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