Small team, big heart: Broadwoodwidger WI at 70
A seventieth birthday is a milestone event worthy of celebration. Broadwoodwidger WI began in 1948, its first meeting held in the village's old school room and by the time you read this will have marked its three score years and ten with a 1948 style party. The survival of a tiny WI in a small village is certainly worth celebrating and we are proud of our long link with the local community and our county federation.
Broadwoodwidger is situated in border country. Here public transport is almost nonexistent. For many of us internet and phone connections are slow and some members have no access to these services at all. We cannot always rely on social media for recruitment and communication. The nearest town, where most of us shop, access medical services and obtain fuel for our cars, is Launceston in Cornwall. When we send news to the local paper, the Cornish and Devon Post it is included in the Cornish section. When we joined in the national centenary commemorations we had cross-border celebrations with our WI sisters in Cornwall, our presidents carrying Devon and Cornish flags to the top of Launceston castle and looking down over two counties. That said, we are proud of our place within the Devon Federation and do our best to join in as many activities as possible. One member won the Radio Devon cup for creative writing in 2016, we reached the final of the county quiz this year and we joined in the suffragette commemorations at Killerton House. If there is a pick-up point near to us, we try and join in some of the federation outings. We value our local Tamar group activities, meeting our friends from other institutes and sharing celebrations and open meetings.
Being a small WI in a rural community is not without problems. Here wages are low, thus family budgets are tight, even a small rise in the annual subscription causes concern and impacts upon membership. We have to work extra hard to make ends meet. Our annual outing is now a small-scale local visit to a place of interest rather than a coach trip further afield. When hall hire charges rose a few years ago and the hall management team no longer allowed groups to provide their own refreshments we met for many months in members' homes. We became a make do and mend WI; we had to be frugal to survive. New opportunities appeared for us last year when the old church schoolroom in Broadwoodwidger was converted into a state-of-the-art Community Hub, with accessible toilets, well-appointed kitchen, airy meeting hall, fixed overhead projector, blackouts and a large screen. Wind turbine funding, support from the local council and fund raising from the community provided a modern meeting place for local groups just off the village green. When it opened last autumn, Broadwoodwidger WI reclaimed its rightful place in the heart of the community. We joined in the opening celebrations with joy. We were back in the school-room and coming home!
The new Hub, at the centre of the village, has given new life to local groups. This, together with a community website, has provided our WI with a chance to make a new impact upon the area. We have access to a community notice board both real and virtual and can display our programme of monthly activities. Now we have a regular meeting-place, local women are aware of our existence and what we do. We also send reports and notices to the local press. We know that the modern woman has a busy life with many work and family commitments so we make it known that we welcome visitors to our meetings without initial commitment. We encourage women to give us a try. We think creatively about our activities. In January, in place of our evening meeting, we ran an open craft event for all ages on a Saturday afternoon. This proved very popular and we have been asked to hold more. One of our members spoke at the local history group meeting. We held an Easter-themed coffee morning and plan a Christmas event for late November/ early December. Three members are taking part in a Caribbean Christmas celebration in the local church. In short, we have reintroduced ourselves to our own community and the community has welcomed us home.
Planning our 70th birthday events has given us time to reflect on the contribution our group makes to society, to learn from the past and to plan for the future. We no longer apologise for being small. We have learned to recognise what our group does well and to celebrate our achievements. Members speak of the friendly nature of team Broadwoodwidger. Indeed, it is because we are small we know each other well. If someone does not attend a meeting they are missed by everyone and we check on their welfare. We hand deliver flowers and cards to members who are ill or celebrating special family events, a milestone birthday, a graduation or other achievement. If a member or one of their family is without transport, has a hospital appointment or a meeting with a welfare agency, one of us will try to take them on their hundred-mile round trip and support them. The WI is always there to lend a helping hand. We provide far more than a monthly meeting.
In the last twelve months we have gained three new members, though sadly we didn't grow having lost three members through bereavement and illness. We remain a small group but we are determined to be around for the Devon 2020 centenary celebrations. With our new place back in the heart of our local community and our confidence that the WI can be what we want it to be, we aim to keep the spirit of our founding sisters alive. Broadwoodwidger WI, the small group with the big heart, is here to stay.
Broadwoodwidger WI Secretary
The WI started its winter programme in September with a business meeting at the Hub, unfortunately the speaker for the evening did not arrive, but in true WI spirit one of the members offered to speak and general conversation followed on the chosen subject. Indeed at the end of the meeting it was a case of “what speaker”! Plans are almost complete for the 70th anniversary of the WI which will be held on the 17th October, we hear invitations have been sent and the plans include a 1948 style tea and entertainment.
The WI winter programme starts with a talk by Mr David Duke and the topic is “A stitch in time” on Wednesday 26th September at 7.30 pm. At the Hub. The competition for members is “Suggest an amusing name suitable for a solicitor’s office” You don’t have to be a member to attend if you would like to come along to the meeting you will be made very welcome by members. Evening finishing with tea/coffee and biscuits.
For their May meeting the W.I. held an outside visit to Tavistock museum on a lovely sunny and warm afternoon. After a very interesting video and a wander around the museum, which is well worth a visit if anyone is in Tavistock with half an hour to spare. There was then the chance for a quick look around the shops before meeting up again at Lamerton Village Hall where Lamerton W.I. had provided a sumptuous tea for the Broadwoodwidger members. An enjoyable afternoon.
Broadwoodwidger W.I. held an Open Craft afternoon on Saturday January 20th when various crafts were on offer. These included Weaving Looms for braiding, Knitting Nancy, a Lucet, Flower Arranging, a type of Decoupage on Candles, Lace Making, Rag Rugs and Lamp Shade making, with some of the demonstrations by W.I. members. Tea, coffee and a tempting arrangement of homemade biscuits were being served throughout the afternoon.
A lot of people attended and had a go at the different crafts, with hopefully some potential new members. Anyone interested in joining can come along to any meeting, which is held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7.30pm at Broadwoodwidger Community Hub, in the village. All are welcome, new members needed. The programme for the year is on this website on the W.I. page. The W.I. is celebrating its 70th Birthday later this year.
Our Institute was founded in 1948 so October 2018 see’s us reach our 70th Birthday and we are planning a Party to Celebrate! We meet on the 4th Wednesday of the month usually at 7.30pm in the Broadwoodwidger Community Hub. This is where our very first meetings were held (when it was previously the Church Hall). We are a small friendly group and always offer a warm welcome to visitors and prospective new members.
If you would like any further information please contact either;
Secretary - Cathie Bowness 07771 934523 or
President - Lindsay Kent 01566 784300