Wednesday, 04 August 2021

Happy birthday as WI group is revived in centenary year

A BRANCH of the Women’s Institute in Henley has been resurrected.

A BRANCH of the Women’s Institute in Henley has been resurrected.

The group, which held its first meeting at King’s Arms Barn last month, has about 30 members ranging in age from 20 to 76 and hopes more women will join.

The president is Lucy Brassey, 25, a supermarket area manager, who lives in St Andrew’s Road.

She said they wanted to create a sense of community by bringing together women of all ages and offering them opportunities to learn new skills.

Miss Brassey said: “We wanted to start something where we could reach out to other women and get them involved in activities we don’t usually get to do and meet other people.

“We came up with so many ideas for events and spoke to other people who said it would be really good fun and it has sort of snowballed.” The previous Henley branch used to meet monthly at the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street but folded in 2010. Miss Brassey said she believed it had “fizzled out”.

Among the new committee members is singer-songwriter Naomi Vallance, 36, a former winner of a Sue Ryder women of achievement award.

She said: “I thought I’d like to get a bit more hands-on within the community, join in any campaign and help out. I like to keep busy, that’s my problem. I think the Women’s Institute is great. It has had a lot of influence on a lot of different projects for women’s rights in the past. I believe in that and what the WI stands for — that’s the reason I joined.”

The Women’s Institute was formed 100 years ago this year 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.

It currently has 212,000 members in around 6,600 branches. Members of South Oxfordshire branches took part in various events to mark the WI centenary earlier this year.

Miss Vallance, who lives in Reading Road, said: “I know there are quite a few local branches but there wasn’t one for Henley. Now there is I hope that women of the town will want to be part of it.

“As it is 100 years since the WI began it seemed the perfect timing to set up a branch in Henley.

“I’ve been laughed at for joining and I think the WI has a reputation for being for a certain age group of ladies but it’s for anyone. The women that have got this together are in their twenties and thirties. I think it would be nice to break the stigma.”

The other committee members are Jess Waddington and Florence Brassey, also of St Andrew’s Road, and Sunaina Sharma and Rosie Irving, who live in London.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 22 at 7.30pm and will involve a treasure hunt starting on the steps of the town hall.

Other future events include a debate called “Can women have it all?” on October 30 and Scottish dancing on November 20. The venues are to be confirmed.

For more information or if you are interested in joining, call Miss Brassey on 07738 222078 or email

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