digging up the past

Over the last few days we’ve been enjoying the company of my Mum who’s taken time out from her busy schedule to visit us. I promptly took the opportunity to record interviews of her talking about her gardening experience. It took us a while to work the bugs out of the process but in the end we managed to grab some precious minutes of memories.

Next day Mum announced, “I forgot to tell you about the Dig for Victory gardens, let’s get some of that!” Of course. I’ve edited the first video and part of the Dig for Victory video is available over on my Tea Garden web site. We had a great time putting the interview together – it was a new experience for both of us, and one we’ll explore further.

One of the points Mum raised in the Dig for Victory video was about the Country Women’s Institutes – Mum has been a member of the CWI for as long as I can remember – she did something like 28 years as a volunteer hospital visitor (now THAT’S what you call community service). I know that most of the members of Mum’s CWI are, er, shall we say – likely to remember black and white TV. Or even TV arriving… Some might remember electricity arriving. Mum mentioned the UK WI – and I was pleasantly surprised that there is something of a resurgance of interest in the CWI there. The N1 Women’s Institute has a blog – well, no surprises there, who doesn’t? Apparently the N1 Women’s Institute has attracted younger members and the attitude and presence seems very attractive to the 30-somethings wanting to mix a cocktail of domestic and paid work skills. From their About page:

N1WI was established in October 2006, by a group of young women in the Islington area who were keen to learn new skills and have fun with similarly-minded people!

Learning new skills and having fun often seem to be the same thing, though…upcoming this year are meetings featuring Burlesque dancing, wine tasting, floristry, and gallery visits.

We also have a busy programme of events which are open to members, friends, and family of a male or female persuasion.

We’ve got over 50 members now, and if you are keen on joining, please get in touch!

Good for them. I have to say anything is better than Bridget Jones’s blue soup recipe.

The Telegraph reported on this revitalisation of an old institution as well. But it’s not just the ‘sparkling new’ Institutes – Fulham Women’s Institute is the original London Woman’s Institute. But, oh, how they have changed. A snappy web presence, environmental concerns, fair trade practices – these women are as concerned about the context in which they and their family are living as any.

The WI is as relevant today as when it was fouunded in Britain over 90 years ago – but it is also an organisation that is continually evolving, for example, with branches increasingly being designed to meet the needs and wants of the women they serve in their communities- be that in a pub, at their place of work, or the more traditional church hall. Jam-making and singing Jerusalem are not essential – but a much-loved part of the rich tapestry of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

Fulham WI is a vibrant WI with an average membership age of 30 – though all ages are more than welcome; like the NFWI we are non-party political and non-sectarian. We make the most of living in the metropolis with a range of interesting speakers and activities and varied extra-mural events. Raising money for local charities is also very important – namely through our annual ball. Being WI members makes us feel more connected and therefore, more able to support our local communities – and each other. We also vote on and support the national WI campaigns – be that by demonstrating against excess supermarket packaging or petitioning for fair farmgate milk prices.

And anything that serves to protect, preserve, and promote urban indigenous knowledge is a good thing from my perspective. It’s a very interesting phenomena, and I hope it’s an idea that takes off here.

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