It is the centenary of the WI (Women's Institute) this year. The WI is the largest women's voluntary organisation in the UK - providing friendship and fun for countless women down the years and doing lots of good charitable work too. For a long time it had a 'jam and Jerusalem' image, supposedly all about making preserves and singing hymns but that has never really been the truth. The WI achieved a much higher profile thanks to the famous nude calendar produced in 1999 by members of a WI in the Yorkshire Dales, to raise money for leukaemia research. That in turn led to the film 'Calendar Girls'. In the last decade new WI branches have been started (among them Baildon, Bingley and Shipley) attracting a much younger age group.
To celebrate the centenary, our local branches held a 'synchronised swimming' event in Roberts Park. Members donned colourful 50s style dresses and bathing costumes to 'swim' in a carefully choreographed spectacular. The sun shone, bubbles were blown, flags waved and lots of fun was had by all. I have never seen so many polka dots in one place!
The bathing belle with the infectious smile (above) is a friend of mine, Helen, who tirelessly involves herself with all manner of community-spirited, creative and occasionally slightly wacky endeavours. You will have seen her leading the team of storytellers at the Saltaire Conversazione in the spring.