Tuesday, 28 January 2014

We are full for 2014! (But you can still come as a guest!)

At our January meeting we reached our membership limit for 2014 and the books were closed at 135 members. This is third year running that SHWI has reached its membership limit, despite the number being increased each year to try and meet demand.

Seven Hills WI President Lindsay Garfitt said: “We were pleased to see lots of new members sign up to join us. The popularity of our group and the WI in general seems to keep growing and growing and we have got lots of fun activities planned for the coming months, including beer tasting, badge making and a talk from Warp Films.

“Although our membership is full for 2014, women who would like to get involved can still come along to our meetings as guests and join our waiting list for 2015 membership."

See more about coming as a guest and joining the waiting list here

Friday, 24 January 2014

Ello, Ello, Ello!

In the club area before the meeting, there was a distinct buzz as members old and new filtered in, catching up after Christmas, tucking into homemade cake and poring over our snazzy new programmes! We’ve been at our venue Electric Works for a whole year now so it brought a smile to my face to see new members getting excited about their first ever go on the helter skelter!
Chella shows off her committee rosette and our new programme
Then it was into the conference room for the meeting, where SHWI president Lindsay gave an introduction to Seven Hills for those new to the group. There was lots of exciting news to share – spin-off group events, the Sheffield Food Festival in May and a welcome meeting arranged just for newbies on 4th February. Members were also reminded that they could nominate a charity for us to support this year which we’ll be voting on at February’s meeting.
Getting 2014 off to an arresting start (geddit?), our speakers for the evening were Chief Superintendent Rachel Barber and Chief Inspector Caroline Rollitt from South Yorkshire Police. Both have acquired their own notoriety locally, after taking part in charity stand-up challenge, Funny Business, in aid of Weston Park Cancer Charity. A few gags even made it into their talk, showing that they can crack jokes as well as crime. (Thankfully, their jokes were were better than mine).

Members listen intently
Both started in the police force in the late 1980s and shared how they had handled being a woman in a male-dominated environment. The indelible description of Rachel having to hitch her police-issue skirt up to her crotch so she could give chase showed just how far things have come. The comical spin showed a softer side of policing, but there were also glimpses of gallows humour. Insight into how it serves as a coping mechanism for the more challenging aspects of their work, perhaps? Prostitution, guns and erm, international football all featured as they gave us a potted history of their careers in the force, with a few life lessons shared along the way.
Caroline and Rachel seemed largely unphased by many of the challenges – both in their work and in the organisation – although I suspect that’s come with experience. It was inspiring to see how down-to-earth and pragmatic they both were without being jaded or cynical.
Members Sarah and Cat join Rachel and Caroline's squad
As the meeting came to a close, Lindsay announced that we were now full for 2014 which means we’re now at 135 members. No doubt it’ll be a merry meeting next month, as we welcome Beer Central to Electric Works to give our members a taste of some of the best brews.
(Vice President)


Wednesday, 15 January 2014

SHWI Mad Skillz kicks off with Self Defence

It's a cold, dark, drizzly Friday evening in Dronfield. My friend and I have just pulled up outside S18 gym. Since we're early, too nervous to go in, we sit in the car luxuriating in the heated seats until the clock shows 18:00.

We approach the gym - I can see a caged off boxing ring and a well built man punching the heck out of something. I pull out my phone and call Anna T. I have no idea what I'm doing and she's the one who's organised this. As soon as I hear her excited, friendly voice, inadvertently informing me I've come to the wrong entrance, I feel reassured.

Because, we weren't here to start an illegal fight club. Nope, this was the inaugural session of the latest Seven Hills WI spin off group - SHWI Mad Skillz.

Unlike other spin-offs that focus on one particular interest (see Book Club, SHWI Crafts, Walking Group etc.) Mad Skillz is all about finding new and interesting activities. First up was an introductory self defence class with Mixed Martial Arts trainer Andy of the aforementioned S18 gym.

Once I'd shed my work gear in favour of leggings and a 15-year-old Pulp t-shirt, I went to join the other ladies. There were only six of us, but this meant we got a lot of one-on-one action (ahem).

After strapping on some gloves and wondering if beautifully manicured nails (not mine, I hasten to add) would make it through the evening, we got into the "cage" and were given a lesson in throwing punches. I may have the upper body strength of a day old kitten, but I'm pretty sure I could give a decent clout if required.

We then went on to cover kicking, falling over safely, wrestling (yes, really!) and then finally combining the whole lot to take on Andy in the ring.

I'll be honest, this was half self defence, half an introduction to Mixed Martial Arts, but it was BLOOMIN' BRILLIANT. We weren't pushed into doing anything we didn't want to, everyone was really supportive and encouraging (even when trying to wrestle you to the floor) and the buzz afterwards made me see why people get involved in this sort of activity.
Also, it was HILARIOUS - self defence is clearly a serious matter, but if you can have fun whilst learning, why not? Anyway, it's hard not to laugh when a grown man is telling you to grab his shoulder as you knee him in the gut.

The next day, I did look like I'd been in a scrap. My hands were covered in delicate purple bruises and I'd managed to graze a knuckle. But they didn't really hurt, not as much as my arms and stomach, and that's only because I'd been using muscles I didn't know I had.

So would I do it all again? Hell yeah! Bring on the next one...

(Note: no ladies were harmed in the making of this blog. SHWI Mad Skillz will also be offering classes in more genteel pursuits - check out the Facebook group for more details.)

Laura Bainbridge

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Merry Christmas, Love SHWI

It's sometimes hard to avoid Christmas, with tinsel being made available in October and fizzy cola flavoured beverages making adverts that manage to whip up the majority of TV watchers into a frenzy in November. But when it's actually December, then I'm more than happy to get into the festive spirit! Praise be then, that SHWI had not one, but THREE festive events to enjoy. 
First up was a Christmas Coffee morning for the Don Valley Group - a selection of Sheffield based WIs - at SHWI HQ Electric Works. All the ladies were encouraged to bring cakes and bakes, with Glee Bah Gum making a return appearance (they were our guests at the September meeting) to treat us to some carols. It didn't take long for the ladies to join in, with members of Crosspool WI and Norton Lees singing away to some festive favourites. 
Cakes and bakes at the Don Valley Group Coffee Morning

Next up was the SHWI Christmas Party - a rather less sober affair than the coffee morning, it has to be said.  Electric Works allowed us back in to take over our usual meeting room, but this time with funky red lighting and DJ K-Bo (aka committee member Kirsty) providing some banging tunes. A delicious buffet was provided courtesy of SHWI member Blanche (of Coco Catering), treating the ladies to arancini (giant crumbed balls of luscious risotto), pork pies, moreish dips, beautiful brownies and much more.  
Blanche and Vicky enjoy the party atmosphere

Thankfully it didnt get too messy - it was a school night after all - but the photos taken that night might suggest otherwise....
Last, but by no means least, was the December monthly meeting. We kicked off proceedings with the now traditional Christmas Quiz - compiled and hosted by president Lindsay.  
New members sign up and get ready to quiz!

Last year I was lucky enough to be part of winning team 'Specs and Tits', and this year we were determined to keep our title. Team Captain Anna P rallied the troops and put in some revision, by scouring gossip columns and looking at the biggest news headlines of 2013. All that work paid off, as Specs and Tits were victorious and no doubt determined to win again at the 2014 quiz.
After all that excitement, it was time for our guest speaker, SHWI member Liz. She was here to give us a confidence building class and did so in a friendly and encouraging way.

First she gave us tips on how to set goals and the best way to achieve them - by being realistic and believing in yourself. Next we were asked to compliment our fellow SHWIers and learn to accept compliments graciously. This was a little funny at first, but once we got going you could feel the love in the room. There might have been a few tears shed... But it was all good! I've kept my list of compliments to give me lift when I need it.
Finally it was time to swap Secret Santa gifts! Another festive SHWI tradition - if you bring a wrapped up present (£5 budget) you can swap it for another! Picking one to take home is more stressful than buying one for a random lady!
Some of our Secret Santa presents
All in all, December was a great month for Seven Hills... But now the 2014 programme is out I'm looking forward to seeing what the new year brings! 
Laura Bainbridge, SHWI committee