Jesmond WI: women who are changing the community

On and around International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, JesmondLocal looks at important women in the Jesmond community. Valentina Egorova meets the women of the Jesmond WI.

Every third Monday, the members of the Jesmond Women’s Institute gather in St George’s Hall to discuss current affairs, be inspired and enjoy crafts and creative activities.

It’s been more than three years since the group was set up by a young mother and a company director Danielle Dunn. The Jesmond WI became the second project for Dunn after she launched a thriving WI group in Tynemouth. Once she moved into Jesmond, Dunn didn’t hesitate to recreate her success and drew the community to get involved.

Since then, the group has been providing company, interests and aspirations for women in Jesmond and encouraging them to acquire new skills.

Diane Walton, president of the Jesmond WI, explained that the project was a “resurrection” of the previously existing Jesmond WI – an active group from some years before. She said: “It seemed so obvious to Danielle that Jesmond WI should be restarted for the benefit of the community. She advertised and amazingly lots of women turned up to hear more and several volunteered to get it off the ground and join the committee.

“The rest is history as the committee continues to be refreshed each year at the annual general meeting with Marjorie Read Northumberland Federation of WIs, in the lead and ballot counting role, encouraging more members to volunteer, so the more the merrier as they say.”

Asked what motivated the Jesmond WI members to get engaged, Walton said: “The feeling that there were lots of women out there in the community who had a voice and the WI helps to get that voice heard. Many women were looking for something like extra-education, challenge, social activities and campaigns.”

The group believes that the progress has been slowed for women in many places across the world and promotes gender parity “no matter what age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity”.

With members ranging from 18 to their 90s and coming from all social backgrounds, the Jesmond WI truly represents all women and offers something for everyone. Walton said: “We are proud of the supportive nature and collective feel of the group and the welcome we give new members and visitors.

“There are connections made all the time with young and old, community outreach and fund raising, regional and national activities. By joining the WI you feel as if you belong.”

In October 2016, the Jesmond WI hosted the Castle West Group Meeting with over 100 WI members visiting from Chapel House, Whorlton, Westerhope, Wingrove and Newcastle East. Diane said: “It was a tremendous evening and showed the Jesmond WI on a public platform for the first time, the skills and ingenuity of the members and in turn, their helpers put on a truly memorable evening.”

This year the group will see chocolate egg making masterclass, flower-arranging demonstration, pottery workshop and “Utterly Italy” with Myra Robinson.

The group has a full programme of activities and speakers for this year at https://jesmondwi.wordpress.com. To find out more about joining the Jesmond WI email hello@jesmondwi.org.uk.

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