31 July 1998

FAR MORE TO WI

THAN JUST CRAFTWORK

CRAFTWORK is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the Womens Institute is concerned. It is the part that people see – and that was certainly true of the Royal Welsh Show where the WI federation competition occupied a large part of the handicraft section in the Glamorgan Hall.

The WI promotional exhibit occupies an equally large space and gives a clue to the non-craft side of WI activity such as the Pathway to the 21st Century programme. A three-year project launched in April this year, it has the backing of the Countryside Council for Wales and Lloyds-TSB Foundation. Its aim is to encourage members of each of the 800 WIs in Wales to look at their localities and to improve and develop the quality of life for women, their families and communities.

A good example of this is the way Llanover WI, Gwent turned a neglected and abused bus shelter into an attractive feature, says project leader Betty Lloyd, who points out that much of the sponsorship money will be used for training.

Pentyrch in Glamorgan now has a much needed doctors surgery on a new housing estate as a result of the local WIs efforts, explains Rhiannon Beavan who retires this summer after 27 years as head of the NFWIs Wales Office

Its the depth of WI activities that has held Rhiannons interest in the job for so long. As well as training and education, WI is involved in campaigning and lobbying, she explains.

The crisis in agriculture is a matter of concern to WI as thriving farms are the basis of thriving communities. WI has called for both short and long-term solutions to the crisis, and is encouraging members to buy local fresh produce, she says.

The need to diversify farm activities has given the farm woman an extremely important role, Rhiannon says: "It is very much a partnership and very essential."

WI has had a meeting with the Secretary of State about the decline in rural services and businesses and, in the light of all the recent food scares and the increase in cases of food poisoning, it is also calling upon the government to reintroduce home economics as an independent subject and not part of design and technology.

&#42 Anglesey

"I believe that the need for WI is as real today as it was 100 years ago; people are lonely and need more education," says Audrey Jones, chairman of the Anglesey Federation of Womens Institutes, the featured county at this years show.

Audrey and her colleagues had provided the exhibits for the WI stand and were on hand to speak to showgoers.

The county has 37 institutes, including four new ones. Audrey encouraged her daughter to join one of the new WIs and is proud of the fact that she is the fourth generation of her family to enrol. "We are not there for the middle aged – we are there for all ages," says Audrey. "Always bear in mind WI started with a woman of child-bearing age."

"WI has opened many doors for me," says Eunice Lloyd whose quilt representing the Year of the Ocean and the wildlife of Anglesey was the central feature of the exhibit.

While Eunice had produced the quilt, members from each of the WIs on the island had contributed an embroidered square representing an item from the coastal wildlife. This beautiful piece of work was being raffled to defray the costs involved in exhibiting at the show and will be displayed again at a sewing and crafts exhibition at Tatton Park, Cheshire in the autumn.

Hanging next to it was a rag rug produced by Kath OReilly, depicting life on and around the island which covers an area of 72,000ha (177840 acres). Agriculture, represented by colourful fields and a sheep made from carded lambswool, horticulture represented by rows of tiny cauliflowers and the main road around the island are the dominating features.

But Kath has worked in many others, reflecting the past and present, including the lighthouse and lifeboat station, copper mining, Paris Mountain, the wind turbines, RAF Valley where the Red Arrows are based and, of course, Llanfairpwll – the place where, in 1915, the first Womens Institute in Britain was started.

&#42 Denman

Denman Colleges golden jubilee year was the theme of two the competitions for WI members. Each year 6,500 members take courses at Denman either for pleasure or to gain Royal Society of Arts, City and Guilds or NVQ qualifications.

The former Georgian home in the Oxfordshire village of Marcham has been expanded over the years and each county federation has taken responsibility for a particular room. Now the gardens are being renovated, said chairman of the management committee Margaret Cadzow, and while the traditional format is being maintained and work is being carried out to an overall plan, federations have adopted areas of the garden.

This king size patchwork quilt presented a challenge to visitors to the Royal and Welsh Shows. It is displayed here by RABI chief executive Richard Duckett (foreground) and (L to R) Liz Forster, whose mother made it, RABI council member Roy Walker and Jill Themans who organised the competition.

A COMPETITION to guess the number of pieces in a patchwork quilt, which the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution began at the Royal Show, was completed at the Royal Welsh. And – for all those who took part – the answer was 1950.

The quilt was made by Mrs Dorothy Sumner, mother-in-law of West Midlands NFU regional director Bob Forster, and won by Bob Bolton, who is the NFU branch secretary for the Newport, Shifnal and Wellington areas of Shropshire.

He and Norfolk RABI supporter John Mitchell made the closet guess, just eight squares out. A draw took place, with Bob the winner and John was promised another. The project raised £600 to help RABI assist elderly, sick and needy people in the farming community.

Music drifting across the showground quickens the step and brings a smile even on the dampest of days. Among this years music makers was the one-man band of Vic Ellis who was making his third appearance at the Royal Welsh Show. Vic, who has entertained in this way for the past 20 years and is able to play at least 25 instruments, is a great hit with the children who are fascinated by his lively performances.

Dedicated to giving youth a fair chance…

AN organisation which gives young people a chance, is how Gwenan Prysor, the new chairman of Wales Young Farmers Clubs, describes the YFC movement.

Among those who have been given a chance this year because of YFC are callers to Childline Cymru. The charity, which takes 500 calls a day from troubled young people, most of them about bullying, has been Wales YFCs chosen charity for the past 12 months, and Gwenan was able to present a cheque for £8247 to Childline Cymru representatives during a reception for sponsors and supporters .

Much of the money came from Brecknock, she said, raised as a result of the parachute jump made by former national chairman John Davies. Gwenan also announced that the Cancer Research Campaign is the charity chosen for young farmers across the country to support with fund-raising activities during the year leading up to the next Royal Welsh Show.

She also received a cheque. This was from the National Lotteries Charity Board which is enabling Wales YFC to employ an information technology officer, Sion Pennant, who will help improve YFC communications, initially by putting Wales YFC, counties and clubs on the internet.

During 1997/98 a task force has been visiting clubs throughout Wales gathering the views of youngsters in the 15-19 age group. Future developments will be based on what they said.

"We are aiming to offer members, leaders, officials and staff effective training on targeted areas in line with our development needs, and to make it accessible and relevant to people who may solely rely on the YFC for such opportunities," said Gwenan who is employed as a training officer by Gwynedd Social Services Department.

A new initiative to encourage members to record their achievements was also launched at the show. Sponsored by Midland Bank, it is accredited by the Welsh Joint Education Committee.

Members who have gone through a learning process by taking part in some of the opportunities available through YFC can have it recorded on a certificate, which should help them in the job market. They can record and explain their achievements in five areas which include taking responsibility, competitions, work in the community, foreign travel and training schemes.

(Competition results next week).