What our WAGs think ...
Often in life, unexpected consequences arise from small beginnings. A chance conversation can result in momentous decisions. A conversation with a work colleague about wanting to join the WI but not being able to find a suitable one (they are all different) resulted in Chloe Bowler sowing the first seeds for the formation of Whiteley WAGs WI.
Chloe was brought up with strong WI women around her; her Mum and aunties were active members of the WI in Gloucestershire, and when Chloe settled in Whiteley she knew she wanted to be part of the WI. With her drive and enthusiasm, Chloe set up a first tentative meeting in November 2010, along with a Hampshire WI Adviser, to gauge if there was any interest in setting up a new WI. Local ladies did not disappoint; 49 were at the first meeting at Whiteley Community Centre and the WAGs were born. Over the years our membership has steadily increased and we have now reached our maximum 80 members. We have a diverse and interesting programme of events as well as extra activities all year round which everyone can join in. These include guided walks, theatre trips, four clubs meeting monthly, and quarterly Dress for Dinner nights. We are active members of our group of WIs, the Bishops Waltham Group, our members attend Hampshire Federation events, National Federation events and support our WI college, Denman. Chloe is still a member of WAGs and we some of the original formation members are still actively involved in our WI.
Most new members give the reason they wish to join the WI as 'wanting to make new friends'. We hope that everyone who has joined the WAGs feels that it is a friendly, active WI, catering for all its members by having a wide range of activities for you to join. The WI has inspired two members, Annette Bradshaw and Amy Middleton to train to become WI Advisers.
When Chloe stepped down as President after three years, another founder member of WAGs, Sue Daish was elected President. Sue’s aim was to ensure that our popularity and founding principles remained unchanged. Sue led a great team, with the Committee stepping up to take on roles and responsibilities. During Sue’s Presidency the WAGs experienced a phenomenal growth in membership, rising from around 40 to 80. Our third President was Jane Locke, who built on Sue’s work with the Committee members and actively encouraged everyone to take on a role to share the load of running such a large WI. Jane introduced Cascade Groups, whereby every member is allocated to a small group led by a Committee member. During Jane’s three year Presidency she spent a huge amount of time and energy managing our waiting list, ensuring that all ladies who expressed an interest in attending could come along to visit. In 2019 our fourth President was elected, Eileen Perry. Eileen has been with WAGs from the very beginning, and spent many years managing WAGs membership. Eileen, with the help of the Committee, is now dealing with one of the greatest challenges to the WI, COVID-19. Meetings were cancelled in March 2020, but by June Eileen had mastered how to run a Zoom meeting and this is now how we meet. The Book Club and Craft Club meet via Zoom too, and we continue to send out a comprehensive newsletter to our members every month. Until we can meet again the emphasis is on keeping safe and keeping in touch with our members.
“I know I can go to any of the events and will find a friendly face to share a laugh and chat with.”
“I joined so I could do something just for me”
“I love our bunting, cakes, tea, dressing for dinner, muddy walks, feeling crafty, and a good book”
“Going to Craft Club has given me the confidence to start selling a few of my handmade items online”
“Craft or Social group? Who cares, I always achieve something and have a lovely evening”
“Craft group is a great way to spend an evening. Chatting with like-minded ladies, sipping coffee & being crafty too. ”
“I read books (and mostly enjoy) I would never choose myself and look forward to the lively chat during the meetings”
“I enjoy finishing a book knowing I will be able to discuss it with everyone else! “
“I enjoy the variety of books we read, every month is something different”