Thursday, 22 September 2016

SHWI enjoy the Good Life

What can be more enjoyable than sleeping under the stars, chatting with friends over crochet, listening to chilled music and a homemade scotch egg? Nothing! That's the Good Life, my friends.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Good Life Experience with WI friends from across the country last weekend.

We weren't there just to have a good time (although we definitely did!). We were invited there by Cerys Matthews herself, festival organiser extraordinaire. For the last 3 years, the WI have had a presence at the festival. Last year, our amazing Sarah Willoughby helped to organise a craft tent. This year, we were invited back but we were a bit more chilled, a bit more low-fi.

The festival itself is a relaxed affair of curated music, crafts, books, poetry and food. It takes places on the Hawarden Estate in Flintshire, North Wales which is absolutely stunning. The site has a farm shop which stayed open during the festival and provided us with tasty food across the weekend (hence the scotch eggs!).

We decided to do some pop-up crochet and knitting sessions, showing people how to make twiddle muffs. Now before you call the Daily Mail, Twiddle Muffs are the colloquial name for sensory mitts. Used by dementia sufferers, they can help patients to stop pulling out IV drips. They provide sensory stimulus as they are made with lots of different textures. 

Over the weekend, we showed festival-goers how to get started making them via crochet or knitting. Less confident people could sew on beads or ribbons and even make pom-poms.

Our WI contingent comprised us of the ultimate legends (yes, I hate that word as much as you but in this case, it is true) that are Sarah Willoughby and Joanne Croxford (Cambridge). These two organised the whole thing and names went into the hat for the other places - I was lucky enough to get one as well as Anna P, Grace T and Cat from Seven Hills WI. Other WI's were Emma from Blackmoor and White Hill WI (Hampshire) and Claire from Mansfield. 

We planned to do a few sessions every day but ended up sitting on a lovely mound near the main stage all day on Saturday. It was great to interact with people about the twiddlemuffs and dementia, as well as talk to people about the WI. I'm sure we recruited a few members that day as well as taught people how to crochet!

In the evenings, we had to wrap up warm (gosh it was cold!) to enjoy Jo's veggie stew and the evenings entertainment. Unfortunately I was under the weather but I heard tales of Balkan brass bands, midnight campfires and hoola-hooping ladies.

A massive thanks to Sarah and Jo for organising the weekend and a big thanks to Hobbycraft for supplying us with lots of yarn and needles to help make twiddle muffs and a HUGE thanks to the Good Life gang for inviting us.

Our finished twiddlemuffs will be heading to Peterborough's NHS trust.


Team SHWI pull papercutting out of the bag

My last meeting as WI President summed up the best things about being in Seven Hills WI - teamwork and friendship.

Sometimes, planning a smoking hot programme of activities and speakers a year in advance comes a cropper and we have events that fall through. A week before our meeting, our plans came undone.

But instead of taking the easy option and filling in with an easy back-up meeting, my crack team of dedicated commitee members decided that a papercut workshop was something we could pull off ourselves.

Cue desperate googling off templates, trips to a high street stationer and certain individuals ordering hundreds of scalpels online. 

When we arrived at St Andrews before the meeting, it was fantastic to see so many members arrive early to help move tables and chairs. We got ready in super quick time!

Members mingled and chatted about the month's news and helped themselves to Vicky's awesome vegan courgette cake.

It was fantastic to be visited by WI friends from around the country - Joanne Croxford from Cambridge was in Sheffield prior to our trip to the Good Life Experience, as well as ladies who are setting us a new group, Wellbeck WI.

The meeting soon began and we ran through WI business. My amazing committee members presented me with a surprise bunch of flowers and asked me to give a speech! I was not prepared at all. In fact, I'm still President until next meeting but I won't be able to make the October or November's meeting. Apologies for mumbling a strange thank you! 

After a quick break, it was time to start papercutting. Laura and Grace decided to put the skills they have learned at Denman College to good use and lead the workshop. They showed members how to use templates to practice their designs or simply come up with their own patterns. I was amazed to see some of the fab designs people came up with in such a short amount of time. 

Soon enough, it was time to get packed away too. Another big thanks to everyone who helped clear away.

Being President has been fantastic. I have got to be involved in so many things I would not have had the chance to - a judge on the Great British Menu, a guest on BBC Radio Sheffield, and help fundraise thousands of pounds.

I'm really excited to take a break as President, continue to support the group and campaign for change in the organisation that we are a part of and the society we live in. 

Kirsty Bowen
President 2014 - 2016