NFWI Centenary Annual Meeting

Today was the big day! The 2015 Centenary Annual Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall. Although nobody from Crowlas & Ludgvan WI was able to go, we did send our resolution vote (more on that below!) with our delegate from Porthleven WI and for the first time we were also given the rare opportunity to watch the meeting live online.


The Queen, Princess Anne and the Countess of Wessex were all there, and the Queen addressed the meeting after receiving the Baton.

During her speech, the Queen said, “In 2015, the Women’s Institute continues to demonstrate it can make a real difference to the lives of women of all ages and backgrounds”. You can say that again!

After her speech, Her Majesty pressed the button to begin a slide show highlighting some of the Centenary Baton’s journey around the country. And what a surprise it was to see our own Jane, Niamh and Pat up there on the big screen for all to see!

NFWI_AM slideshow

The important bit was the resolution, and that’s when things got rather heated! After a lot of discussion, both about the resolution and its proposed amendment, one member proposed that the meeting move to the next item of business. That meant that the would be no vote at all on the resolution. The proposal was seconded, and by a majority of more than three-quarters, the meeting voted to move on. In effect, the resolution was thrown out!

Here’s a photo I loved, posted by another WI on Twitter, of lunchtime at the Albert Memorial, then and now. Things don’t change much, do they?!

memoralThere have been a flurry of newspaper articles about the WI over the past day or two. Here’s a quick rundown of some we found, in case you missed them. The Guardian, The Telegraph, another from The Guardian, another from The TelegraphHello magazine, and some television coverage from the BBC and ITV.

If you missed the live feed but would like to see it, you can still catch the whole thing on YouTube (see below), including a lovely rendition of ‘Jerusalem’.

A Day to Remember: The Royal Garden Party

Colleen, Helen, Julia and Kathy represented Crowlas & Ludgvan WI at the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, and what a day we had!

We left our end of Cornwall at the shocking hour of 5am, picking up excited ladies as we headed north. The atmosphere grew more and more festive the closer we got to London, particularly after our last comfort stop when we all changed out of our comfy clothes and into our garden party finery!

Kathy Reed and Barbara Corbett looking lovely in their hats
Kathy Reed and Barbara Corbett looking lovely in their hats

The weather was dreadful during our journey, but amazingly began to clear as we got to London. Though there was still no sunshine.

The weather didn't look promising!
The weather didn’t look promising!

Excitement reached a fever pitch as we approached the Mall!


Everywhere you looked were ladies in hats!


We queued up and were finally IN!




The gardens looked beautiful and we all had a quick wander around with a glass of lemon barley before forming ‘lanes’ for the royals. The Duchess of Cornwall, the Countess of Wessex, Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Gloucester were all there – some of us were lucky enough to get a handshake and a few words!

And the sun shone!

After that, we headed to the tea tents where there were sandwiches, cakes and tea on offer.

Helen with Hayle WI President Margie Stockton




There was time for another look around the garden’s beautiful roses before heading back to the coach for our trip home, arriving back in Cornwall in the wee hours of the morning.

It was a long day but an amazing one; a true once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Apologies for the very few photos inside the Garden Party, but we were seriously law-abiding (for the most part) and followed the Palace’s No Photography rules quite closely until we realised that everyone else had their phones and cameras out!

Centenary Baton Watch … Middlesex!

The baton has just made its penultimate stop, in Middlesex, before being delivered to the Royal Albert Hall.

HA:WI, meeting in Pinner, celebrated by welcoming author and historian Jane Robinson who spoke about the history of the Women’s Institute, drawing from her book A Force to be Reckoned With. Members sipped tea from fine bone-china vintage cups and saucers, alongside the obligatory Victoria sponge.


The ladies of West Ealing WI made this impressively-decorated cake to mark the centenary:


Elsewhere in the county, WI members took a paddle steamer trip …


… and posed for a photo with the baton on a rainy day at Staines Bridge.


Only one more stop to go!

Centenary Baton Watch … Hertfordshire!

The baton was given a lovely greeting in Hertfordshire by the Kimpton Belles who showed off a beautiful float.


In St Alban’s, WI members dressed up as Romans to welcome the baton’s arrival at the Abbey Theatre.


The Herts Belles put on a spectacular looking cake sale in honour of the baton:



And in Royston, the baton was walked over the heath by members of the Therfield and Kelshall WI and then delivered to the Royston Golf Club, where it was paraded by the town crier.


Centenary Baton Watch … Buckinghamshire!

The Centenary Baton’s latest stop was in Buckinghamshire.


You can click here to see a brief video about the baton’s visit to Aylesbury.

At Stoke Poges the baton toured Gray’s Monument and Memorial Garden where Jenny Harper-Jones, President of Hedgerley WI, recited Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.


The baton was taken by bicycle to Wendover, with ladies from Broughton Pastures WI, Fairford Leys WI, Quainton WI, Wendover Evening WI and Haddenham & Witchert WI.



Centenary Baton Watch … Oxfordshire!

The ladies of Oxfordshire have had great fun celebrating with the centenary baton, as it crossed the county by boat, horse and cart, vintage MG and fire engine.

Glorious sunshine welcomed about 200 members of the Women’s Institute to Oxford by steamer boat from Abingdon.


Linda Needle, Treasurer of Steeple-Aston WI, and her husband Roger, transported the WI baton to Bicester Garden Centre in a 1934 van with baker’s livery. Along the way, they stopped at five WIs to collect homemade cakes to deliver to the garden centre.


Lulu Belcher, he oldest member of the Fritillary group, took the baton in a 1926 Bullnose Morris from Denman to her group’s venue in Horspath, where it was met by a fanfare of buglers.


The baton was also taken by dray horses to a pub lunch before a picnic in Broughton Castle.



Centenary Baton Watch … Berkshire!

The Centenary Baton is inching its way closer to the Royal Albert Hall every week! It has just left Berkshire where it was greeted in Cookham by members of the Cookham, Cookham Dean and Dean Rise WIs, as well as the Mayor and Mayoress of Windsor and Maidenhead, Richard and Mary-Lou Kellaway.

berkshire 1
The three institutes gathered at Cookham Dean Cricket Club for a celebration tea, with members singing songs from the First World War.

berkshire 2

Centenary Baton Watch … Wiltshire!

You don’t need three guesses to work out where our Wiltshire friends headed when looking for an iconic spot to pose the Centenary Baton!


We can’t think of a more perfect spot.


The baton also visited Salisbury Plain with Wiltshire Federation Chairman Isobel Acott and other WI members. There, they bravely sat atop a Challenger tank!

Isobel said: “It was absolutely fantastic, the army were marvellous, we could not have asked for anything more.”


Centenary Baton Watch … Gloucestershire!

Before handing the baton off to Wiltshire, the Gloucestershire Federation celebrated in style!


Former Blockley WI president Sheila Weir cuts a celebratory cake to mark the Centenary and Blockley’s part in carrying the baton via Royal Enfield motorcycle and Watsonian sidecar:


The baton crossed the Severn on a rescue boat:


Ebrington WI members dressed in period style and then set off through the village to Chipping Campden in a vintage tractor and trailer:



Well done, Gloucestershire!