July 2017 saw The Alexandra WI women de-camp to the courtyard of CUFOS to enjoy a relaxed evening of wine tasting on a balmy North London summer’s evening.
Led by Rob, the amiable manager of Muswell Hill Majestic Wines, we were led through a tasting of a series of white and red varieties from a light Chablis through to a full-bodied Malbec. All in all a fun and educational evening!
A little post about the marvel that is Denman College. I was the fortunate winner of The Alexandra WI’s second annual Denman bursary in May, and promptly booked into a Silver Clay Jewellery course.
What an absolute ball we had over the three-and-a-bit days with eight fab ladies (5 Denman pros and 3 newbies) creating pendants, charms, silver leaves, brooches and earrings. It’s a wonderful, convivial atmosphere with seemingly constant food and drink, and the beautiful house and garden to enjoy.
Here are some images from the weekend – including a selection of the final, fabulous pieces.
Never been to Denman? Time to take a look at what is on offer here!
– Emma Watson, President
On a sunny Saturday in June, seven members of The Alexandra WI headed down to the north Kent coast to visit our twin WI, Reculver Beacon, in Herne Bay.
The Reculver Beacon ladies had not only prepared a lovely lunch spread with scones, cream and fresh strawberries, but had also organised a craft session involving creating decorative tins using an array of papers, fabrics, buttons, beads and other decorations. I think we came up with some lovely creations!
Thank you to Claire, Mandy and Karen and the members of Reculver Beacon for welcoming us so warmly and making such an effort!
For our July 2016 meeting, we held a ‘getting to know each other’ session. During that meeting we discovered that our member Chris Randall was a budding flower arranger. We invited Chris to teach us about flower arranging at our June 2017 meeting, and what fun we had! I think we all surprised ourselves with the final results: see for yourself here!
Thank you so much Chris for your time and effort – we are all inspired and keen to take up your challenge of creating over-the-top Christmas centrepieces in a few months!
Our Annual Meeting was held on 2 May 2016, with our Middlesex Federation WI Advisor Yvette Rathbone. We balanced the business end of the meeting with a fun quiz followed by tea and our inaugural scone competition.
Maggie Weatherby read the Annual Report prepared by outgoing Secretary Jayne Fowler, recounting our busy year.
Yvette ably officiated for our elections at which Emma Watson was elected a President for a third term, and the current committee, minus Jayne, was re-elected.
Following the Committee meeting held on 9 May, we are happy to confirm that the Committee and office bearers for 2017-2018 are:
Emma Watson – President
Ching Smith – Treasurer
Nina Jewell – Secretary. Once again the Secretary will be assisted by Rosemary Pettman as minute secretary.
Rosemary will also continue her co-ordination of all things food and drink.
We also held our inaugural Scone competition: sadly only a few entries, but all judged with appropriate seriousness by Yvette, who declared Rosemary’s the winning scones. Well done, Rosemary!
Middlesex Federation of Women’s Institutes set its member WIs the challenge of creating a pennant to form part of a collective MFWI string of bunting made up on one pennant for each WI. The Alexandra set to! There was no doubt we would not incorporate an image of our iconic namesake, Alexandra Palace. President Emma Watson interpreted the south elevation as a simple ‘stitchable’ diagram. Committee member Ching Smith then began the task of stitching the palace and our name, while members created cute ‘micro-knitting’ and woollen flowers to add a flvour of what the WI is all about. We are now looking foward to seeing the completed bunting: stay tuned for an update!
What a fantastic meeting we had in April 2017! We were joined by Jenni Parker, the Volunteer and Programmes Manager for Fine Cell Work, a charity which trains prisoners in across the UK in needlework.
Fine Cell Work was founded in 1997, but it had its genesis in the 1960s when, as a visitor to HMP Holloway women’s prison in the 1960s, Lady Anne Tree worked with two long-term prisoners on intricate needlepoint projects.
Convinced of the therapeutic value of sewing, Lady Anne felt that the women who had put so much hard work into the pieces should be able to earn money from their work, and she became determined to establish an organisation in which prisoners could learn a skill to the highest level and be paid for their efforts. After decades of lobbying the Home Office to change the law so that prisoners could earn money from their work she achieved her goal. Today, Fine Cell Work has 60 volunteers training over 400 prisoners in 29 prisons across England, Scotland and Wales and prison systems in other countries have expressed interest in starting similar schemes.
Jenni shared some personal and moving stories of the prisoners involved in the programme, reminding us of the genuinely transformative power of the mindful act of needlework. The examples of the work she brought along were beautiful – a few lucky members made some special purchases.
You can read more about Fine Cell Work here.
The WI Fair has come and gone… It was held at Alexandra Palace Wednesday 29 March – Saturday 1 April. Several of our members attended, and a few were lucky enough to be photographed with WI luminaries incluing National President Janice Langley. Here are a couple of pictures of these fab women.
At our March 2017 meeting, we were joined by Michael Hanley, immigration Solictor at Wilsons LLP, and advisor at the New North London Synagogue Asylum Seekers Drop-In Centre. Michael refreshed us on the twentieth century history of refugee law, as well as sharing with us some of the challenges faced by those seeking asylum in the UK in 2016.
A special thank you to our long-time member June Lewis, pictured with Michael Hanley, for putting us in touch with the Drop-In Centre.
We got creative for our February meeting, with a guest speaker from the local Potter’s Yard studio in Tufnell Park. Liz Mathews is first and foremost a ceramic artist, but she combines her work in clay with her love for lettering and words. Liz took us on a slideshow journey from her early explorations of clay to her more recent large format works on paper, describing in detail her momumental work Thames to Dunkirk, with texts by BG Bonallack & Virginia Woolf. We were all fascinated by Liz’s inovative folding books too!
In January 2017 we continued our tradition of a casual pub meeting as a chance to socialise informally over a glass of wine and reflect on the year just gone. As in previous years, we took the opportunity to review the National Federation’s shortlisted resolutions for 2017 and voted on the one we’d like to see go forward to the Annual Meeting in June. We also had a chance to talk about what we enjoyed in the WI and share ideas for the future of our six-year-old group.
For our December 2016 meeting we were very pleased to be joined by local artist Julia Clarke, who taught us how to make simple woven willow Christmas decorations. We made stars and Christmas trees from two different types of willow, whilst enjoy mulled wine and Christmas baking. A good fun evening!
Thank you so much to our wonderful members who helped out on the stall and with the baking and making goods for sale. It was a very chilly afternoon on our pitch outside Planet Organic yet far be it from Women’s Institute members to give up at mere cold weather! So with a warm cuppa in hand, we not only sold lots of biscuits, cakes and craft and knitted goods, but also met many prospective members.
Of the takings, we have agreed to donate £200 to our October guests All People All Places, who run the Haringey Winter Night shelters in local churches over the colder months.
We know our members love a local speaker, and there’s nothing more local to The Alexandra WI than Alexandra Palace. Looming high on Muswell Hill, this landmark is close to the hearts of so many north Londoners: we named our WI after our beloved ‘Ally Pally’, and we meet in the former Alexandra Palace railway station. It’s no surprise we were keen to hear our November speaker, Chief Executive of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust, Louise Stewart, who spoke to us on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the world’s first regular high-definition public television broadcast which took place from the BBC studios at Alexandra Palace.
Louise spoke passionately about the very real challenges of running a charitable trust and its trading company. From clown cricket (those crazy Victorians, eh?) to more modern day concerns of rock concert noise levels and vandalism, the “people’s palace” has seen it all. Not surprisingly, keeping a major heritage asset afloat financially is the biggest concern for its trustees: we left wanting to do more to help this grand old palace, and in particular, the East Wing Restoration Project, which represents the biggest investment in the building for since the 1980s, aims to bring the historic BBC studios and wonderful theatre back to life. You can read more about the project here.
Want to read more? The Palace’s website timeline has some wonderful old images of the building and park and what went on in them: well worth a click!
For our October 2016 meeting we were joined by local butcher and entrepreneur Miranda Ballard of Muddy Boots Foods. Since 2008, when Miranda and her husband Roland left their media jobs in London to return to their Worcestershire roots and start building a meat brand which would “celebrate some of the best meat and farming in the country”. In 2010, Muddy Boots started to supply ten of their local Waitrose stores through the Waitrose scheme for small food producers, and they opened their Crouch End shop in mid-2014, and a second in Muswell Hill in April 2016. A third in Wandsworth is opening in late 2016.
As anyone who has met Miranda can vouch, she is as warm, bubbly and enthusiasic as a butcher can possibly be, and it was an absolute pleasure to welcome her to our WI.
Miranda Ballard and The Alexandra WI President Emma Watson.
Miranda Ballard with The Alexandra WI members Chris Randall and Annie Waite and committee members Ching Smith, Nina Jewell and Rosemary Pettman.
To get into the spirit of the WI’s Sports Week 2016, seven women (and a dog!) braved the drizzle and headed out on a walk through the beautiful parklands of Muswell Hill from CUFOS, heading west through Alexandra Park, along the Parkland Walk and down into Highgate Wood and Queens Wood.
We’re hoping to do wore walks – any members’ ideas welcome!
If you missed our September meeting, you missed a treat: our very own member Heulwen Reading (nee Morgan) shared stories of her career as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. Heulwen worked at The Whittington Hospital from 1984 until her retirement in 2010, and was instrumental in shaping the Whittington’s women’s health department into the popular and high quality service it is today for patients and staff alike, including establishment of the fertility clinic, early pregnancy unit and the obstetric diabetic clinic. Her warmth and passion for her work really shone through: thank you Heulwen!
On a sunny weekend in late July, Secretary Jayne Fowler, Treasurer Nina Jewell and President Emma Watson piled into Jayne’s car and headed north for a weekend of crafts, cakes, music, talks, yarn bombing, beer and general WI fellowship and shenanigans at the third Tea and Tents camping weekend at Walesby Forest, Nottinghamshire. Over 500 women came together to celebrate what is fabulous about the WI, and oh what fun we had!
The next Tea & Tents is scheduled for 20-23 July 2018 – you have two years to hone your tent-pitching skills and think about joining in.
We thought we’d take a step back at our July meeting and allow time for our members to get to know each other a little better. We started out by arranging ourselves in order of birthday and month: seems January is our most popular birth month! We then paired up and took five (read: fifteen!! (This is the WI, after all; we can talk!)) minutes to learn about our neighbours. We then took turns to introduce each other to the group. Who knew we had a former professional ballroom dancer and two members who have appeared on TV quizzes amongst our number? Nor did we!
We finished up with a fun ‘handbag treasure hunt’: which of the two teams could amass more of a list of items from their combined handbags? A bit of silliness!
We’d highly recommend this kind of meeting for other WIs – the format is up to you, but over a glass of wine and some nibbles we found it a fun and relaxing evening. Here are some of our members afterwards!
Two years after out first visit to the Muswell Hill garden of Susan Bennett and Earl Hyde, The Alexandra WI returned on a summer Saturday, to enjoy the garden and share afternoon tea with visiting members of our twin WI, Reculver Beacon from the seaside town of Herne Bay in Kent.
We struggled with tempestuous weather – and even a short hailstorm – but managed to have a good look around the garden, which has been open to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme since 1996.
It was a lovely setting to spend a relaxing afternoon with our fellows WI members: thank you to Susan and Earl for your warm hospitality and for sharing your beautiful garden with us.
The gorgeous herbaceous border
Earl and gang at the fish pond
Listening to story of the garden (a serious moment!)
Susan and the group enjoying the sunshine while it lasted
One of our guests from Herne Bay and their seaside gift!
Hostas with an oriental backdrop
Carol and Maggie
Lysianthus – lovely!
Annie, Heulwen and Ching – all neighbours and fans of the WI
Gill snaps up some achilleas
Ching and Heulwen
Two Susans and a Rosemary
Ann and Gill survey the plants for sale
Maggie and Fiona checking out ‘foolproof’ plants!