Friday, 20 May 2016

Annual Meeting

2016 Annual Meeting
Resolutions, tea-duelling and bras

May is our most formal meeting of the year as it is our Annual Meeting. It gives us a chance to look back over the previous year, look ahead to the next year and debate the year's resolutions ahead of the National meeting in June. There was a lot to talk about.

Emma G announced that Helen Ramsey had been appointed as our independent examiner for the coming year.

Treasurer Dawn introduced the accounts and we discussed how money we raised was spent. Adoption of the accounts was proposed by Dawn and seconded by Jenny.

As group secretary, Emma G read a report summarising the previous year. Herts Belles has been extremely busy! Our meetings included life drawing, ghost walks, crafts, power hooping, stuntmen and giant knitting to name a few. We also took part in last year's centenary celebrations, Sustainable St Albans week, Bake Offs and our Jungle Canopy caravan renovation. 3 of our members had babies and we have our highest membership with 47 members signing up this year so far and lots more visitors. Emma G gave a presentation about all the things we had been up to at the HFWI Spring Council Meeting. Herts Belles seems to be going from strength to strength. The annual report was proposed by Emma G and seconded by Penny.

President Emma C thanked all the committee for their hard work over the last year. As well as the monthly meetings, committee members meet for additional meetings, plan online, attend county and group planning meetings and manage our social media accounts. With jobs and families this certainly keeps us all busy! Members are always welcome to join the committee. And don't worry if you can't commit to being a full time member - volunteers are always welcome to take on smaller projects or organise one off events!

Emma C was re-elected as president for the next year.

There were two resolutions to be debated this year:

Avoid food waste, address food poverty
"The WI calls on all supermarkets to sin up to a voluntary agreement to avoid food waste, thereby passing surplus food on to charities thus helping to address the issue of increasing food poverty in the UK"

Appropriate care in hospitals for people with dementia
"We call upon HM Government and the NHS to provide facilities to enable carers to stay with people with Alzheimer's disease and dementia that have been admitted into hospital."

After much discussion and looking at the for and against arguments for each resolution, Herts Belles voted against both resolutions, giving Emma C discretion to change the vote for Avoid food waste at the National meeting in June.

After the formal part of the evening was over, social time was had and a tea-duelling contest held. Competitors had to dunk biscuits and see who could go the longest before successfully eating the biscuit or ending up with soggy crumbs on their faces. The victor would win the coveted golden teapot prize (kindly created by Bec). 

The Golden Teapot
Several highly competitive rounds were played before Jenny was crowned winner! Congratulations Jenny! Everyone else vowed to continue eating biscuits in preparation for next year!

The 2016 Champion - Jenny

Smalls for All

May's meeting also saw Herts Belles set up a Smalls for All collection point. Smalls for All collect and send bras and underwear to communities in Africa where this is not only a health and hygiene issue, but can protect women who are vulnerable to sexual assault. Having pants also means young women do not have to miss school when they are menstruating.

A bra mountain of 360 new and used bras and 134 pairs of new pants was collected on the evening and with more donations arriving the total is now already over 400!

Bra bunting!

Our special thanks to everyone who donated underwear, to Akers Services who kindly donated packing boxes and to Paul Knight from Mayflower Stores who is generously paying to ship our donations to Smalls for All HQ in Scotland.

Bra-vo ladies!

If you would like more info about Smalls for All or have more donations check out their website

A very busy meeting! See you all next month!
Best wishes
Emma C xxx

Giant knitting

Giant Knitting and Lots of Nattering

April saw us celebrating Her Majesty The Queen's 90th birthday with cake and so extraordinary knitting.

Knitting enthusiast, Barbra, came down bringing with her an array of interesting knitting projects with needles of all sizes and a variety of different materials. From broom handle needles to Olympic flags and carrier bags, the creativity on display was a sight to behold.

With lots of members already keen knitters it was long before the hall was full of ladies knitting and nattering. Whether continuing with existing projects or trying their hand at some of the more unusual needles everyone was busy having a go. 

Barbra introduced an array of fantastic and creative knitting projects and materials

What a creative group of women! With so many experts, even beginners had a go and many went off excited about their own giant knitted creations.

Caravan Capers with Harvey's Gift

Caravan Capers

This Spring has seen Herts Belles get involved in one of our most exciting charity projects.
Work with the charity, Jungle Canopy, we set about renovating an unloved caravan and turning it into a home for a refugee family living in the Calais Jungle.

The caravan, named Harvey's Gift, took up residence in Vice-President Bec's driveway while we set to work. Unnecessary and unusable fixtures  such as the fridge and cooker were removed to create extra storage space and the toilet even became a toddler bedroom.

Harvey's Gift arrives
With the help of volunteers from Herts Belles, family and friends (even Jack the dog), local businesses and donations from local people and Freecycle, the caravan was decorated inside and out. Everything was refreshed, fixed and cleaned. The aim being to make the caravan as warm and dry as possible.

Before and after

Once the inside was completed with  new worktops, carpet and a seating area that could become beds we set about making the outside just as nice. And what does a caravan really need - yes, you've guessed it! Polka dots and bunting!

Belles get arty
The outside was finished off with Herts Belles and Jungle Canopy logos and the names of everyone who had made donations or contributed their time to the project. 

The finished caravan
After several weeks of hard work it was a very different caravan that set off on its journey across the English Channel to be come home for a refugee family and their children. Brimming with donations of bedding, clothes, and the precious commodity in the Jungle - baby wipes, our donations, no matter how small they seemed, will make a real and immediate difference to people living in appalling conditions.

Boarding the ferry
Arriving in Calais Jungle
Everyone involved was incredibly proud and news of the project featured in the local newspaper, the Hertfordshire WI newsletter and even in WI Life magazine.

May's WI Life magazine

Well done everybody!

if you would like find out more about Jungle Canopy and the work they are doing, or would like to get involved have a look at their website 

March Movie Madness

March Movie Madness

A change of pace for Herts Belles this month as we invited film stuntman Roy Scammell to talk to us about his experiences in film and television.

Roy began his career as a professional ice skater and ice hockey player before his talents were recognised and he trained to be a stuntman.

Roy recalled his work in James Bond films, Indiana Jones, Alien and Mini driving around in The Italian Job with clips from the films.

He had us star-struck with tales about Peter Sellers, Frank Sinatra and working with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange, working on Doctor Who and being the Milk Tray man.

With lots of cake and a DVD swap, a very entertaining evening was had by all.

An oh sew lovely February

An oh sew lovely February

Needles at the ready, the Belles welcomed fellow WI-er Jane Cobley from Sandridge WI for an evening of chicken scratch embroidery.

Jane us a brief introduction and showed some beautiful examples before we got started. Chicken scratch embroidery, also known as Amish embroidery or depression lace, is a style of cross stitch usually sewn onto gingham. Chicken scratch is a technique that is believed to originate in the United States, becoming largely popular between the 1930's-1950's - hence the term 'depression lace'. It was used as a way of creating more expensive, lace-like appearance to cheaper gingham fabric that was more readily available to women during this period. It is characterised by three main types of hand-embroidery stitches: running stitches, cross-stitch and double cross-stitch. 

Beautiful examples
What we were aiming for

Despite the complicated looking pattern, it wasn't long before everyone was stitching away. The simple, but effective, design meant that even beginners could produce something very lovely in the space of an evening. Lots of members were inspired to go home and complete their designs and continue sewing after the meeting.

With breaks for cake and a craft themed lucky dip it was a very busy evening.

A few treats to keep us going 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Twisting the night away

January's meeting started the year with bang!

After an introduction by the committee and welcome to all the new faces, a packed meeting hall welcomed Ad'ka and her hoops to introduce us to the exciting world of power hooping.

Exercising with a twist, the Belles were soon twisting, wiggling and in many cases laughing their way through the taster sessions.

For those unable, or unwilling (!), to take part crafting corner was in full swing with members working on their own projects and designing ideas for our Jungle Canopy caravan to send to Calais. 

With lots of new members and visitors there was a lot of chatting and debating over the 2016 resolutions. Lots of tea and lots of cake was eaten and unwanted Christmas presents were raffled to raise money to put back into the WI.

A fantastic, lively start to the year!

If you enoyed the hooping and want to find out more contact Ad'ka at

See you next month for chicken scratch embroidery. Don't forget to bring your scissors!

Best wishes
Emma C