Since the summer of 2015 a group of ladies in Crawley have been enjoying the buzz of friendship and fun-filled activities, meeting as part of West Green’s Women’s Institute, known as the Queen Bees. I spoke with the group’s president, Jan Large to learn more about the group and it’s list of activities.
Formed in July 2015, in what was the Women’s Institute (WI)’s centenary year the group has a membership base of more than 35 and a committee of 13-strong who help organise and co-ordinate the group’s activities – and hence the name, members adopted Queen Bees as the group is busy.
Jan, the group’s president says that members feel as though they are new to the WI movement and that they are still finding their feet, but despite this they are trying their hand at a variety of activities from crochet to belly dancing, to Tai Chi but with a keen focus on learning new crafts.
The group offers a range of interesting speakers and demonstrators that occasionally attend the group’s meetings. As well as activities in West Green, the Queen Bee’s trip co-ordinators Carole and Christine arrange fun day and evening outings for members taking in new and different sights.
Whether in West Green or further afield on visits out, Jan says that members and visitors are always guaranteed a laugh – and when attending meetings at the Crawley Horticultural Society Hall, they will receive a very warm welcome with tea or coffee and yummy fresh homemade cake.
Jan Large, group president, said: “Every meeting has a memorable story as we do have lots of fun but our flower arranging in a tea cup evening was wonderful as everyone made a beautiful display.
“Most ladies had never arranged flowers before – it was so popular we will do it again next year.”
Activates such as belly dancing and tai chi are a far cry from the origins of the WI which first met in the UK in Llanfairpwll on Anglesey, on September 16 1915. Since then, the organisation has grown to become the largest women’s voluntary organisations in the UK with more than 212,000 members.
The WI was established to educate rural women, and to encourage countrywomen to get involved in growing and preserving food to help to increase the supply of food to the nation. Education and the sharing of skills have always been at the heart of the organisation, and this remains today.
Whilst the meeting venues have often changed from the local village hall to local café, the ethos and reputation of the WI remains the same, and women join now to meet new friends, learn new skills and make a difference on matters that are important to them now as fellow members did in 1915.
From starting out life as coffee mornings, West Green WI, Queen Bees – Crawley now works together with local charities to bring the community together and organises big local events such as an annual spring craft fair and later this month on Saturday, October 28 the group’s autumn fair.
Jan, added: “Being a member of West Green WI – Queen Bees means you always have a friend as the ladies are always there for each other. Our plans for the future are to continue to grow in members and to organise more community based projects.”
By Jacob White