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The WI what is your experience

(128 Posts)
Judy54 Wed 26-Aug-20 15:04:25

There were a couple of comments on another thread entitled Only the Lonely about the WI being unwelcoming. Mine was fine until I came off the committee due to my Partner's health problems and realised that their only interest in me was what I could do for them rather than what they could do for me. I continued as a member but was often unable to attend and no one made contact to see how I was let alone how my Partner was, the expectation was that I should keep them informed. All I needed was a kind word and a little tlc. During lockdown I have heard nothing except for general emails addressed to all members. Yes I have also found the cliquey groups within, all friends who have been going for years. They don't invite others to sit with them but say they are saving that chair for a friend! Sorry I thought this was a friendship group but not sure I will be returning once they re-open. What is your WI like?

NotTooOld Wed 26-Aug-20 16:13:20

I did try it once, Judy, but the speaker was so boring I nearly fell asleep. I also found it embarrassing having to sing Jerusalem as I'm not that keen on public sing-songs. If I moved house and needed to make friends I would probably try again.

Susan56 Wed 26-Aug-20 18:52:05

I tried a local WI and found it didn’t really have room for new members.Had the whole saving a chair for a friend thing going on.I gave it a couple of tries but decided it wasn’t for me.

Chewbacca Wed 26-Aug-20 18:59:03

Same as above..... saving that chair for Agnes and that one for Dorothy and that one for Sybil, just in case she turns up this week.....
Plus, I couldn't justify the £43 a year, plus £2 a week for a cup of tea and a bun (that I'd made in the first place) just to sit and play bingo or do a beetle drive. Other branches may well be better but the one in my area is dire.

toscalily Wed 26-Aug-20 19:16:20

My experience was very much the same, tried for two years hoping to make friends after moving to a new area but found like others that I was always the newbie, just about accepted but not really included except when things needed doing. Plus like Chewbacca I could not justify the expense for a rather boring evening.

Luckylegs Wed 26-Aug-20 19:24:29

I’ve tried a couple of times but had to go on my own and found both very unfriendly. I knew some of the ladies so decided to try the second one. The first time I went, I put my bag on a chair in the row of ladies whilst I had to go and buy some raffle tickets as I’d been summoned. When I came back, my bag was on a chair right at the end of the row, so it was impossible to see the screen! No explanation, it was just that they didn’t want me there.

I knew the lady who’d done it and we’d driven her to and fro and bought her drinks at social occasions for a couple of years prior to this. Master of the afterthought, I should have walked out or gone further back to a spare chair but I didn’t, just sat there fuming whilst they all chatted amongst themselves with another new lady who’d just started!

The only conclusion I can come to is they were all widows or divorced and I had a husband! It became so awkward that when we were doing an activity, I couldn’t sit at any table as they were saving the seats for people. A lot of people know each other from school or the village and don’t hesitate to emphasise that you’re the outsider!

We go on holiday a lot so I’d miss half the meetings, you had to make cakes for the break often, get raffle tickets etc etc so it wasn’t cheap but I’d really hoped to make friends. As it is, I’ve lost the friends I had before as I can’t forgive them for being so unfriendly and unwelcoming.

V3ra Wed 26-Aug-20 19:37:34

Ours is very welcoming and friendly, but quite geared towards handicrafts (on another meeting in the month) and entering local shows, not my thing.
We have had some really entertaining speakers.
There are a lot of outings and trips but they're mostly in the daytime, so not suitable as I'm still working.
We take it in turn to make the refreshments and there's no extra charge for that.
So I can't complain but I'm not quite convinced it's for me...

GillT57 Wed 26-Aug-20 19:52:48

Chewbacca it is actually against WI regs to charge for refreshments as we recently found out; the meetings must be accessible at no additional cost. £2 is quite a lot for a cup of church hall instant coffee plus a cake you made yourself! I am a bit ambivalent about my WI, it is very cliquey, but I have made a few good friends that I meet outside the meetings. I am unsure about going back after this covid19 shutdown, to be perfectly frank, I haven't missed the meetings, the sometimes tedious speakers and clearing up the hall afterwards as many of the members disappear at the end of the evening leaving it to just a few of us. I also get rather aggravated by the central committee with their intransigence; we have been told that we must have our AGM next month, this despite the fact that we have in excess of 50 members, many of whom do not even have email, let alone the willingness to zoom. Many of our members are shielding too so heaven only knows how we will do it.

rubysong Wed 26-Aug-20 19:59:26

Oh dear, what bad experiences some of you have had. I have been a member for over forty years and our WI is friendly and welcoming to new members/visitors. We do sing Jerusalem, some don't like it but we took a vote last year and a large majority were keen to continue. I don't think we have any 'saving a seat for a friend'. We are a small village and mostly people already know each other. Anyone new is made welcome. We have sent emails round during lockdown and the president has phoned people. They have also each had a gift bag with a mask, pack of tissues and bottle of hand sanitizer.

PaperMonster Wed 26-Aug-20 20:01:06

Ours is friendly and welcoming. Only a small rural group. Some great speakers on a variety of subjects. Not been in touch during lockdown, but that’s ok by me.

Septimia Wed 26-Aug-20 20:55:28

I went to the W.I. with my mum initially. She'd been taken along by another villager after my dad died. I eventually joined because there were such interesting speakers and I was a committee member for a while.

I stopped going when I had a lifestyle change and cut back on spending on things like memberships due to having a small income. I also had a lot of other commitments.

I think it helped that it's a small community, so most people know each other anyway. It makes it more friendly.

Floradora9 Wed 26-Aug-20 21:43:11

My first experience in my early 40s I went with like minded friends and the talk was all about Saga holidays and who had died . We never went back . Fast forward 20 years and a new WI . I went with three friends but am ashamed to say we did not take things seriously . We never baked for the shows or entered any competitions. The last straw was a talk on what to do with cauliflower though having to sing Christmas carols came a close second. My friend , an ex headmistress whispered that she could not believe we were doing this . There were always loads of sandwiches and cakes and you had to take your turn preparing and baking. As I could not eat any of it I objected to that . Fine for those who like it but not for me thanks .

Harris27 Wed 26-Aug-20 21:48:08

Often wondered what it would be like and glad I’ve read this now definitely not for me.

Jane10 Wed 26-Aug-20 22:29:31

As a speaker I've visited dozens of WIs. Some seem small and friendly others are more formal. People have always been very nice to me but I'm just there once and have a definite role. The age group is definitely elderly. New members seem to be pretty desperately welcomed in fact I'd be a bit put off by it!
There always seems to be an appeal for new committee members. The 'business' side of it all seems quite onerous.
Probuses and some church social groups seem to be less formal somehow.

Chewbacca Wed 26-Aug-20 22:37:56

Jane10 you're quite right, Probus is far less formal and has a younger, more active demographic. I pay just £20 per year membership and that includes the obligatory cup of coffee and biscuits and no one has the burden of baking when it's "their turn on the rota". Id recommend Probus over WI anytime; much more interesting and lively.

Callistemon Wed 26-Aug-20 23:18:47

Probus is for men only, isn't it?
It certainly is here. We have been told it is for 'retired businessmen and retired professional men'.
It all seems very formal, collar and tie and jacket to be worn.

Some of the talks sound very interesting though.

Callistemon Wed 26-Aug-20 23:21:29

Try the Townswomen's Guild if you have one near you, Judy54.
(Although they do tend to save seats)

oldgoat Wed 26-Aug-20 23:30:56

Well, I love my WI. It's only been running for a couple of years and has members from 40-something up to early 70s (me).
We don't sing Jerusalem, don't pay extra for our tea and biscuits, nobody has to bake cakes for meetings and we meet in the evening. We don't sit with the same people every time and try not to have too many talks,

We have had to use Zoom for our meetings since lockdown but luckily most of our members are computer literate.
We've had a Zoom majician and a talk about knickers and liberty bodies, quizzes, scavenger hunts and bingo . It hasn't been easy to replace the programme we had devised for this year but we've managed and the belly dancing class we had booked will take place next year instead.

We have an active book group, a craft group which meets in a café which some people attend just to eat cake (me), a dining club and trips out together to places of interest.

All WIs are different. I have made so many friends since I joined mine and our WhatsApp group has been good at keeping people in touch this year and helping to combat loneliness.

BlueSky Thu 27-Aug-20 00:21:19

How awful Luckylegs! I can quite empathise. Glad you've still got your husband, just imagine if you had been recently widowed!

heath480 Thu 27-Aug-20 00:36:48

I joined the WI in the next village years ago,went with a few friends,it was OK.Had I joined alone I would not have stayed.I remember one Christmas,several long time members left because they were not seated together at the Christmas meal!

That WI closed down,so we joined a different one,I love it,the same mix of ladies,all rather elderly like myself (72).But they are so friendly and we have a lot of fun,no saving seats or cliques like at the other one.

Before Covid we did a lot of eating out,have had a lot of emails in lockdown and told to ask if we needed anything.Miss it.

These are two neighbouring villages but totally different as regards to the WI.

Teacheranne Thu 27-Aug-20 01:33:46

I am President of a group very similar to oldgoats - over 90 members, very mixed ages from 35 to 85, don't sing Jerusalem, no charge for refreshments and, shock horror, we accept bought cakes! We meet in a venue with a cheap bar which definitely adds to the fun and we try to have a mixture of speakers and activities.

Our programme has gone to pot this year, we should have been learning the Cha Cha Cha this week but instead we are going to learn how to play the spoons with a young percussionist on Zoom. Then we have Howard Middleton from Bake Off (remember custardgate?) who has been recommended.

We have tried to keep in touch with all our members during lockdown, phoning everyone who had not joined in with the many Zoom groups to check on things, given everyone a goodie bag and had several garden or park meetings with 6 members at a time.

But I know exactly how some of you feel, I initially tried another group who I did not gel with but someone there realised i struggling to fit in and suggested a look at this group who had just started. I go to many meetings at other groups and cringe inwardly at the formality - top table for the officers with flowers and a silver gavel, formal vote of thanks, tedious speakers etc.

I have looked at other social groups locally but I felt too young for the U3A where everyone was well over 70, Probus is men only and they too are elderly, like over 80 and there is no TWG so I'm thankful that I persevered to find the right WI for me.

It had been an aging institution until a new recruitment drive a few years ago, there are now city centre groups, Goth groups, work cased groups including one in a prison, some groups enter floats at Pride parades or campaign against modern day slavery.

Can you tell I love the WI?

Chewbacca Thu 27-Aug-20 02:01:31

Callistemon the Ladies Probus I go to was an offshoot of the men's group I think. It's been going for quite a few years in our area now but I don't known if it is in other areas.

Willow500 Thu 27-Aug-20 06:09:57

I was in the WI for many years. Ours was rather unique as we didn't meet in the village hall but at one of the members houses who had made an outbuilding into a bespoke room. Some of the ladies were friends as we knew each other through our husbands earlier membership to the local Lions. I took my mum for a few years but as she became very deaf she found it hard to hear the speakers and communicate with others so she stopped going.

We did sing Jerusalem and had some great speakers and outings, there was a monthly hostess rota but it didn't matter if you just brought a packet of biscuits -most baked - (I didn't) and our annual Christmas party was wonderful as we all made one of the dishes and had a secret Santa gift then had entertainment and sang carols.

Sadly several years ago I decided to stop going - I couldn't see in the dark to drive there (it was about 5 miles away in the country) and I was beginning to feel I wasn't really part of it any more and haven't really missed it and no one contacted me in the years following. However just last week I was asked to go to a garden social evening they were having and found everyone was very friendly and I quite enjoyed it. It's all changed now of course and as we're moving from the area I won't be rejoining.

I still have mixed feelings about it - some great times but it's in the past.

grandMattie Thu 27-Aug-20 06:14:24

Odd, isn’t it? My experience has been much the same as the others.
A lady asked me to join the local institute not long after we moved here. Little did I know that I was the patsy for a coup! Joined the committee almost immediately. Became president the following year. After two years, I resigned as I was tired of the “we don’t do it like this” brigade, and the resistance to any change whatsoever.
I joined another local institute, and got the “this chair is for Janet” treatment. I left after 2 years Saying truthfully that I didn’t like driving in the dark. Only then, did they say how sad they were that I should leave.
A year later, I became a trustee at Federation level. My word, that was worse. When I had to resign due to health issues, I received a formal letter and nothing after.
During lockdown, we have received circular emails and a goodie bag. Two outdoor meetings were arranged, but since no one talks to me at normal meetings, I didn’t feel any need to join the socialising.
I LOVED Denman, but now that has closed, I’m not sure I shall carry on.
What really saddens me is that the WI is a very good organisation, but I feel it has lost its way with passive members, old, old members, and too much micro management from federation and national levels at the same time as neglect from the same area.

Sparkling Thu 27-Aug-20 07:10:18

I was a founder member of our WI, at first it was great, everyone mixed and welcomed each other, then it grew from 20 to over a hundred. Rows of seats with handbags on are saved for friends, woe to newcomers if they go to one, no welcome there. Several times I have mentioned it to the Committee, the most close knit group who have formed
their own social group. Their response was to have a friend for the first visit week to be on hand for the newby, second visit you're on your own, they rarely came back.Committees response in this lockdown, not one word. Only the Committee has details of peoples e mail addresses, so it appears the other members are of no consequence at a time when people needed contact. People make their own little groups within groups and it's like getting through armour plating to penetrate them. I had many good times with my WI, but it has changed as it's grown, everything is down to those that run organisations how they want it to be. The trouble is few people want to be on the committee, I wouldn't join ours to form a group within a group. Those who had friends, no doubt keep in touch, the rest, well will they return. I will because I had only just paid over £40!pounds for this year so they should wave next years fee as we have heard nothing for 6 months.