Thursday, 22 September 2016

SHWI enjoy the Good Life

What can be more enjoyable than sleeping under the stars, chatting with friends over crochet, listening to chilled music and a homemade scotch egg? Nothing! That's the Good Life, my friends.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Good Life Experience with WI friends from across the country last weekend.

We weren't there just to have a good time (although we definitely did!). We were invited there by Cerys Matthews herself, festival organiser extraordinaire. For the last 3 years, the WI have had a presence at the festival. Last year, our amazing Sarah Willoughby helped to organise a craft tent. This year, we were invited back but we were a bit more chilled, a bit more low-fi.

The festival itself is a relaxed affair of curated music, crafts, books, poetry and food. It takes places on the Hawarden Estate in Flintshire, North Wales which is absolutely stunning. The site has a farm shop which stayed open during the festival and provided us with tasty food across the weekend (hence the scotch eggs!).

We decided to do some pop-up crochet and knitting sessions, showing people how to make twiddle muffs. Now before you call the Daily Mail, Twiddle Muffs are the colloquial name for sensory mitts. Used by dementia sufferers, they can help patients to stop pulling out IV drips. They provide sensory stimulus as they are made with lots of different textures. 

Over the weekend, we showed festival-goers how to get started making them via crochet or knitting. Less confident people could sew on beads or ribbons and even make pom-poms.

Our WI contingent comprised us of the ultimate legends (yes, I hate that word as much as you but in this case, it is true) that are Sarah Willoughby and Joanne Croxford (Cambridge). These two organised the whole thing and names went into the hat for the other places - I was lucky enough to get one as well as Anna P, Grace T and Cat from Seven Hills WI. Other WI's were Emma from Blackmoor and White Hill WI (Hampshire) and Claire from Mansfield. 

We planned to do a few sessions every day but ended up sitting on a lovely mound near the main stage all day on Saturday. It was great to interact with people about the twiddlemuffs and dementia, as well as talk to people about the WI. I'm sure we recruited a few members that day as well as taught people how to crochet!

In the evenings, we had to wrap up warm (gosh it was cold!) to enjoy Jo's veggie stew and the evenings entertainment. Unfortunately I was under the weather but I heard tales of Balkan brass bands, midnight campfires and hoola-hooping ladies.

A massive thanks to Sarah and Jo for organising the weekend and a big thanks to Hobbycraft for supplying us with lots of yarn and needles to help make twiddle muffs and a HUGE thanks to the Good Life gang for inviting us.

Our finished twiddlemuffs will be heading to Peterborough's NHS trust.


Team SHWI pull papercutting out of the bag

My last meeting as WI President summed up the best things about being in Seven Hills WI - teamwork and friendship.

Sometimes, planning a smoking hot programme of activities and speakers a year in advance comes a cropper and we have events that fall through. A week before our meeting, our plans came undone.

But instead of taking the easy option and filling in with an easy back-up meeting, my crack team of dedicated commitee members decided that a papercut workshop was something we could pull off ourselves.

Cue desperate googling off templates, trips to a high street stationer and certain individuals ordering hundreds of scalpels online. 

When we arrived at St Andrews before the meeting, it was fantastic to see so many members arrive early to help move tables and chairs. We got ready in super quick time!

Members mingled and chatted about the month's news and helped themselves to Vicky's awesome vegan courgette cake.

It was fantastic to be visited by WI friends from around the country - Joanne Croxford from Cambridge was in Sheffield prior to our trip to the Good Life Experience, as well as ladies who are setting us a new group, Wellbeck WI.

The meeting soon began and we ran through WI business. My amazing committee members presented me with a surprise bunch of flowers and asked me to give a speech! I was not prepared at all. In fact, I'm still President until next meeting but I won't be able to make the October or November's meeting. Apologies for mumbling a strange thank you! 

After a quick break, it was time to start papercutting. Laura and Grace decided to put the skills they have learned at Denman College to good use and lead the workshop. They showed members how to use templates to practice their designs or simply come up with their own patterns. I was amazed to see some of the fab designs people came up with in such a short amount of time. 

Soon enough, it was time to get packed away too. Another big thanks to everyone who helped clear away.

Being President has been fantastic. I have got to be involved in so many things I would not have had the chance to - a judge on the Great British Menu, a guest on BBC Radio Sheffield, and help fundraise thousands of pounds.

I'm really excited to take a break as President, continue to support the group and campaign for change in the organisation that we are a part of and the society we live in. 

Kirsty Bowen
President 2014 - 2016

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Tea and Tents 2016: Wendy's tale

I am new to SHWI having only joined in December and had been looking for a way to get stuck in and get to know other ladies in our group. Brilliantly I was lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket for Tea and Tents 2016 (they sold out in ten minutes!) Even more brilliant was the number of ladies from SHWI who also got tickets.

Tea and Tents is the most organised chaos I have ever witnessed. On arrival I was assigned my volunteer slot to be a ‘Pixie’ on Sunday evening, every single participant had a volunteer slot, to help their fellow campers be it manning a booking stall for events to litter picking and being the person everyone turned to for help with tents (Sarah W that would be you).

The SHWI camp was set up with military precision, the urn was on the cakes were out and we were all ready for a great weekend. Our first evening was spent around the campfire whilst lots of ladies finished off crocheting their soil by head torch for the yarn bomb. (This was an excellent allotment).

There were so many activities to get involved in; some of our group took part in the more energetic activities of Axe Throwing and Shooting, whilst others participated in crafting activities or led activities themselves. Laura hosted the very popular beer swap on the village green, where as soon as she began more and more ladies turned up with their brews in hand ready to share. Sarah hosted our evening with the stars, we found planets and learned something new about the night sky, and she even arranged a shooting star to finish the session off. There were talks on all sorts of subjects by some inspirational women and lots of opportunities to network and get ideas.

Aside from all the marvellous activities my favourite part of the weekend were the evenings sitting around the campfire talking and listening to each other’s stories and life events, and getting to know everyone. We all dressed up as women of steel one evening and welcomed ladies from other WI groups to join us for a natter around the fire, and s’mores and singing.

What can I say? I thoroughly recommend as a new member of SHWI to get involved in activities outside our monthly meetings as it gives you a better opportunity to connect with people.

Unfortunately Tea and Tents is taking a break next year, maybe we do a mini Tea and Tents just for SHWI ladies? My lasting impression of my weekend away is that I came home with a load of new friends and a happy feeling of sisterhood and a resolution to be brave and try more new things and get to know new people.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Not just fundraising: A post on becoming a trustee for Light Sheffield

Our members have been involved in more than just fundraising for Light Sheffield, our charity of the year. Emma Clarke has volunteered to be a trustee for the charity and has written the following post to introduce what she has been doing so far and why the charity is so important. 

It was her smile upon leaving the room at the end of the session that stuck with me. Its softness, that it reached her eyes.

As I drove home I thought of the labels which had been attached to this young woman over the previous six months. Teen mum. Mental health service-user. Perinatal mental health patient. Post-natally depressed. I wondered at what point she lost her identity and I tried to imagine just how alone she must feel.

It was Sarah's* first visit to Light Sheffield's weekly group. She came with her mum and her beautiful six-month old daughter. She'd travelled across the city and was too nervous to join in at first, so Jess, project manager, and Amy*, a volunteer, welcomed her in a separate room, telling her about Light, offering compassion and tea, letting her know she'd found a safe space, that she was amongst people who understood. She had found her tribe.

As the three generations of this family - grandma, mum and baby girl - sat on the floor with other mums, surrounded by toys, with a jungle gym providing helpful distraction to an inquisitive little one, I witnessed the power of fellowship. A group of mums who, through conversation, laughter, the swapping of tips and the provision of a listening ear, generated Light and shared it with one another. In professionalised terms this is called peer support, in the real world it's called friendship.

As Sarah headed out of the door at the end of the session – showing that soft smile - she took with her information on sling types, an alternative to Bonjela which came with high praise, the phone number of another mum whose own daughter was only a few weeks older and had joined a WhatsApp group to use in those lonely moments in the middle of the night or to share the good ones. But the most precious thing she took with her was the knowledge that she is doing just fine and there is Light ahead.

The two hours I spent getting to know some of the mums who use Light Sheffield confirmed in my mind becoming a Trustee was the right thing to do. And I hope this small insight in to the work of the charity shows the difference your cake-baking, beer brewing and general drum-banging makes for women in Sheffield.

Emma Clarke 
SHWI member

Visit Light Sheffield's website for more information on their work and support

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


We were ecstatic when Abbeydale Brewery asked us to become their brewing partner for their SunFest beer festival brew.

One of our newest members, Laura Rangeley works for Abbeydale and knows how much some of our contingent love a good beer so she suggested we pair up and create our own beer which would be Abbeydale's special beer for their ever-popular SunFest beer festival. Not only did it mean mucking in and making our own beer - they were going to give us 10p from every pint sold to our charity of the year - Light Sheffield. Plus they wanted us to sell our ever-popular homemade bakes at the festival for the charity. How could we refuse such a generous offer?

Unfortunately I wasn't able to take part in the brew day as it fell on the Saturday when many of us were at Eroica festival in Bakewell with another charity cake stall. But 8 of our gang went along to help brew the beer with Laura. We weren't left to our own devices - Baxter, Brewer at Abbeydale, was there to show us the ropes.

Laura Rangeley and Baxter
Laura had decided in advance (with suggestions from the rest of our group) that a lemon and earl gray pale ale fit the bill for our own special beer. Different enough to intrigue but safe enough to please real ale fans!

Laura B-H, Jules and Di get zesting
The brew gang got stuck in - zesting 100 lemons by hand. Tea was supplied by Sheffield tea-makers extraordinaire Birdhouse Tea Company and added to our brew.

By all accounts, a fun day was had by our SHWI brewers. Many can't actually remember the whole day - I wonder if the samples beers during the process have anything to do with that...

Baxter shows SHWI the ropes

A month later and the beer was ready for the festival at the Rising Sun pub. And it was delicious - so delicious in fact, it was the first beer to sell out!

We planned to keep things simple for our bake stall as we wasn't sure how popular we would be at the beer festival. Would real ale drinkers fancy homemade cake over the professional bbq stand? Bex and the gang thought a good amount of savouries would go down a treat and they were right - sausage rolls, savoury muffins and cheese straws were sold quicker than hot cakes. Friends of SHWI, Smo-Fo donated some of their delicious bar snacks which we sold to soak up the beer. And Di's SHWI lived up to it's legendary status and was all gone in less than an hour.

On both Friday and Saturday, we sold out of all our baked goods and raised an amazing £800 over both days.

Laura R, VPM, LBH and Kirsty
A big thank you to Laura Rangeley and Abbeydale Brewery for inviting us to the festival and allowing us to have our own beer. The beer is heading to pubs across the country in the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled for 'Not Just Jam'.

Also, big thanks to Laura B, Bex, Grace, Anna T, Laura K, Cat De L, Anna P who helped on the stall and all our other amazing SHWI-ers who made or bought bakes for the weekend.

Kirsty Bowen
SHWI President

Friday, 15 July 2016

Forge Bakehouse meal out

I’m writing this the morning after the night before. At one point I didn’t think I’d ever get enough blood-flow to my extremities to be able to move (let alone type) again, with my digestive system being overwhelmed yet delighted by the feast I consumed last night.

Wow, Forge Bakehouse – what an evening! I never imagined that I would go to a pizza night and come home with five out of 6 slices of my pizza intact! I mean this as a huge compliment – the quality and quantity of food was so awesome that I had to make some sacrifices – and everyone knows that cold pizza is still delicious the next day. Adding a soupcon of salad cream is my accoutrement of choice. (I mean if you want to elevate any dish to Masterchef, nay Michelin-starred standard, everyone knows all you’ve got to do is add salad cream…) But I digress.

Our group of 22 lucky SHWI-ers arrived for the sell-out event ready and raring for pizza and dessert, all pre-ordered from a bespoke designed menu. What we weren’t expecting were the starters. I mean, we knew we had some tapas style starters awaiting us, but we didn’t expect the range that greeted us. Martha and the team at Forge Bakehouse had provided us with 8 dishes per table! And the portion size was extremely generous. 

We started off with a platter of bread, oils and dukkah, with a butternut squash dip and coriander and butterbean hummus. Happy bunnies all round. 

Then they brought s deceptively simple ‘Tom Pom salad’ – mixed tomato and pomegranate salad with fresh oregano and pomegranate molasses. WOW! The sweetness of the pomegranate combined beautifully with the freshness of the tomatoes, and I would never have thought to add fresh oregano, but I am going to try and recreate this baby at home. 

Next came the grilled slices of baby aubergine with a bulghur wheat and herb salad, topped with pine nuts and feta. Again, this is something I will (no doubt very poorly) attempt to replicate at home. So subtle, but soooo good! 

We thought that was it and were feeling pretty stuffed already when the panko friend green olives with yoghurt and salsa verde came out. They went down a STORM, with Rhian ‘just checking’ that she didn’t like olives by scoffing several – something tells me her opinion may have changed! 

And finally, a lovely retro-style dish FILLED with aubergine fries (with a polenta crust) and some of the loveliest arancini I’ve ever had. The herbs complemented the mouthwatering molten mozzarella centre perfectly. See, I’ve even cracked the alliteration out here, so you know it’s gotta be good! 

Then came the main event – the pizzas. We’d pre-ordered and knew what we were getting, but the process was made even more fun by the waiting staff jotting our numbers down on the paper-topped table in front of us. It was at that point that some of the less observant of us (i.e. me) realised that we had been provided with crayons to doodle away on the ‘tablecloths’! A brilliant touch! You can see some of Grace’s WI-inspired art work here:

Back to the grub – the team had designed 4 pizza topping options for us: Pizza One was king prawn marinated in lime and chilli, mozzarella, grilled courgette, chilli, coriander and optional chorizo. Pizza Two was a #vegan option of Sri Lankan pahi with aubergine, ramiro pepper, onion, parsley and tahini sauce - if I was blogging this from my phone right now, there’d be an array of heart-eyed emojis right here! Pizza Three was purple potatoes, garden peas, grilled asparagus, mint pesto, pea shoots, ricotta and mozzarella. Pizza Four was sausage meat with shredded tenderstem broccoli, oven-dried tomatoes, smoked onion and mozzarella. 

Nobody needs me to crack out my thesaurus right now to bombard you with adjectives to describe them, I’ll let the pics do the talking. Suffice to say, we had VERY happy customers.

And still, there were the puddings to come. Three options had been provided, based around specific flavour combinations and catering to all dietary requirements – vegan-friendly choc dessert anyone?

Dessert A was ‘Apricot and Almond’. This comprised of quite frankly the BEST vanilla panna cotta I’ve ever had (ooohhh the jiggle!) This was complemented by roasted apricots, cherries, apricot jellies and amaretti morbidi (for the uninitiated, these were chewy amaretto-flavoured biscuit-y balls). 

Dessert 2 was ‘Raspberry and Pistachio’ – raspberry sorbet baked Alaska with pistachio sponge, Italian meringue, fresh raspberries and jellies. Every portion was perfect – I have no idea how you can make 8 perfect portions of baked Alaska all served at the same time, but Forge Bakehouse managed it with aplomb! 

Finally, we had dessert C – ‘Chocolate, Lime and Rum’. This was vegan chocolate and lime pudding with mango salsa, coconut and lime granita and passionfruit. This deceptively simple-sounding dish was presented so beautifully (with a chocolate work garnish no less), that it seemed such a shame to eat it. We soon got over that! 

10pm flew round and it was time for us to stagger home (some of us even turning down lifts in a vain attempt to walk off our fullness). All I can say is that we all absolutely loved every aspect of the evening. We were very happy to be Forge Bakehouse’s bistro guinea pigs – although you would have thought they’d been running nights like this for YEARS. Thank you, thank you, thank you once again to Martha and the team for arranging a wonderful evening. When can we come back?

Anna Pilson
Committee member

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Raising money with cake at Eroica Britannia Festival

We've just about recovered from a weekend in Bakewell at Eroica Britannia festival - and what a fab weekend it was! 

Photo: Brook Hayes
It was at the beginning of the year when Eroica invited us to have a stall at the festival. They had seen how successful we had been at events like Sheffield Food Festival and wanted us to bring some WI flavour to Eroica. 

Eroica (not Erotica like some people think!) is a 3-day family lifestyle and cycling festival in the Peak District not far from Sheffield. Now in it's third year, the festival is based on the original L’Eroica (meaning 'the heroes') cycle ride held every year in Gaiole, Tuscany, since 1997. It's a of good old-fashioned cycling before carbon fibre, lycra gear and energy gels.

But it's not just cycling - there's lots of vintage clothing, crafts, music, entertainment, and most importantly for SHWI, food! 

Photo: Brook Hayes
Grace and I worked together on organising our stall like previously at Sheffield Food Festival. We try and divide it straight down the line - she deals with our WI volunteers and I sort the logistics and liason with the organisers. 

This time we were camping which provided an extra layer of complexity! But luckily, we had some excellent help all weekend from Charlotte, Brook and Cat who helped Grace and I get fed and stay dry. We had been concentrating so hard on our stall that we forgot essentials like toothpaste, wellies (we arrived to a mud bath on site), and food. 

We were supplied with extra hands bringing fresh cake every day too which meant we got to have a wander round the festival, soak up the atmosphere or go for a much needed kip! 

Photo: Brook Hayes
Saturday was our best day and we had a steady stream of customers buying our brownies, flapjack and lemon drizzle cakes. It was great to see so many WI members too from groups around the country! Grace and Lucy had entered the Best in Show cake competition and Lucy came third place. Other competitions included Best Dressed, Best Home Brew, Best Dressed Dog and Best Moustache! 

Photo: Brook Hayes
Sunday was the day of the big bike ride and cyclists set off from Bakewell early to ride 30, 55 or 100 miles through the beautiful Peaks. It was a quieter day for us as families and friends were busy watching the ride. However, we still had a good day and loved watching all the bikes arrive at the finish line. 

We're so happy that we raised another £600 for Light Sheffield, our charity of the year who support families affected by perinatal mental health illnesses. 

Photo: Ellie Last
Thank you to everyone who made cake or volunteered, or came to buy some cake from us! And a big thanks to Eroica for inviting us. 

Our next fundraising event will be SunFest - Abbeydale Brewery's beer festival at the Rising Sun, Fulwood Road, Sheffield. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Fascinating Fascinators with The Hat Stand

Summer is on the way and our lovely Seven Hills WI ladies do like to dress up. Any excuse will do - day at the races, weddings, summer parties - you name it if it involves a lovely day out and an excuse to dress up we’ll be there! But wherever this summer’s activities take our members they will be looking even more glamorous thanks to the millinery master pieces they created at our May meeting. That’s right, we made fascinators!

Members choose their feathers

The session was led by the fascinatingly fabulous millinery trio, Siobhan Nicholson, Amanda Moon and Sophie Cooke - all independent Sheffield-based milliners who come together as The Hat Stand to promote the art of millinery.

The activity got off to a flying start with Siobhan, Amanda and Sophie talking us through how we would be making the fascinators. The supplies table was awash with beautiful bases, felts, feathers and jewels. Every colour under the rainbow was available to excite the creative flare of our members. As we set about choosing the component parts that would be magically transformed into a millinery masterpiece, we were told our only limitation was our own imagination! St Andrew’s was suddenly a hive of energy… and feathers!

I was inspired by the wonderful creations being put together by our members. I never fail to be impressed by the skills present in our group. So many different ideas, in such vibrant colours, were being assembled and soon several ladies were already modelling their wares. In under an hour a simple base, feathers and jewels had been worked into a creation worthy of a day out at Ascot.

Laura displays her fascinator

Having toured the room for inspiration I set to my own creation. I had a wedding that weekend and had carefully matched my colours to the dress I would be wearing. Now, I like to think I’m quite crafty and can turn my hands to most things, but it turns out that when given feathers and glue I quickly become a sticky mess! I was quick to realise I was no budding milliner, but that didn’t matter because I, like the other members, was having a super time and hadn’t stopped laughing all night. Such frivolity did nothing to improve my work and consequently I’d like to thank Siobhan and the ladies at my table for rescuing me from becoming elbow deep in glue, feathers and sequins! But all was not lost; even I it seems can (with help) create a stunning looking fascinator. Amanda helped to secure the clip and voilĂ  – a fascinator was born!

I proudly presented my fascinator to my family that night along with one of the new funky SHWI tote bags! That’s right we are once again selling gorgeous Seven Hills WI totes, this year it’s a black bag which features our centenary teacup and flower design. Bags cost £5 with all profits going to our supported charity, Sheffield Light. But don’t worry if you haven’t got yours yet there’s still time - we’ll be selling them at future meetings, the Bakewell L’eroica festival (17-19 June) and SunFest Beer Festival (7-10 July). So come along to one of these events, buy a stunning tote bag and eat some tasty treats homemade by our talented members. You never know we might be wearing our fascinators too! 

Members with the ladies from The Hat Stand
Bex Lissaman
Committee member

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

We raised over £1000 at Sheffield Food Festival

We've raised over £1000 selling homemade cake for a local charity at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival.
For the fifth year in a row, our city centre WI group have been at the festival by baking and selling cakes. This year’s stall in the Peace Gardens was extremely popular with the stall selling out of cakes every day. We raised £1024 in total.

Kirsty Bowen, President of Seven Hills WI said “Our stall was a massive hit once again at Sheffield Food Festival. Thank you to everyone who came down and bought cake or entered our raffle and a big thank you to all our members who worked hard to volunteer or bake.”
All the money raised will go to Light Sheffield, a local charity run providing support across Sheffield to families affected by perinatal mental health illnesses, including post natal depression and anxiety. Our members voted to support Light Sheffield as their charity for 2016.
Jess Rennie from Light Sheffield said: “It’s fantastic that Seven Hills WI have raised so much money from cake! We want to thank all the members who volunteered or baked cake. The Money will go to helping mums and their families who are affected by perinatal mental illnesses in Sheffield and the surrounding areas, to access valuable support provided by Light Sheffield.
Seven Hills WI have been invited to take part in Eroica Britannia family festival in June, bringing our popular charity cake stall to Bakewell Showground. We will be at the festival on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 June 2016.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Seven Hills WI return to Sheffield Food Festival

South Yorkshire’s largest Women’s Institute group, Seven Hills WI will be selling cakes once again for a local charity at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival.

The group have taken part in the festival since it began in 2011, selling homemade baked treats by women from the group. 

Members at Sheffield Food Festival 2015

This year, the Seven Hills WI stall will be in the Peace Gardens on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May 2016. All money raised will go to local charity, Light Sheffield.

Light Sheffield is a small local charity run by volunteers providing support across Sheffield to families affected by perinatal mental health illnesses, including post natal depression and anxiety. Seven Hills WI’s members voted to support Light Sheffield as it’s charity for 2016.

Kirsty Bowen, President of Seven Hills WI said: “Every year, our members pull out all the stops to bake some impressive cakes for visitors at Sheffield Food Festival.

“We hope to beat last year’s amount raised and help Sheffield Light who provide a really important service to women and families in our community.”

Jess Rennie from Light Sheffield said: “We are absolutely delighted that Light Sheffield were chosen as Seven Hills WI’s charity of the year.

“We are a small charity so the money raised at Sheffield Food Festival will really make a difference to our work supporting women and families who are affected by perinatal mental health illnesses.”

Sheffield Food Festival is an annual event in the city centre, celebrating the quality and diversity of food and drink produced within the region.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

St Andrew's Community Service

Last Sunday we spent a lovely morning at a special service for users of St Andrew’s United Reform Church in Broomhall, where we hold our monthly meetings . We were made very welcome. 

Many different Christian churches use the space for worship including Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and Chinese and Congolese worshippers. They gave us a flavour of their ceremonies with song, dance and readings. Then we had a delicious lunch and were served freshly brewed Ethiopian coffee! 

Although the WI is a non-religious organisation, we love being part of a centre like St Andrew's that is very much part of the community and welcomes people from all over the world to use the venue including a playgroup, soup kitchen, breakfast club and child contact centre. 

Michelle Cook
Committee member

Friday, 1 April 2016

Kicking ass and taking names: SHWI do self-defence

Another fantastic meeting with the Seven Hills ladies in March, this time with added kick!

I actually mean that quite literally as we had the wonderful Radek Kalas who came to see us and teach some pretty punchy self defense in the style of Krav Maga. Long gone, it would seem, are the days of handing over your purse and being nice about it, its all kicking ass and taking names these days.
The meeting kicked off with our annual vote for our charity of the year. Judy Kelso from SAYiT, our previous charity of the year was there to explain how they would be using the money we've raised. It was great to hear how we have made a difference to this small charity and she even brought along some of the young people who will benefit from the funds raised.

Treasurer Vicky with Judy and some of the young people from SAYiT
Then we heard a bit about the charities our members had nominated to become this year's charity of the year. All of them were worthwhile causes and it's a shame we can't support them all but we feel like it's important to have a concentrated effort each year for one charity.

After counting all the votes, it was announced that our charity of the year for 2016-17 will be Sheffield Light. Sheffield Light is a small local charity run by volunteers providing support across Sheffield to families affected by perinatal mental heath illnesses, including post natal depression and anxiety. We can't wait to get cracking and help support this worthy cause. 

Then we moved onto our activity - self defence!

Members with instructor Radek
Anyone who happened to be walking past might have been forgiven for being a little nervy -after hearing some of the shouts and seeing a lot of the punches and kicks going on in there I was a little nervy myself! I wouldn’t have wanted to get on the wrong side of most of the ladies that night after hearing rowdy agreements to the instructor suggesting you put your thumbs in the attackers eyes and ‘touch brain’. How splendid. I’m not sure the uninitiated would believe the WI could be quite so rambunctious. Tea, cakes and elbows to the crotch!

On a lighter note, everyone seemed to have a fantastic time - nothing like a good workout and pad pummeling to get the endorphins flowing. Plus, everyone is settling really well to the new venue, feels like we’ve been there a lot longer than a few months. Thanks for another great meeting. Same time again next month everyone?

Jodie Winters
Committee member

Saturday, 13 February 2016

New Year, New Venue: 2016

Committee members Rachel and Sam with
Rev Kate Bottley and a giant teapot.
Photo credit: Rachel White
After finding ourselves potentially venue-less for 2016, the SHWI committee were panic stricken: ensue canvassing everyone we could think of for venue ideas, enough googling to break the internet and lots of mad ringing round. One of the umpteen options mooted was St Andrew’s URC. We didn’t want to get our hopes up but headed off for a nosey. They told us they didn’t have a room we could hire…but that we could use the actual church! January was our first meeting there, and it immediately felt like home. Giant teapots a-hoy!

As a Gogglebox fan, I was right chuffed when committee member Anna P said we’d bagged #revkate as a speaker. Turns out I’m not alone, as it was one of the busiest meetings we’d had in yonks (the busiest ever, perhaps?). With old members, new members and visiting members from other WIs, there was a lovely, lively, anticipatory feel at the start of the meeting. It seemed somehow fitting that our first speaker at the new venue would be of a religious persuasion.

Rev Kate with SHWI members and THAT tea cosy
Photo credit: Laura Bainbridge
For those of you who don’t know, Reverend Kate Bottley is a Sheffield lass born and bred, who was a teacher at Ecclesfield (my alma mater) and then Yewlands school before going into vicaring and appearing on Channel 4’s Gogglebox. Kate’s energy was contagious and her delivery more stand-up comedy than Sunday communion.  A self-confessed attention-seeker of the warmest, humblest kind, she revealed that her husband, Graham, does speak (but we suspect a lot less than Kate), that her favourite TV programmes feature zombies and that many of the tea cosies they own come from fans of the show. Well, she has one more now thanks to crafty knitter, Di Coupe. We’ll be looking out for it on the next series.

Rev Kate's Star Wars-themed shoes
Photo credit: Laura Bainbridge
Kate wowed us with her shoes (she’d swapped her usual slippers for R2-D2 heels), her tales of bumping into other Goggleboxers (they’re not allowed to meet under normal circumstances) and her crazy vicar antics (flash mob wedding, anyone?). There was so much #shwilove for Rev Kate and she stayed ages after the end of meeting, chatting to members and posing for photos. It was a fantastic start to the new year and new venue! Thank you to everyone who pitched in to make it a brilliant evening, not least our revered speaker, Kate.

Next up in February: salsa! Hope to see you there.

Jennifer Marsden

Monday, 25 January 2016

SHWI gets potty

Following the success of the Great Pottery Throw Down and, for those older members, the memory of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in Ghost, it was with much trepidation that a group of our ladies met at The Art House in Sheffield on Sunday morning. 

Situated in the centre of town and next door to the first home of SHWI at St Matts on Carver Street, The Art House is a beautiful contemporary space where various craft classes are offered, as well as exhibition space and The Art House cafe. It also participates in the Pending Coffee scheme, providing free hot drinks for the homeless/vulnerable in Sheffield.

We all gathered in the cafe, bemoaning the early (10am) start on a Sunday, but bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm for the 2 hours ahead. We are greeted by Sarah who was to lead our session with a demonstration assisted by the lovely Claire. We moved upstairs to the airy, bright studio where we were given the obligatory health and safety talk; hair tied back, jewellery removed and a reminder that pottery is messy so it was recommended to roll our sleeves up and enjoy!

Following Sarah's informative and easy demonstration, we were all let loose to gather the required equipment - bag a wheel, a stool and get potting! What followed was great fun, very dirty with clay water spraying all over the place, a bit rude as we coaxed our clay into a variety of phallic shapes before pressing down to make the openings to our bowls; disasters aplenty as the wheels were spun too quickly, hands were not in the right place and the clay did not behave; our saviours Sarah and Claire were on hand to avert genuine disasters.

Each of our ladies succeeded in making 2 items for firing in the kiln; the majority of us making bowls or small trinket plates, Sam made what can only be described as a beehive and Alice made a chalice - unintentional rhyming there! Liz, having found her groove at the wheel, managed to squeeze in a 3rd item which was a genuine accident that she tried to pull back from the brink of disaster, she was left with a beautiful item with folded in pieces of clay which will look amazing once fired with her colour choice. 

We moved all our makes onto ceramic tiles, chose the colours for firing and have to leave our makes for 2 weeks for the next step to be completed. I think it involves baking the makes and dipping them in glaze, I'm not sure if there is anything else that contributes to the magic of colouring them in! Sam kindly offered to pick up the box of makes after 2 weeks and bring them to the next meeting, so watch out for ladies toting around amazing homemade pieces at the next meeting, I am personally looking forward to seeing Alice drinking from her vessel.

Much thanks must go to Carolyne for organising. A number of us are considering going back for more time behind the wheel - it is surprisingly therapeutic to get so dirty! Thanks also to Sarah and Claire for your patience and advice, it was a great start to a Sunday and absolutely recommend to all those other members who said that they wanted to try it out. You never know we might have a SHWI dinner service by the end of the year!

Rachel White
Committee Member

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Christmas meeting and cocktails

December is always a special time for us SHWI-ers. Secret Santa and our Christmas quiz always gets us in the festive mood. However, this meeting was to be our last at Electric Works and we wanted to celebrate. 

Our last meeting at Electric Works - December 2015

Electric Works has been great for us. It’s allowed us to expand to 135 members. We’ve been able to accommodate disabled members and guests easily. We’ve had a ceilidh, cheerleading, crafting, parties and a market. But it’s time for us to move on, but not before one last go on the helter skelter!

Our main entertainment for the evening was Ed, Cocktail-Maker-in-Chief at The Broadfield and all-round spirits connoisseur. He showed us how to make three cocktails, the history behind it and we all got to taste. Hiccup!

Ed shows us how it's done

I also put together my annual Christmas quiz which this time was a picture round of clips from Christmas films. Congrats to the winners!

Winners of the quiz

Secret Santa is always popular with our gang. Members who want to take part bring a wrapped gift worth £5 and get to take away one themselves. I saved mine until Christmas Day and was thankful for some special festive beers. Thanks Santa!

Our Secret Santa presents
We also invited Jo and Theresa from the Young Women’s Housing Project to have a photo with the big cheque totalling all our fundraising from 2014. They gave us an update on where they money we raised has gone and how this has benefitted the women and children they support. We’ll be inviting our charity of 2015, SAYiT to do this same early in 2016. 

Jen and Kirsty hand over the cheque
I was very emotional to see the big pile of food we collected this month for local food banks. Members really dug deep into their pockets (and cupboards!) and brought Christmas puddings, mince pies, stuffing and gravy to make sure the vulnerable people in our community had a great holiday too. This month, I took the donations to St Thomas’ Church in Crookes and they were very grateful so thanks to everyone who helped. 

Our donations to the food bank

Here’s to a successful and happy Seven Hills WI in 2016 at our new home!

Kirsty Bowen