My WI Experience: Victoria

When I put out a call on Twitter for members of the WI to share their experiences I didn’t quite expect to find someone as dedicated as Victoria Heath from Butterfly Crafts.

Victoria is a member of two WIs in Cambridge as well as being President of one in Hertfordshire.
Reading through
Victoria’s answers to my interview questions I felt really inspired.
My main reasons for wanting to join is to meet people, make friends and to be me. Victoria show’s that the WI is perfect for that.

How long have you been a member of the WI?
I am a member of two
WIs and also the President of another. I joined my first WI in Cambridge in December when I moved and have recently joined a second. However, before I moved to Cambridge I was approached by a friend to see if I was interested in setting up a WI in my village, this was back in Autumn last year and I was elected President in December.

What made you join?

I joined as a member in
Cambridge as a way to meet new people with similar interests. When I moved the only people I really knew were my boyfriend and a couple of his friends so it was a great opportunity to meet some new girlfriends. There was a new WI set up in Cambridge with a majority of younger members and so I thought this would be perfect.

I joined the other WI because I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to recreate a WI in the village, there was one a few years ago but it folded because no one really wanted to run the committee and so we have tried again. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about joining the WI until I was approached but it seemed like the right thing to do and I feel proud at having created this for ladies within the village.

Did you go to the meetings alone or did you know someone who already went?

To say I was nervous before going to the first Cambridge meeting would be an understatement, I get really anxious at new things and have all thoughts of “will people like me” or “will I be judged for what I am wearing” but that was just in my head! I did go to my first meeting alone but what had helped was following the WI on Twitter beforehand and start to interact with members or at least the Committee so you can tell people you are going and it’s your first night.

What were you expecting from the meetings and from being a member?

I was expecting to meet new people who were interested in the same things as me but also people who came from totally different backgrounds and interests but were all interested in what the WI had to offer. I was also expecting to learn new things and that would mainly be new crafts because to me, the WI has a stereotype of learning crafts and handicrafts. I was also expecting cake, lots of lovely cake!

Were your expectations met?

Absolutely! – well, on the idea of meeting new people and people from different walks of life who share the same interests. With
Cambridge being such a large city there is such a vast array of members. I was hoping there would be more crafts but I also know from being a President that you have to try and cater to everyone’s interests and have variety. I have joined the second WI in Cambridge because I think I would prefer to be in a smaller group where people get to know each other more and where there is more of an opportunity to learn and have demonstrations and workshops.

What do you get out of it?
Something I wasn’t expecting – to feel like my ‘old’ self again. Joining the WI in
Cambridge has opened me up to meeting new people and making new friends, and I was surprised at how quickly this has happened. It has made me feel like my ‘old’ self again and also grown my confidence at talking to new people. This is actually what I had hoped to get out of it and now I really enjoy my Wednesday meetings. I also get the chance to do things I perhaps might not have had the chance to such as learn about bike maintenance or how to make Christmas decorations in felt. Over time I hope to grow those friendships and utilise the group as a way to making Cambridge my new home.

What type of activities do you do?
Activities depend on what members want. At one
Cambridge meeting we primarily have speakers because the group is so large (140 members) that practical activities can be challenging. However at the other group I have joined, there are fewer people and so we are hoping to be much more hands on with learning new skills and crafts including knitting, sewing, vintage make-up, cooking, bike maintenance and much more.

For the WI where I am President we have spent quite a long time putting the programme together for the year and will have a mixture of talks including someone from the local archives and a talk about Beatrix Potter along with workshops on gardening, sewing and card making. We also have impromptu activities such as a pancake toss or a quiz.

Do you think there is a stereotype concerning women who are part of the WI?

I think there can be but I would like to think it is changing. There are some WIs which are still primarily for the older generation and that is great as it provides them with a social outlet but more recently there are WIs opening up aimed at the younger generations and I think that is helping to change the impression of what the WI is about. However, if you are a younger person who joins a WI and finds there are a lot of older women, don’t discount it immediately, older women can be a lot of fun and actually end up being very lively when younger people are around.

Do you recommend joining and being part of the WI?
Absolutely. The WI is great for women of all ages and if like me, you are new to an area it is a brilliant way to meet like minded people and do something for yourself.

Complete this sentence: The WI is perfect for....
Making new friends, learning new skills, getting involved with your community and doing something for yourself.
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