Mum-of-three Jane Wilkinson thought she’d be laughed out of town when she suggested starting a Women’s Institute with her friends to reinvigorate their flagging social lives.
But nine months later the Bridge Buns and Roses have around 50 members who enjoy all the traditional WI values, while making their activities and entertainments more relevant to younger generations.
Group president Jane says they haven’t completely ditched the old ‘jam and Jerusalem’ image but are striving to appeal to modern women with activities including crafts, fashion shows, burlesque dancing and hair and beauty demonstrations.
“I just thought people would laugh when I suggested it,” she said. “But it’s really nice it’s taken off. Everyone’s getting to know each other and we’re having a great time.
“We have a young age group ranging from around 20 to 60 so there’s a modern appeal - but we’re still learning things and making new friends, it’s just a lot more light-hearted.”
The idea came about after Jane (32), of Sutton Bridge, and her peers struggled to hold regular get togethers without their children or incurring huge expense.
“We had a bit of knowledge about the WI, mainly from our grandmothers and watching Calendar Girls, and thought the basic idea was great.”
The national WI organisation was launched in Anglesey in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to become more involved in producing food during World War One.
Since then its aims have broadened and it’s become the largest women’s voluntary organisation in the world. Not only does the WI provide women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, members also get to take part in a variety of activities and campaign on issues that matter to them.
Since launching last October the new self-funded group has gone from strength to strength, with more members joining every month. If interest continues Jane says a waiting list will be started and a second group may be launched.
It’s been a whirlwind few months, which have seen members start their own pre-loved book and magazine stall to raise funds for their group. They also support the Agape Food Bank, are taking part in national WI campaigns to support local high streets and have forged links with local businesses, many of who offer them exclusive discounts.
“We’ve got lots of great things to look forward to this year,” added Jane.
“Our meetings are a chance for everyone to have a chat, but there’s also a demonstration or talk, which we might not otherwise get a chance to try.”
nThe Bridge Buns and Roses meet every third Wednesday at the Curlew Centre, Sutton Bridge, from 7.30pm. Annual membership is £34.70, to cover the cost of speakers and entertainment. Women aged 18 and over are welcome. For more information call Jane Wilkinson on 07506 440906 or visit the group’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/suttonbridgewomensinstitute