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Denman College ( W.I.) has closed!

(32 Posts)
lemongrove Sat 15-Aug-20 14:08:18

Reading the news about Debenhams 😩 has compounded how I feel now that Denman College has closed for good.
Sad times.
Denman College was a wonderful resource for all W.I and non members too, a beautiful old building set in it’s own lovely grounds in an Oxfordshire village, it offered courses on just about everything ( both day courses, and for several days with food and accomodation.
W.I members went there from all over the UK and women found knowledge and fun and camaraderie together.

lemongrove Sat 15-Aug-20 18:02:25

Just bumping this post as I can’t believe there are no WI members on here ( although it’s possible I suppose.)
Thought some GNers may have happy memories of doing a course there.

Chewbacca Sat 15-Aug-20 18:13:36

Well, to be fair lemon it was horrendously expensive to attend any of the courses that they ran. I seem to remember that a 2 day baking course was in excess of £500, plus travel costs down there, and that's a lot for a lot of retired women on a pension. I jumped ship once the annual subs went over £40, plus the monthly subscription of £2 just for a cup of tea and a bun, which the members provided, not the WI.

But I'm sorry that you'll miss Denman College.

lemongrove Sat 15-Aug-20 18:19:49

I think a great deal of women will miss it Chewbacca from all over .Yes, the courses were expensive but many were subsidised by individual WI’s and some completely free and won as a prize.
Wow! You did pay a lot for the tea and biscuit/bun at £2.
That’s up to individual WI’s of course.We pay £1 but friends in other counties pay 25p and 50p respectively.

Chewbacca Sat 15-Aug-20 18:39:19

I think that the WI group that I was in was just duff to be honest lemon; very elderly members who had been there since God was a lad. Wouldn't allow the minutes to be uploaded online, nor the agenda, everything had to be done as it had in 1959. The guest speakers were soooo boring that I nodded off several times. And the final insult to injury was that I never even got the monthly magazine!

gillybob Sat 15-Aug-20 18:39:59

I was a WI member up until this year when I didn’t pay my 2020 fees . It got to the point where I missed more meetings than I could go to. Denman was very expensive and way above the means of most ( in fact all of our NE ) members .

gillybob Sat 15-Aug-20 18:41:47

Ours was a very young and modern WI with an average age of around 35 . At 57-8 I was one of the older members .

lemongrove Sat 15-Aug-20 18:51:28

That really is a young WI gilly who will be too taken up with family life to tootle off to Denman I should think.Your meeting ps were lively I bet.
My WI is a good mixture of ages, but more 40’s upwards.

grannysyb Sat 15-Aug-20 19:00:45

I gave up on my local WI this year,although it had a good mix of ages, I just found it a bit cliquey. I thought Denman was quite pricey, I'm not surprised it has folded.

Chewbacca Sat 15-Aug-20 19:05:27

80+ at mine. And everyone on the committee had held the same role since time immemorial. Every one sat in the same seats, at the same table, next to Agnes or Sybil and so no one else could sit there. Even if Agnes or Sybil wasn't actually there. The hierarchy was entrenched and all attempts to drag them into the 20th Century, let alone the 21st, was robustly fought.
They played bingo relentlessly. And the young woman of about 50, who had the temerity to suggest that creating a Facebook page for their activities might be a good idea, caused such a uproar that she left with no notice!

NanKate Sat 15-Aug-20 19:13:05

We have a good mixture of ages at my WI and I enjoy our meetings and the camaraderie a lot I’ve really missed it during Lockdown.

I would have preferred them to close London HQ And keep Denman open.

Jane10 Sat 15-Aug-20 19:18:14

Oh dear. I'm one of the soooo boring speakers at lots of WIs. They certainly all are very different. Some seem deadly serious but others are more relaxed. One thing I noticed and found a bit uncomfortable at several WIs was the custom of having a special table for the office bearers and speaker after the talk. There would be platters of sandwiches and lots of cakes for us. The other members had to queue up at a kitchen hatch for a cup of bright orange tea and a biscuit.
Other WIs seemed much more cheerful and friendly though.

Chewbacca Sat 15-Aug-20 19:45:45

One of the most tedious speakers at out WI was someone who had spent some time living in the Andes with alpacas. It could have been a very interesting talk. But delivery is everything and just a little bit of intonation, interspersed with a few photographs of alpacas because they all look very much the same, no matter what names you've given them, will keep your audience awake. I'm sure your talks are nothing like this Jane10!

lemongrove Sat 15-Aug-20 19:51:29

Your descriptions made me laugh Chewbacca
Talks can be made interesting, (no matter what the subject) by some speakers, others are the kiss of death to the most exciting topics by the delivery.
Authors are always good value! Never had a poor speaker yet from any.

rosecarmel Sat 15-Aug-20 20:48:11

I'm currently listening to The Outlandish Companion, read by the author herself- It's close enough to be called a lecture, funny and informative- It would help if you are an Outlander fan but even if you are not I think one would still find it interesting-

We will all have to make the best of what we have available until ..

NanKate Sat 15-Aug-20 22:22:59

I used to be a speaker for the WI and other clubs. I miss it since I retired to help with the grandchildren.

I didn’t particularly like speaking at men’s clubs as occasionally they used to try and catch me out. Fortunately I got practised at dealing with the troublesome ones. At one business club a chap arrived just before I started and whispered in my ear ‘I hope you are worth it’ 😳. Fortunately it went down well so he got his comeuppance.

Another club tried to book me and the chap said ‘We don’t pay a fee but you will get a free lunch’ what a bloomin’ cheek. I declined his offer and he phoned me again with the same offer to which I gave him the same answer.

Callistemon Sat 15-Aug-20 22:39:42

I've never joined the WI but used to belong to the National Housewives' Register years ago (outdated name even then, now the National Women' Register) but I joined the TWG about 30 years ago.
Our group has a waiting list, is very lively and most of the speakers are excellent. Subscriptions are considerably less than WI but we do have to pay £2 per meeting for a cuppa and biscuit and that includes a raffle.

Callistemon Sat 15-Aug-20 22:41:49

I wish you were nearer, Jane10!

Teacheranne Sun 16-Aug-20 00:53:38

I am President of a very lively, young WI, it only started six years ago and has over 90 active members.

In my opinion, Denman College was an expensive white elephant and very behind the times. It almost closed a couple of years ago so there was a big campaign for donations from members. But the lockdown restrictions have depleted all the funds. The photos of the rooms I have seen show dated decor, full of hand made dust gatherers and most with single beds! Sorry, but if I'm paying close to £500 for a two night break, I expect a bit more luxury! Maybe a nicer description is homely! The college might suit members living in the south but it's rather a long way for many people to travel.

However, I would be lost without my WI, even now we hold several Zoom meetings a month and are having little outdoor meetups in parks etc. Our speakers are definitely not boring or at least I hope not! Last year we learnt how to Bollywood dance, met a Muslim woman who went on the first all woman expedition to the Antarctic, been taught how to sketch, how to design a garden, how to avoid being scammed and many more. This month we have a Zoom session with a young percussionist who is going to get us playing music with wooden spoons! And there should not be a compulsory charge for refreshments at any WI meeting, you do not have to spend anything above your annual subs if you don't want to. We ask for donations for refreshments which goes to our charity of the year and have no problem if members don't pay - they donate the cakes anyway! Oh, and we meet in a local social club so the most popular drink is Prosecco, not tea!

Can you tell I'm passionate about my WI?

heath480 Sun 16-Aug-20 01:57:54

I am a WI member,would never have gone to Denman,way to expensive.

Chardy Sun 16-Aug-20 04:33:17

I went on a Denman course last year. Parts were very good, but the organisation/communication left a lot to be desired.

grandMattie Sun 16-Aug-20 06:12:08

I’ve been to Denman several times and enjoyed all my courses bar two. Yes, it was very expensive + train fares and 5 hour journey, but it was a nice way to get away. I’m fortunate to be able to afford it. Yes the rooms were horribly dated, the food quality had gone down. It was a white elephant but I shall miss it.

lemongrove Sun 16-Aug-20 06:51:11

I thought the rooms went perfectly with an old country house, ( that was the aim) not trying to be an updated hotel,
However I agree the courses were expensive.Most people that I talked to found the whole experience really enjoyable.
Ideally, there should have been three ‘Denmans’ one exactly where it is now, one in the North and one in the West Country.Many older people were put off by the distance.
I wonder what will happen with WI’s now, I can’t see that most of next year is viable for meetings.☹️

lemongrove Sun 16-Aug-20 06:54:53

Jane10 my WI would def book you if you weren’t in Scotland ( a long drive for you!)😆
Callistemon the NHR kept me sane when I had several young children.....the one evening to keep my brain alive.🤣

Jane10 Sun 16-Aug-20 13:01:52

Thanks lemongrove. My 'roadie' ie DH drives me around but I don't think he'd be keen on such a long road trip. My talk topics are related to pretty 'Scottish' topics so I doubt they'd be of interest south of the border.
Re speakers I always think it's important to have a laugh and to involve the audience. The WI ladies nearly always have interesting stories to share on the old 'disappeared department stores' or the old 'Hydropathics' that I talk about.
Some WIs have produced books about their local areas and share their local social history. I think capturing their knowledge in this way is important for their local communities.