Where can women from their 20s to their 80s come together to have a go at Bollywood dancing and Bhangra drumming, listen to talks on music therapy and modern day slavery, learn about car maintenance, make jewellery and festive wreaths? And yes, sometimes grow the biggest courgette and bake the best layer cake?
The answer is the Women’s Institute (WI). Because this is the age range of the women at The Gloucester Road WI and just some of the activities we get up to.
Meet Gloucester Rd WI members Becky, Jenny, and Mary
Becky, Jenny and Mary aged 28, 47 and 81 respectively all joined the Gloucester Road WI to meet new people and do new things.
Here’s what they say about being part of an organisation for women that spans the generations.
Why they joined the Gloucester Rd WI
Mary, 81, recently arrived from Yorkshire wanted to do more than the stereotypical WI activities with older women. Jenny, 47, who runs her own business, hoped to widen her social circle from other mums with young children. Becky 28, says her own mum told her not to join such a stuffy organisation. So she was surprised to find her new boss – still in her thirties – was the President of the local WI. She loved the sound of what they got up to and went along to find out for herself.
The activities and talks bring people together
The activity or talk may be the focus of the meeting but they also spark the conversations that help people get to know each other. For Mary, the activities are like playing and as she says ‘when you’re playing together age doesn’t matter’. For Jenny, the meetings are a chance to talk to women with a wide range of ages, jobs and backgrounds who don’t necessarily share her opinions. For her, it’s a refreshing change from the social media echo chambers that generate content based on what she already thinks and believes.
Activism at the heart of the WI
All three women have been surprised by the campaigning that’s integral to the WI.
From being warned off joining by her mum, Becky went on to take her suggested resolution – a campaign to stop plastic soup and microfibers – to the WI National AGM. At first, she felt slightly intimidated by giving a presentation to 5,000 mostly older women. But as soon as they started chatting and sharing experiences all that changed. As Mary puts it when it comes to campaigning ‘it doesn’t matter whether you’re in your 20s or 80s, it’s the collective voice that counts.’
Breaking down the barriers and stereotypes
Jenny and Mary have been to Denman College together – the WI’s centre for learning which runs cookery, craft and lifestyle courses. Here’s what Jenny says about her time there.
‘There were women there from the very traditional, long running WIs as well as the so called ‘new wave’ WIs with a younger membership. On the face of it, I thought I don’t have a lot in common with these women. But you get talking and then what a surprise, you find you do have things in common and we’re having a laugh together. I love it for that!’
Want to get involved?
If you’d like to join us, whatever your age, we meet the third Tuesday of every month. Come along to our first meeting of the year on 21 January 2020. Doors open at 7.30pm for 8pm start at St. Andrew’s Bowling Club, Derby Road, Bristol, BS7 9AQ. Membership is £43.00 for the year starting in January, pro rata if you start later. Or you can come as a guest for £5 to try us out. Find out more about how to become a member.
All women welcome. We look forward to meeting you.