Royal time for WI members

Published on: 30 Jun 2015

SELECTED Women’s Institute members had a right royal time in London last month attending  two special events as part of their organisation’s centenary celebrations.
Some were among 8,000 from across the country selected to go to a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Princess Alexandra.
Two days later, other representatives were at the Royal Albert Hall for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes annual meeting, where they were joined by the Queen and the Princess Royal.
Some members joined in the fun closer to home, meeting up at Thornbury Golf Club to watch a live webcast of proceedings in Kensington.
Katie Tovey-Grindley, who joined Mangotsfield WI in January 2014, won a draw to attend the garden party.
“I couldn’t quite believe I was there,” she said. “Everyone was so friendly. It was a really great atmosphere.”
Carol Coombs, president of Mangotsfield WI, was at the annual meeting for her second visit to the Royal Albert Hall; the first was to see Eric Clapton.
She said the assembled members did not sing their anthem, Jerusalem, until the Queen, who is president of Sandringham WI, and Princess Anne arrived and addressed them.
“It was a fantastic, magical moment,” she said. “Our Queen spoke to us. I was so glad to be a part of history on that day.”
The Queen cut a celebration fruit cake and everyone present received a piece.
Vice president Nicki Ship was among the virtual participants at the golf club, where everyone dressed up in posh frocks and hats and enjoyed a summer buffet with Pimms.
“It was a great feeling to be in the ‘presence’ of the Royal Family. It felt as though we were really there. It was a great afternoon,” she said.
The Queen also received the centenary baton, which has been travelling to some of the WI’s 6,600 branches across 69 federations in England, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
These included Bromley Heath, which made its own bit of history two years when it launched and became the country’s largest group.
The centenary baton was designed to celebrate the friendship and community between the organisation’s 212,000 members.
Footage of its journey around the UK was shown at the Royal Albert Hall and the event linked live to members in Anglesey, where the first Women’s Institute was formed.
The Frome Valley area, which covers Downend, Emersons Green,  Winterbourne,  Frenchay, Hambrook, Stoke Gifford, Mangotsfield and Staple Hill,  has 12 WIs, including some that were established many years ago and some newer groups.
More celebrations are planned for September, which is the actual anniversary of the organisation’s formation.
WI reports: Page 50

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