Sunday, 13 June 2021

WI group hopes to attract younger women

ANOTHER attempt is to be made to revive a branch of the Women’s Institute in Henley.

ANOTHER attempt is to be made to revive a branch of the Women’s Institute in Henley.

Pat Eades, who is president of Harpsden WI, is behind the new group, which will be called called “HOT WI”.

Mrs Eades, who lives in Fair Mile, Henley, said: “I’d love to get a WI started in Henley and I do feel an evening one is absolutely essential.

“We have got a lot of afternoon WIs but that isn’t helping the mothers who meet children from school or work. To attract younger members I feel we have got to do something about that.”

A previous Henley branch of the WI used to meet monthly at the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street but folded in 2010.

Then in October an attempt was made to start a new group by Lucy Brassey, a supermarket area manager, who lives in St Andrew’s Road, with committee members Naomi Vallance, of Reading Road, Jess Waddington, also of St Andrew’s Road, and Sunaina Sharma and Rosie Irving, who live in London.

The group, which met at King’s Arms Barn, had about 30 members but it soon fizzled out. Mrs Eades said it didn’t communicate with the Oxfordshire Federation of Women’s Institutes as it was supposed to.

She said: “They wanted to meet more as a ladies’ group but call themselves a Women’s Institute.

“They possibly did everything on Facebook, which is fine, but it doesn’t keep the county informed.

“We didn’t hear at the end of the year what they were planning for this year and we’d had great difficulty getting in contact with Lucy.

“She let us know in January that she no longer wanted to be involved.”

Jean Geary, the federation’s membership chairman, said: “We’ve had so many enquiries about a WI in Henley that we feel there’s a need for one, so we’re going to take forward what they started in October.”

Miss Vallance, a singer-songwriter and former Sue Ryder women of achievement award winner, said: “I didn’t think there were problems as such. I think maybe there was a lack of communication along the way. Unfortunately, Lucy said she couldn’t do it anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s due to work.”

She welcomed the new group but wasn’t sure if she would have time to join.

“Other people have said, ‘let’s try and get it going again’ which I absolutely support,” she said. “If I can fit it in, I absolutely will.”

The new group met for the first time tonight at King’s Arms Barn last Friday.

The Women’s Institute was formed 101 years ago 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.

Reports of local WI groups’ meetings are published in the Henley Standard each month.

• Sonning Common WI will host a coffee morning at the village hall in Wood Lane on Wednesday from 10.30am to noon. There will be books, craft items, jewellery and garden produce for sale.

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