A new WI group in New Mills steps away from Jerusalem

L-R Mel Holbrook, treasurer, Alison Hanley, secretary, Karen Johnson, vice treasurer, Barbara Barlow, WI advisor from Hayfield WI, Bethany Merrett, Fay Vandenberg, president, Merle Youngs, vice secretary and Sarah Fletcher-Shaw, vice president.
L-R Mel Holbrook, treasurer, Alison Hanley, secretary, Karen Johnson, vice treasurer, Barbara Barlow, WI advisor from Hayfield WI, Bethany Merrett, Fay Vandenberg, president, Merle Youngs, vice secretary and Sarah Fletcher-Shaw, vice president.

It is the start of a new era for the women of New Mills as the WI set up a group which is already at full capacity in the first month.

The idea for a new Women’s Institute group came from group president Fay Vanderberg, who used to attend a pottery class and wanted to keep in touch with the friends after the sessions finished.

She said: “The fact that we have gone from an idea to 34 signed-up members in just a few months is incredible and it’s great to see the WI is still so relevant to people’s lives.”

To get the group off the ground Fay, 32, went to the local adviser in Hayfield in September to see what she would need to do.

In October there was a gauging meeting to see who would be interested and 30 people turned up to a cafe in New Mills.

“That was when I realised that I was doing the right thing and people wanted to be involved in the community and the WI,” she said.

The group meets in Spring Bank Arts Centre on the second Thursday of the month and there is nearly a full programme of activities and events for the year lined up.

Fay said: “It is amazing so many people have come along. New Mills has always been very community focused and I think the WI is not what it used to be and people want to experience new things and make new friends.

“We may make jam but we won’t be singing Jerusalem - we are new and fresh and the guest speakers will reflect that.”

From gardening to Bollywood or jive dancing, with picnics in the summer and preparing for the lantern parade, there will be something for everyone.

Janice Langley, chairman of the National Federation of the Women’s Institute, said: “It is always positive to hear about a new WI being set up, and it’s particularly exciting to hear about New Mills WI being formed so soon after our centenary celebrations have drawn to a close.

“Last year, WI members across the UK celebrated everything that they love about the WI, and it’s great to hear that women have been inspired to set up their own WIs that will take the organisation into the next 100 years of inspiring women.

“Good luck to New Mills WI – we can’t wait to hear what their members get up to!”

Fay, a mum-of-one, works in Salford as a disability advisor at the university and is socially active, however she knows that not everyone is.

She said: “For the people who do just come home from work and sit in front of the telly, the WI is great because it is only a small commitment and we will be talking about things from a local level all the way up to an international level, so people’s horizons will be broadened.”

As the group is at full capacity there is no space to take on new members, and Fay is stunned by the support.

“We have a good age range of people which is great as it means the next generation is getting ready to take over, although we do have some wonderful older members,” she added.

“The committee have been brilliant too. I only knew one lady, but we have people born and bred in New Mills and people who have moved here, but they have all been amazing in helping to get this group off the ground.

“I am excited to see this WI group grow and become a true part of the community.”