Friday, 11 December 2015

Our new home

We're very happy to say that from Janaury 2016 our meetings will be held at Saint Andrew's United Reformed Church.

We found out only a week ago that we needed to leave Electric Works after December's meeting and after a frantic few dozen emails to local venues, we found Saint Andrew's.

The church itself is warm and welcoming, and we will have access to a fully functional kitchen for our tea and coffee making facilties. There is disabled access and baby change facilities. And our President will no longer have to lug all our meeting bits and bobs backwards and forewards every month - the church has storage space! Hurrah!

Overall we think we've found a great space and a new home for our WI.

Friday, 27 November 2015

President's blog: Thoughts on 2015

It’s been another fantastic year for Seven Hills WI. We’re still at maximum capacity for members and we’ve had a brilliant programme to keep us entertained. Personal highlights for me include Cheerleading and Dr Nate Adams

Cheerleading in 2015
Fundraising has become such a huge part of our group and I’m happy to say we’ve continued to raise massive amounts of money for our charity of the year, Sayit. Our total this year is £1055.69 so well done to everyone who baked for Sheffield Food Festival or came along to our Centenary event. Next year I would like to organise an extra fundraising event or challenge for our charity so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. 

Sheffield Food Festival 2015
One of my personal goals as President is to make members feel welcome and more included in the group. It can be hard when we have such a large group and when I’m personally very busy trying to get things ready at the start and end of meetings. I think we have got better at making members feel more included. We’ve had more and more newbies get involved, join spin-off groups and even feel like they want to join the committee after one year. I’d like to thank Lucy and Kat for organising a record number of meals out for SHWI Eats. Events like these really help people get to know each other and I think we’ve had much more than the usual faces come to events other than meetings. There is more to do and I hope we can build on this next year. 

Spin-off SHWI eats event at Bhaji Shop
On to the committee. We’ve had a few people stand down this year so I’d like to thank them for their hard work. Caryl Carson, Chella Quint, Leanne Sunter and Carly Sunter - thank you for everything you have done for SHWI and I hope you to see you at meetings in the future.

Our committee for 2016 is:
President - Kirsty Bowen
Secretary - Laura Bainbridge
Treasurer - Vicky Porteous-Medley
Vice President & Programme Co-ordinator - Jennifer Marsden
Assistant Secretary - Grace Tebbutt
Assistant Treasurer - Bex Lissaman
Meeting Attendance Secretary - Jodie Winters
Newsletter Editor - Sam Foster
Programme Co-ordinator - Rachel White
Meeting Co-ordinator - Liz Needes
SHWI Ambassadors - Anna Pilson, Alice Bullas, Sarah Willougby, Karin Safwenberg-Barnes, Chelle Cook

Next year we have a fantastic programme of events - more details to be announced soon!

Finally I’d like to say it’s been an honour to be President in the Centenary year. I’ve been lucky enough to have some fantastic opportunities and represent you in this year including appearing on the Great British Menu

BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Andrew Hayes-Watkin
I will be stepping down at our AM in 2016 and I hope then, I will be able to look back at another successful year where the WI has enriched our lives and helped people where we can. 

The WI has been a force for good and for change for 100 years. I’d like to finish with a saying inspired by our WI friend, Joanne Croxford’s own motto - "Deeds not Words":

‘Fine words butter no parsnips’

I hope to our WI can continue to make positive change for our lives and our wider community in 2016. 

Kirsty Bowen

Thursday, 19 November 2015

SHWI Getaway III: This Time it's Personal

So once again I have returned from the SHWI Getaway. I am writing my account of the weekend from my sofa, curtains closed on the beautiful sunny day outside, swaddled in my classy brown  dressing gown and jogging bottoms, RuPaul’s Drag Race soothingly providing the background noise, a Square crisp sandwich and a can of Diet Coke on the table in front of me. Basically, this year, rather than trying to recreate the atmosphere of the weekend through words, I am stubbornly refusing to believe that I am not in Currer Laithe and am actually attempting to physically re-enact farm life. I think I’m doing pretty well. I have the comfy clothes, hangover beverage, ‘nutritious’ food sources and a load of beautiful cross-dressers in my eye-line (more of which to come)...

Photo by Seven Hills WI
As usual, Friday night was pot luck buffet night. As usual, there was too much food. And as usual it was fitness personified. I hope you don’t think I’m being a bit blasé in skimping on my description of a SHWI pot luck supper, because as we know, there ain’t no buffet like a SHWI-made buffet (slogan copyright A. Pilson, SHWI Getaway 2 blog post, 2014). However, if I start raving about every dish, I’ll never stop! Suffice to say, we had enough left over for Carolyne and Tebble’s Patented Packed Lunches the next day. So what of the evening’s entertainment? Well, as usual, ice-breaker games took place, as usual they were, er, revelatory and as usual, I will decline to divulge any further information and move swiftly on…

The gang at the Bronte Parsonage
 A rainy Saturday saw us heading back to Haworth and revisiting the Bronte Parsonage for a talk and walk. Despite having visited the Parsonage on our first Getaway, we heard a completely original talk on the Bronte family, thanks to the fantastically knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff member who led our activities. We enjoyed listening to tales of the lives and personalities of each of the Bronte family, as well as discussing our perceptions of the picture sources in the presentation and I personally was chuffed to drool over the Lord Byron pics. He kind of reminds me of a cross between Mr Darcy, Henry Cavill and Michael Fassbender...sigh. Anyway, I digress. By the time we had finished our talk, the drizzle had done one and we were able to enjoy a guided walking tour of the village, taking in some of the Brontes’ favourite haunts. These included the spot where Charlotte used to secretly rendez-vous with her future husband Arthur Bell Nicholls, who was initially perceived as undesirably too low-class a match for Charlotte. A little like Charlotte’s most famous heroine, Jane Eyre, and Mr Rochester but in reverse, if you will.

Photo by Ellie Last

 Whilst I would love to continue with my literary musings further, alas I must revert to detailing the weekend. Although, I’d just like to point out that if we accept that Kirsty is SHWI’s own amalgamation of Michael Winner and Jay Rayner due to her take-no-prisoners judging role on the Great British Menu (and swarthy good looks, of course), then through that critique I must SURELY qualify as our own Mark Kermode? What with my retro (i.e. dated) hairdo and dead good knowledge of films and that. DISCLAIMER: I was going to compare myself to one of the world’s premiere literary critics, but, erm, I couldn’t think of one, so I turned to my trusty pal Google. That came up with the name Salvatore Quasimodo and I just couldn’t see ANY similarities between me and that namesake AT ALL. AND NEITHER CAN ANY OF YOU, ALRIGHT? AND YES, I’M AWARE THAT JANE EYRE IS A BOOK BUT THERE HAVE BEEN ABOUT 20 MILLION FILM VERSIONS OF THE VARIOUS BRONTE WORKS, SO I CAN GET AWAY WITH LINKING IT TO CINEMA, OK? Phew, glad we got that straight.

Now where were we? Ah yes, Saturday night… Our fancy dress theme for this year was men. Yeah, you read it correctly, men. I mean, given that this year has been all about celebrating the wonders of sisterhood through the WI centenary, it seemed only right that we acknowledged that men have done some decent stuff too - through the respectful medium of drag, naturally. And who’d have thought given the delicate femininity that exudes from the pores of every SHWI member (moi especially), that we’d make such HOT blokes? We had historical hunks (Thor), geektastic guys (Einstein), movie men (Rambo, Garth Algar and Frank N Furter), literary lads (the Bard himself), AND (tenuous phonics alert) tuneful chaps (The King, Freddie Mercury, Conchita Wurst, Adam Ant), televisual todger-owners - GROAN, jeez Pilson – (including the Hoff, Father Ted Crilly, Marcus Wareing, Michael O’Hare, 118 man, Richard O’Brien) and, OF COURSE, no evening would be complete without a sexy drag mermaid.
Photo by Ellie Last
Saturday night proved to be a potentially life-changing experience for me. Firstly I immediately began to question my sexuality when I saw Grace’s ruff (snigger). Honestly, who knew Shakespeare was so damn shexy? (Imagine this said in Sean Connery voice and then the spelling makes sense, honest guv). But it must be stated, I was certainly not the only one to find my hormones pulsing in a most unexpected manner. In fact, it turned out that I, as Marcus Wareing, was responsible for most of the, er, ‘confusion’ felt by some of the ladies. Look, I’ll be blunt – it turns out I am one damn fine specimen of manhood. Who’d have thought during all these years of waging a constant battle against my body hair, that if I’d just let it grow to its hirsute heart’s content I’d have been a STUD? All I can say is I’ve never felt more like myself than when wearing chef whites, having a face-full of stubble and bellowing in my best angry Cockney accent. Sigh…

Grace and Sam the sheep dog - Photo by Ellie Last
 Once again, I’m afraid I cannot reveal any more of the night’s shenanigans, so I shall move onto Sunday (but I’ve got to just say: Holly, Tebble, Corinne - Marcus enjoyed your moves). The order of the day was a lazy morning for some, a trip to Saltaire for others and some serious veg prep for the rest. This toil resulted in a once-again EPIC Sunday roast, with particular props going to the team for the care taken to cater for us veggies, many thanks. This year quite a few people had to depart on
the Sunday evening, leaving a small group of us to enjoy a quiet evening of reflection. By which of course I mean we caned the Singstar for approximately 5 hours. We discovered that most people had fairly decent pipes on them, that Zoe is now probably addicted to karaoke and that pretty much any song can be improved if performed in an angry Cockney or jaunty German accent…

So Monday arrived and due to clock-change confusion, we ended up leaving mega-early. But it’s probably for the best given that every year it gets harder to leave. For serious, man. So once again HUGE thanks to Kirsty and Grace for their organisation skills and thanks to all the ladies (and gents) for their fantastic company. I feel massively privileged to have been lucky enough to attend all 3 Getaways so far and feel that I should probably be magnanimous enough in 2016 to stand back and let others attend. HAAAAAAAA! AS IF! Roll on Getaway 4! Because, to be honest, the fact that I have to be female to attend the SHWI Getaway is pretty much the only thing stopping me hotfooting it to Tijuana to get the op to turn into Marcus full time…

Photo by Laura Bainbridge

By Anna Pilson
Committee Member

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Happy 6th birthday!


Wow what a great night! As a relative new comer to SHWI I wasn't sure what to expect from a birthday party for a WI. Would there be party hats and cake, pass the parcel or singing birthday songs to each other?

Birthday cake!

Well, there was definitely cake amongst the vast array of yummy food everyone brought for the pot luck. I spotted a few fancy hats too, including a fascinator made from tights, very WI I must say.

After the usual business, we all formed a very orderly polite queue for the food - then could be seen shovelling in Guinness brownies, stilton bread, onion tartlets and sticky toffee things to name but a few. As we quietly stuffed our faces, we were ushered into a semi-circle ready for the next portion of the night.

Just some of our party food

This was in the form of Dotty Winters, a fabulous women with a penchant for telling fibs and poking fun at herself and others. In her defence, she did admit to the fibs after she'd lured us in so convincingly with her comedy act so I think we can forgive her. To be honest, I think we can forgive anyone who can pull off wearing a cape to do their weekly Tesco shop. This, I hasten to add, was not a fib as she brought it with her to prove it while giving us a warm and funny insight into her life as a female comedian. It was both refreshing and sometimes a little gritty to hear of her experiences as a women in a male dominated world, which is surprising to say in 2015. But her lust for the centre of attention and passion for making others giggle soon had us rolling in the aisles.

Jodie, Chella, Dotty and Jen

All too quickly the night came to an end with huge rounds of applause and leftover food snaffled up, we all went on our ways after a great night, looking forward to what the next 12 months will bring.

Jodie Winters
SHWI Member

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Cheese Factor

As summer drew to a close, there was one thing on the mind of all us SHWI foodies - cheese tasting!
On Thursday 17th September, SHWI was delighted to be joined by Simon Davidson from The Cheese Factor. Simon gave a wonderful insight in to how his father, Roy, established a successful cheese shop serving the good people of Chesterfield and North Derbyshire for over 50 years.

He told us tales of Roy's adventures in the Merchant Navy, to settling down in Chesterfield to try his hand at poultry farming, to becoming a door to door vacuum sales man before finally finding his passion for fine cheese.
Starting out by serving the cattle market, The Cheese factor soon became a staple for locals and eventually moved into the main Chesterfield market. Tales of Roy's profiteering techniques were reminiscent of Arkwright from Open All Hours, asking the bakery to deliver later in the morning to cash in on the warm fresh smelling bread! Whilst initially Simon wasn't keen on joining the family business, he eventually took over from his father who sadly died in 2011.
Simon then went on to tell us about the triumphant story of how a small consortium of locals saved Hartington's history of cheese production after a large corporate put profits over quality and closed the only remaining creamery in 2009. This small consortium battled for funding and investment but finally opened Hartington Creamery in 2012.
This is when Simon captured our full attention as it is from this very creamery that our fine cheese samples were produced. He handed around samples of both blue and white Stilton whilst explaining how it is produced, as well as giving us all a perfect pub quiz fact that Stilton can only be produced in 3 places in the world, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. If it's produced anywhere else it just ain't Stilton! Our small and tasty samples were delicious, particularly the white Stilton! But in the words of Wallace, Simon left us craving "more cheese Gromit!".
The Cheese Factor now has branched into the wholesale market, so good news for us as there are plenty of places in Sheffield to get our cheese fix.
Louise Worn
SHWI Member

Monday, 21 September 2015

SHWI meets the Coupon Kid

Our guest speaker at our August meeting was 'The Coupon Kid' Jordon Cox.

Jordon tries out his new selfie stick!

Jordon features regularly in national newspapers and on TV for his amazing low cost or free shops by using coupons and in store offers.

Everyone listened intently to the presentation showing all the tricks for combining coupons and offers to get great savings, we even had a few shocked gasps from the group at some of the amazing shops Jordon had done for a couple of pounds.

One of Jordon's biggest savings was for a shop for charity. He was able to shop for enough food to supply several families in need with a hamper for little cost due to using coupons and with the support of a friendly supermarket manager who helped by reserving a till for the numerous transactions required to get the best deals.

Coupons can be found in a number of places:
1. Supermarket free magazine
2. On packaging, look out for stickers, hang tags and coupons inside packaging.
3. Internet sites, for the companies and some manufacturers.
4. Market research companies (such as Orchard at Tesco and BzzAgent).
5. Where they are doing promotions in supermarket car parks etc.
6. Newspapers and Magazines (if you use public transport pick up the Metro - it is free and sometimes has coupons in it).

Coupons are out there, you can find them by just devoting a few minutes to it each day and save a lot of money.

The other ways to save are cashback apps, the main ones are Shopitize, Checkout Smart and Top Cashback. You buy the items, take a photo of your receipt and upload it. Once you have collected so much you can withdraw it by PayPal or BACS to your bank. If an item appears on more than one app at the same time you can still claim on each of them and also claim if you have already used a coupon in store which means sometimes things may be free or you might even be paid to take them out of the shop.

Overage is where a coupon is for more than the current price of the item in the shop the extra will be used against the rest of your shop.

Jordon stressed things are only a bargain if you need them, so don't use a coupon just for the sake of it and be patient until a good offer is there. He did confess to buying a lot of women's hair removal product which is just sat in his stockpile, but in his defence he was getting 20p overage per pack so was effectively getting paid to take it away so it was OK in those circumstances.

Couponing can save you pounds but if you can get a non-perishable for free or a very small amount but it isn't something you use, consider if a charity or food bank can use it and donate it.

Jordon has put all the website details on our Facebook page. If you like to try new products, sign up for The Orchard at Tesco and Bzzagent, You fill in a few questionnaires and if you are selected, you get products through the post to try and coupons for friends and family to try them, Orchard usually send vouchers to spend in Tesco and you get some choice about what you have out of the range they are promoting. For both all you have to do in return is post on Facebook and write short reviews and a questionnaire after the campaign.

I know we all learned a lot from the talk and some members were very surprised about how much you can save from couponing.

Liz Needes
Committee member

Friday, 18 September 2015

SHWI Love Food, Hate Waste

SHWI member and blogger, Ros Arksey has written about the recent Love Food Hate Waste course organised for our members for her food blog, Nibbly Pig. She's kindly allowed us to post it below.... 

 Love Food, Hate Waste

I love food and always try to plan my meals and make the most of leftovers, whether that is putting them in the freezer or turning them into lunches for work. As you can imagine, I was very enthusiastic about attending this Love Food, Hate Waste workshop hosted for our Seven Hills WI group.

Peter Hellawell from WRAP delivered the session at the Showroom and explained how we can all learn to waste less food, save money and pick up useful tips along the way.

Here’s a bit of background for you…

‘Love Food, Hate Waste was launched in 2007 and raises awareness of the need to reduce food waste and helps us all take action to tackle it. It shows that by doing some easy practical everyday things in the home we can all waste less food, which will ultimately benefit our purses and the environment too.’ Love Food, Hate Waste website

Sheffield is part of their 10 cities campaign which means there are lots of awareness-raising activities going on, like this workshop, to get the message out there to help reduce waste. Sheffield was chosen due to its high population and the fact that we have higher than average waste levels.

We started the session in an interactive style with Peter asking us to raise our hands if we love food. Lots of hands went up. Then he asked, ‘who hates waste?’ Again all hands were raised. So we quickly established that we were a crowd with an appetite to learn.

Peter set the scene with some hard-hitting facts about food waste.
·          UK Households waste around £12.5 billion worth of food and drink each year
·          On average 4.2 million tonnes of the food that is wasted is avoidable
·          Food waste costs the average household £470 per year
·          The most commonly wasted products are fresh vegetables, salad, fruit and bakery items.

The conversation and activities were then focused on recognising what we do now, could we do anything better and what tips could be helpful for the future.  

Planning and being organised seemed to be at the heart of reducing waste. For example, plan your meals, think about portions, utilise leftovers and keep a check on use by dates.

For example, if you are tempted for a buy one, get one free, then consider if you will use the products or would you be better sharing it with a friend or family. Think about what you already have in your cupboards, do you need to buy more food? Try out practical tips to make food last longer, like adding a damp piece of kitchen roll to an open bag of salad, this will give it a couple more days freshness. If you have broccoli that has wilted, put it into a glass of water or bowl and this will help it crisp up.

Know your dates. Use-by dates are about food safety and generally when you must use the item. Best-before, is when it is the most suitable time to eat it and is all about quality.
Sell-by or display until are shop led and is an internal guide for shop staff, as consumers we don’t need to take notice of these dates.

Consider storage to get the most from food. Eggs like a constant temperature, they don’t have to be in the fridge but this is the best place for most fruit to make it last longer. Don’t put your bread in there though, this will make it go stale quicker – keep it in a bread bin if you have one. Alternatively, just get slices out of the freezer the night before you need them, which is what I do.

**5 degrees is the optimum fridge temperature.

Love your freezer. We learnt that you can freeze eggs if they are separated, remember to make a note of how many whites you have added together, as when it comes to defrosting you might struggle to work this out. You can freeze soft cheeses like brie and yoghurts; if you stick ice lolly sticks into the yoghurt tubs this will give you frozen yoghurts for the kids or you. Remember to label what you are freezing, we are all probably guilty of having some mystery frozen ‘surprise’ that we get out to defrost. A sharpie pen was suggested as something to invest in to label up items. You can even get technical and make a spreadsheet to track what you have in and how long it has been there.

**Freezers operate best ¾ full.

These are a selection of the facts and key tips that we went through on the night. There are lots of useful resources on the Love Food, Hate Food website, go check it out.

It certainly got me thinking about what else I could do and when I got home, two peppers, half an onion, a lime and some ginger were all chopped or sliced and put in the freezer, as I knew I would not use them while they were at their best. I now have a piece of paper on my fridge with the meals I am cooking for the week and a reminder of what needs using up from the freezer.

Thanks to Peter for an informative session. I’d encourage you all to see how you can do your bit to make a difference to the planet and your pocket.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

President's blog: Being a guest judge on the Great British Menu

It was the day after our former President Lindsay stepped down that I got the call from a researcher about possibly appearing on the Great British Menu. Talk about starting with a bang!

In case you haven't seen the show before, chefs from different regions around the country compete to have one of their dishes at a special banquet. The theme for this year's banquet was the WI's Centenary and the producers of the show were looking for different members to appear as guest judges. Seven Hills WI would represent the so-called 'New Wave' WI - more recently established groups, mostly in cities that tend to have younger members and participate in with less traditional activities. They were looking for a President from a particularly foodie group and we fitted the bill.

To say I was nervous about taking part would be an understatement. To be honest, I had no desire to be on television. But I knew that I couldn't turn down the chance to take part. The role of President requires you to represent the group at a national level and our group deserves to be recognised for the hard work we put into Sheffield Food Festival and our love of all things culinary. Plus Anna P, fan of the show and committee member would actually kill me if I didn't part (a vegetarian herself, she told me that if I got to take anyone to the banquet, she would forego her dislike of meat and try everything).

My role would be to judge the two finalists of the North East region heats. Three chefs from the region had been cooking all week and the top two went through to Friday. On Friday, the judges eat all the dishes and the winner is the one who scores the best. The winner then goes through to finals week.

So after a conversation over the phone with a researcher asking me some questions, a couple of days later said researcher was meeting me in person at my workplace and interviewing me on a camera. Later the next week, I got an email to say they'd love me on the show if I could make the filming dates. I tried to put it all out of my mind until after Christmas. I was told to keep it a secret too - which wasn't too hard as I was so scared about it!

The filming took place on January 30th. I got the train to St Pancras the night before where I was met by a very smart eastern european driver in a suit with an earpiece, leather gloves and a black Mercedes. It was like being in a spy film. He took me to a very nice hotel in Marylebone where I spent the night in a MASSIVE king size bed. Oh the hardship! I had to be really careful not to fill up to much on the breakfast buffet - but it was really not to tuck into all the pastries, fruit, breads, cereals etc. There was even an egg station! At 8am, I had another driver whisk me to the studios in Kentish Town.

I was greeted by the production team who were totally lovely and looked after me all day. They tried to put me at ease and explain the day's filming. The chefs who we were judging were Michelin starred Tim Allen and Leeds-based Michael O'Hare. There was real anticipation in the air about the food and the team told us we were in for a real treat.

After hair and make-up by the brilliant Heather, I was taken to the judging chamber. The chefs were already busy in the kitchen and they would take it in terms to plate up their food in order of starter, fish course, main course and dessert. I was introduced to the judges - Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort. All three were really nice and asked me lots about questions about my WI. They had a great sense of humour and a real interest in the food and the chefs.

I ate some fabulous food - highlights included Tim's delicious starter (I can still taste that ham and egg), Michael's fish (like nothing else I'd ever seen) and beautiful main course, and Tim's gorgeous pudding.

Tim's pudding

It's not all glam and gorgeous food though. It was a really long day. You have to wait for each course to be served and there's a lot of shots to set up and repeat. These shots don't take up a lot of screen time but they are essential to show the food presented correctly. It's also important not to scoff the food down quickly. I had to take my time as we'd be talking about the food for a long time and because only certain snippets would be aired, we needed to keep food on the plate as long as possible.

Michael's fish course

After lunch, I was taken into the kitchen to meet the chefs and talk to them on camera. I had to tell them a little bit about myself and how the judging was going - without giving much away! I could tell they were both quite nervous about the result so it was hard to tease them. But they were both such nice guys who clearly enjoyed being in each other's company and the friendly competition between them.

Michael's main course

When it came to announcing the decision, it was quite nerve-racking. We were asked to score them after every dish and then the points were added up. I was given a few lines to say on camera after the result had been announced based on my thoughts and criticism during the judging. The chefs were brought into the room facing the judges desk and we had to stare at each other for what felt like years as the camera set up the shots. Finally, Matthew was able to announce that Michael had won. He had only one chance to get this right or the surprised reactions would be lost. Luckily, this went ok and I then said my line.

Michael's dessert

After filming, I said goodbye to the judges and was whisked away in a car to the station and back to Sheffield. But just before this happened, the Producer asked me "Would you like to come back for finals week?". To be continued!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Tea and Tents 2015

Avid readers of the SHWI blog will know that I usually write the posts after the SHWI Getaways at Currer Laithe and I felt it was only fitting for me to do the same for another getaway comprising of WI fun. However, typically, I write the post within about 24 hours of returning because I am pining so much and trying forlornly to relive the memories, sobbing quietly onto my sofa. Well, this time, I am looking back on the event a whole fortnight after returning. You slacker, Pilson, I can hear you all tutting. However, I have good reason. The delay is due to the fact that I have spent approximately 23 hours and 45 mins of each day following my return (sleep’s for the weak, dude) on the Tea and Tents Facebook page conversing, commiserating and chortling with my many new WI sisters across the country…

So let’s get back to the weekend of wonder itself. With school being out for summer, I excitedly headed towards the wilds of Walesby to participate in Tea and Tents 2. This belter of a camping trip was first organised last year and attended by several SHWI members, whose amazing feedback made this year’s event THE hot ticket for many SHWI-ers (apart from Keighley of course). So 19 of us descended en masse to a campsite usually reserved for scouts! After setting up our tents (thank you
Sarah and Bex for saving an ace area for us), we headed to the main tent for the fuddle. Can you imagine the cornucopia provided in that tent by the cooking of 500 WI members? AMAZING! However, it was quite difficult to get to the food given the organisation of the tables in the tent, so sadly I was unable to participate – this may be my only SLIGHT area for improvement of the whole weekend – next time perhaps have food on all of the tables and everyone eat al fresco. Luckily, we had a guerrilla fuddle at SHWI camp HQ and I was ‘forced’ to abandon my #veganlifestyle by Liz’s
divine mackerel pate. It was a real hardship I can tell you…

Once we were Christmas Day-style stuffed, we welcomed around 30-40 women from other WI’s to Laura’s beer swap. It proved so popular that we had to break into 4 groups. We organised the beer by ABV from weakest to strongest and supped to our heart’s content, sharing opinions on the booze and generally chatting about our WIs. Although I met lots of lovely ladies in my group, I must give a special mention to our nearby neighbours, Youlgrave WI, whom we will definitely visit soon. Despite
us making a valiant attempt, there was so much beer left that many ladies took a bottle home with them and Laura was left with a beer pyramid for her own personal consumption. I imagine it lasted
approximately 2 hours…

Saturday was a day full of activities for all – some more sedate than others. Carolyne and Liz got the  ball rolling (quite literally) by participating in a game of Quidditch! It’s not just all tea and cakes in  the WI you know, well at least not until the afternoon! Other activities across the weekend included Pilates, crochet, flower crown making, paper cutting, self-defence, a market, best in show competition, quiz, afternoon teas, yarn bombing, sports day (special mention to the UK WI Egg and
Spoon champion Liz Mitchell here!) There was a myriad of talks, including one by the fabulous Joanne Croxford of the Daisy Change WI. I mention this talk in particular because we are lucky enough to have Joanne coming to talk to us at our Centenary Mixer on Saturday September 26th about how the WI changed her life and about setting up the country’s first WI at a psychiatric unit – members, you should come! Tickets only £1! Also, there was a particularly competitive game of Rounders. Did you know that our president, Kirsty Bowen, whom we trust to lead us with dignity and valour, is actually a ruthless Rounders cheat? A victory is not a victory when gained through pernicious means…(Editors Note: Kirsty in no way cheated and is in fact a Lincolnshire district rounders runner-up champion 2002 - KB).

Some of us also chose to take part in Walesby’s standard scouting activity programme, with lake- based frolics or an action-packed activity course. Liz, Bex and I braved the mosquitoes of Walesby by trekking through the forest down to the lake to participate in body-boarding and kayaking. The body boarding basically consisted or jumping headfirst down a ‘slip ‘n’ slide’ on a hill into the lake. It was great fun, unless you let go of the body board and end up sliding down the rocky ground on your belly. As Liz discovered, you may not get to the bottom with everything intact. Don’t worry, she wasn’t hurt, but let’s just say that she gave the young gentleman overseer a treat that he wouldn’t get from the Scouts! On Sunday morning many ladies blew off the cobwebs with a brisk session of axe throwing, zip wiring and climbing. SHWI ‘sensible is my middle name’ Secretary Laura Bainbridge had been very well-behaved up to this point over the weekend, so OF COURSE she had to leave the  latter activity with a suspected broken wrist! It certainly made the Sunday night a bit different for  myself and Becky, who accompanied her to Bassetlaw A and E for an X-Ray (thank you to Theresa and Rachel who patched her up in the meantime, and fear not - it turned out to be a sprain). Who’d  have thought that ACTUAL HEALTH AND SAFETY PROFESSIONAL Laura would sustain a  NON-ALCOHOL-RELATED INJURY? Mindblowing.

Members from other WI's enjoyed dining dining with us for a curry feast!

Luckily, she soldiered on long enough for us all to enjoy Sarah’s curry feast – who else could cater  for 30+ people on a camping stove and make it quality better than most Indian restaurants? We  welcomed ladies from several other WIs and I must admit I got a bit teary-eyed sitting round and eating that curry (and not because of the spices). It was just such a wonderful example of the do it yourself, everyone muck in, everybody welcome spirit of the WI. Jeez Willoughby, wasn’t making half the crowd cry by beginning a rendition of Jerusalem when we were taking an aerial photo of the group emosh enough for you?!

Finally, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there and tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air. But, alas, that’s another story. Instead, I’d like to take a minute to thank some of the people who, in particular, made the weekend so special for all of us. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped run the site and activities programme so smoothly (including Becky, Cat,
Holly and Vicky of the SHWI-ers). Secondly, thank you to all those who gave their time to run workshops, deliver speeches or organise activities – it’s a cliché, but there really was something for

Thirdly, thank you to my own personal hero and SHWI camp mother, Sarah Willoughby. This women organised our shopping, hired various pieces of equipment (including a van), had a hand in various erections (oo-er) and catered for 20 plus people all weekend (I haven’t even mentioned Saturday’s AMAZING paella) – without your amazing efforts the weekend wouldn’t have been what
it was. Next year, try to do a bit more work though, yeah, Willoughby? I’m sure you sat down for at
least 3 minutes over the weekend… Fourthly (is that even a word?), thank you to the generosity of all participants who through simply having fun, have raised £3000 for the charity Refuge, as well as providing donations of food, bras and crocheted daisies for various other worthy charities. Last but
most certainly not lease, the biggest of THANKS must go to the organisers: Sue, India, Claire, Meryl
and Rebecca, who have basically done a full-time job organising T&T on top of their own work and family commitments. It was certainly no mean feat and I know that there are around 530 women who owe you a massive debt of gratitude.

So to sum up - Tea and Tents? More like booze and banter, cakes and crochet, FRIENDSHIP AND
FUN! Until the next time, campers…

Anna Pilson
Committee member

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Seven Hills WI President is guest judge on Great British Menu

We're excited to announce that our President, Kirsty Bowen features as a guest judge in the new series of the Great British Menu later this summer on BBC Two. 

The show returns to commemorate the Centenary of the Women’s Institute and this year the chefs must plate up perfection, as they fight it out for the chance to cook at a glorious banquet at London's historic Drapers Hall.

The challenge is produce 21st century dishes that honour the custodians of first class home cooking, and pay tribute to the generations of women who have helped make Britain the great culinary nation it is today.  The chefs have taken inspiration from the women in their families - their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers - and the pioneering women of the Institute, to turn home-cooked classics, into modern masterpieces.

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to produce food for our nation during the First World War. A century later the Institute is synonymous with British home cooking.  Right from the get go the pioneering women of the WI were a force to be reckoned with – promoting equality for women, education, and impeccable standards – and in 2000, the WI Calendar Girls produced a nude calendar which raised millions for charity and proved once and for all that the WI are anything but a stuffy organisation.

As ever, the regional heats will see all of the chefs’ dishes scrutinized by Britain’s most accomplished chefs and veterans of the competition. Winners of this first round will present their menus to the judging panel, award winning critic Matthew Fort, doyenne of British cookery Prue Leith, and restaurateur Oliver Peyton.  Joining the Great British Menu judging panel each week will be guest judges - longstanding WI members, mothers and home cooks - who will ensure the dishes going forward to the Great British Menu national finals measure up to the exacting standards of the Institute.

For further information or pictures please contact:
Francesca Sostero, Publicist or
Vanessa Land at Optomen Television on 0203 227 5941 or