary to see how Julieanne and her approach can help me.

Julieanne offers her services at a number of sites, further details of which can be found on her website.

Finally, as a thank you, Julieanne was presented with a LWEWI teapot and cosy as crafted by Jane!

Friday, 28 February 2014

February: Campaigns and a tour


A reminder! Yes from next month the main meeting is on the third Wednesday but back in the Upper Vestry where we belong.

Another change for March is that we are trialing a new venue for the Craft Club, this will be in the Atlantis Book Shop on Museum Street. We will be asking for a small donation to help cover the room hire charge though we will be getting tea, a proper table and... Light!

Next we have two dates for your diary:

Ruth and her choir will be performing at St Clement Danes on Strand at 7:30pm on the 1st of March.

For those of you who have already asked for tickets for the Vikings community preview remember that our tickets are timed for 3:40pm on Sunday the 2nd of March, the plan is that we meet at the foot of the stairs to the reading room at around 3:20pm.

And finally... it's subs time, don't forget to pay!


Jenny introduced Marylyn Haines Evans, Chair of the National Federation of Women's Institutes Public Affairs Committee. Crikey, quite a title! She'd certainly travelled a long way from her home WI in Wales and was warmly welcomed. She'd also brought along Rachel Barber who is the NFWI Head of Public Affairs.

Marylyn Haines Evans
Marilyn opened by regaling her WI history which truly showed how important the organisation is to her and her family. Moving on we had a comprehensive explanation of how campaigns are chosen, the time scales and how campaigns never leave the books, so to speak. Of particular interest was a summary of some notable past campaigns, including her joking that we'd pre-dated Jamie Oliver by campaigning for better school meals in 1926.

The key message seemed to be that the WI is seen as a "big hitter" when it comes to campaigns and that real change has been achieved over the years. In short, the WI makes a difference.

St George's church talk and mini-tour

A man in his element
Pam introduced Frank Macey who would be imparting his knowledge as St George's top tour guide, he rather self deprecatingly pointed out he was also their only tour guide...

Pam's assertion as it turned out proved correct!

Frank opened with the story of how the church came about, its foundation being set around 1711 in the New Churches in London and Westminster Act 1710, also known as fifty new churches or Queen Anne's Churches. As it turned out the fifty were never built and St George's was the last of only 12 that came to fruition. Of the twelve there were six designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, sadly whilst the man was a fabulous architect - a former assistant and protégé of Wren - he wasn't so good when it came to finance so the costs rather overran. It was the description of Hawksmoor's experience that gave a clear insight to his extraordinary architectural lineage.

Hawksmoor windows.
Over the years the church has changed with the Victorian's making significant changes to the original design. They changed around the internal layout of the building as well as replacing the simple and plain glazing with stained glass by Clayton & Bell. Sadly though the church began to fall into disrepair and needed significant work. Fortunately the World Monuments Fund, along with Paul Mellon, stepped in to make sure that the work happened. During the renovations the building was changed back to the original layout, many of the windows were returned to how Hawksmoor envisaged them and the structural issues were resolved.

Frank certainly knows his subject, his enthusiasm and knowledge is both engaging and impressive. I for one will be making time in the summer months to actually go on one of his official tours. Can't wait!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fifty Squares, hurray...

The West End girls threw their all in to crafting squares to focus attention on the plight of the women and children refugees being held at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre. The effort began I'm earnest at our monthly craft club where Jane was on hand to help with the knitters whilst Jenny patiently taught those that fancied crocheting.

There were tears and laughter, cries of "how did I gain two stitches" along with a general consensus that whilst many of us hadn't picked up a pair of needles I'm years it was a fabulous reason to do so. But it didn't stop there.  In coffee shops and Soho nightclubs (yes, really), in trains or the underground, anywhere we could stop for a moment the knitting continued apace. We even had a willing volunteer in Scotland clicking away!

Ready to be sewn...
Finally, we have a pile of little squares that Jenny will be taking to Women for Refugee Women so they can be sewn together and turned in to a blanket that will be displayed at the Women of the World Festival.

Thank you to all that got involved, it's been a wonderful group effort!

And don't forget at next Craft Club we'll learn how to follow patterns. I can feel my tears of frustration welling already...

If you'd like to support the end of detention for women that seek asylum then please sign this petition and don't forget to visit the Women of the World Festival if you can!

Some of the *contributors:

  • Jenny
  • Jane
  • Jill Hurden
  • Emma Gerrard
  • Catherine RW
  • Mrs W
  • Victoria Stamps
  • KJ 
* I've only listed those that have so far said they are happy for their names to appear on our blog!