WI-orld Domination... or How To Cake your Friends and Influence People.


Women's Institute.


I'll tell you bloody why. It's hands down the best thing I've ever committed too (bar the husband of course) and one of my proudest achievements (pending children growing up to not be maniacs).

I first joined a local WI in 2010, along with a friend. To be fair, we were mainly joining because we loved craft, knitting, making jam, old people - all the stereotypical associations with the WI. It turned out that the WI we attended didn't really meet our agenda, so after one meeting when I had gone straight home, my friend, plus two that we met at WI went for a coffee and decided that we should try setting up our own. It obviously had absolutely nothing to do with drinking copious amounts of caffeine at 10pm. I was notified of this life changing decision via text at about 11.30pm that night. Obviously I would never be roped into anything by my friend Fi (2 x walking marathons) so as it was such a rare regular occurrence I gladly agreed to help.

That December we had our first unofficial meeting to gauge whether anyone would be interested in another WI. We promised to provide mince pies (what's that Fi? We can make them? Oh yes, 100 mince pies will be fine won't it? FFS). Anyway, about 120 people showed up to this meeting.  I'll be honest, our first thought was SHIT, we have to do it now, quickly followed by panic panic panic, we need to have a speaker for the January meeting. I can't even remember who it was to be honest, but since then Social Lites WI has gone from strength to strength. We are about to head into our 5th official year, and we have a membership of 125 with about 80 on the waiting list. If you had been to the first committee meeting we had, where we debated the cost of tea/coffee/cake/raffle for at least two hours before we actually got onto the content of the meeting, you would be even more amazed than us at the success of this venture.

We have had so much fun running this WI, and apart from the fact that it automatically makes you super popular on any given jaunt to your local shop (even Joe now says, were they WI mum?) I've been involved in some brilliant things. We've done charity events, clothes swaps, workshops, we've had plays, comedy turns, a pantomime dame, a nationally reknowned forensic psychiatrist, ghost stories, embroidery, first aid, mindfulness, self confidence, a paralympic cyclist and her guide dog, photographers - you name it and we have had it. We have campaigned for organ donation and free sanitary products for homeless women and marched in PRIDE. We have walked as a team for Maggies Manchester, and a few of us did the Moonwalk this year. We have a craft club, afternoon tea club, book club, gardening club (drinking brews and chatting), happiness club (no defunct as they were all happy enough!), gin club, ale club, curry club and in the summer we have a walking club.
The committee all have full time jobs/part time and kids, and sometimes hardly have time to breathe. Yet we manage it because it's bloody ace.

I won't lie that one of the highlights for me is not having to do bedtime on a meeting night - that and the amount of homemade cake available – but my very favourite, is the time of year we like to call 'Cheshire Show' time.

This year we won a trophy, a TROPHY!... for getting the most points for a new WI (formed after 2005) with all our entries. No word of a lie, we were gunning for it, after the Heaton's had snaffled it for the past two years. This year we pretty much put peoples names down in a category unless they gave us a good excuse why they couldn't enter. Is that called press-ganging? Well then we press-ganged people into it. Because everyone loves craft right? And what is more fun that a looming deadline to craft something when you have only had 6 months notice. *laughing face*

I'll give you a top tip – always enter the photography if nothing else - then you can literally do it on the day it has to be in: check iphone for decent image which vaguely fits the topic, print out, mount, BOOM. Last year I got first prize for a selfie. (It was a good camera, and it internationally didn't look like a selfie, but still, a selfie!) My second tip, is NEVER enter any of the preserve or cake categories if you have thin skin (on you, not your fruit preserve). If you think Paul Hollywood is harsh, he got nothing on these ladies. Comment on the score cards have included mention of skewer holes ruining the entire consistency of a cake, something to do with the lemon curd's rim (fnar), a slightly lacking wax disc on a jam, the atmosphere in the tent effecting the integrity of a biscuit and Fi being persistently accused of not declaring she had used frozen fruit in her jam. SHE HADN'T. EITHER TIME.

There was also the incident of the Clangers not having firmly stuffed noses, but I will leave that for another day.

I just love it.

So if you'd like to get out and be part of your community - the original Girl Gang - then pop along to your local meeting and see what they have for you. Except not ours as we are full. Soz.


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