A new Birchington Women’s Institute will hold its first meeting this month after determined resident Lizzy Davidson decided to revive the group.
Although the group won’t be an ‘official’ WI until the start of next year Lizzie has decided to get the show on the road with meetings booked at Church House this month and next.
The 52-year-old gut wellness coach says the movie Calendar Girls – based on the true story of WI members donning voluptuous bread baps and cheeky Cherry Bakewell’s for a nude charity calendar- made her think a WI would be fun.
She said: “A short while after losing my dad a number of years ago, I asked my mum “Why don’t you join The WI? It looks a whole lotta fun!”. And I also remember thinking to myself, when I’m older, I’m going to join…because yes, it did look like a whole lotta fun!
“Roll on 10 years, I made my first enquiry into joining the Birchington WI, but alas, it was no more…I’d missed the boat.”
Birchington in fact had two WIs. The Birchington WI, formed in 1968, would meet in the afternoons but numbers began to fall and it closed some years ago. There was also the Grenham Bay WI – later taking the Birchington name – which met in the evenings but, with a cap on member numbers, it ran its course after 50 years and also closed.
Lizzie, who also works at Mandy’s Deli in the village, was not to be thwarted and decided it was time Birchington had another Women’s Institute.
She said: “I had a brainwave, why don’t I resurrect the WI? I made enquiries into setting up a new a group and the WI organisation gave me the thumbs up.
“I created a Facebook group for those interested to stay up to date with the set up plans, and this is where it just blew me away…within only a few days we gained nearly 300 members, I literally couldn’t keep up with requests to join.
“I couldn’t believe it, and still can’t, one minute I was joining…next minute I was organising it.
“There is still a little work to do before we kick off officially as a WI group, and the responses from the incredible ladies of Birchington with such appreciation, and support has been heart-warming. We may not be set up officially until the New Year but that isn’t going to stop us.
“I want the ladies to look forward to Christmas and enter the New Year knowing they have a community of likeminded women, to make friends and have something positive to look forward to next year…and I’m loving every minute of it.”
The meetings will take place at Church House, in Kent Gardens, on November 23 and then December 21 at 7.30pm. After that they will be held every first Tuesday in the month.
Lizzie, who lives in the village with boyfriend Mark and 6 year old Cocker Spaniel Sampson, is now hoping lots more women will want to join.
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A glimpse at the history of the Women’s Institute
In 1915 the WI was formed in the UK. It was originally brought to life to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War. Since then the organisation’s aims have broadened and the WI is now the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK.
1924 marks the year WI members sing “Jerusalem” for the very first time. It was specially composed for the WI and adopted because of its links with the suffrage movement – hence the saying of Wis being about Jerusalem and jam (making).
During World War II, the WI plays a vital role in growing and preserving food and looking after evacuees.
In the 1950s after passing a resolution to start a national anti-litter campaign, the WI and 25 other UK organisations form the Keep Britain Tidy group.
The WI is in the spotlight in 2003 with the release of Calendar Girls, starring Helen Mirren.
In 2012 the first WI inside a women’s prison is formed
Through the decades the WI has campaigned on everything from raising awareness of HIV to demanding equal pay.