The Very First Sotonettes Meeting!

On Tuesday 28th of February, the three founding members of the Sotonettes – Emma, Marli and Cat – gathered in the upstairs bar of The Slug and Lettuce in Southampton city centre, and waited to see if any other ladies shared their interest in forming a new, modern Women’s Institute. They had no idea how many people would come, but the 90+ ladies who showed up to find out what the Sotonettes were all about, definitely surpassed all their expectations!

The evening was a pretty informal affair, for interested ladies to come along, find out more about WI, what the Sotonettes were all about and get to meet some new people!

There was a group of Official WI Advisor’s – long standing WI members who know all about starting up new groups – on hand to answer questions about the WI, how to join and what WI’s do. Emma , Somali and Cat also made their way through the crowds, chatting with as many people as they could as well as making a few short speeches about themselves and their vision for the Sotonettes.

The main activity of the night was Social Bingo! If you’re not familiar with it – Social Bingo is a great ice breaking activity, encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and meet new people. We were all given ‘bingo card’ with nine boxes, each containing a different description, with the aim being to find people meeting those descriptions. A room filled with more than 90 ladies each trying to complete their own social bingo card is a seriously chaotic place, but also amazingly good fun! Some boxes weren’t too difficult – Find someone who can knit or Find someone who was born in Hampshire. Some were a bit trickier – Find a member of the committee (there were only 3 of them and they were all running around making sure the night went well) or Find someone who has done a skydive. And some were down right intimate (and cause for many giggles) – Find someone with a tattoo or Find someone wearing party knickers! Once the time was up, names were drawn from a hat, with prizes for the first lady to match one line, two lines and then a full house. Everyone got really involved and it seemed like everyone had a great time with it.

There was also a great raffle, with a huge range of prizes donated by local  businesses, inlcuding; vouchers for Hepwright’s Vintage, Asgard Tattoo and Body Piercing, October Books and Mango Thai, veg boxes from Riverford Organics, and a gift box from Lush amongst many other things!

The whole event was great fun and a huge success – more than 30 ladies signed up to become full members of Sotonettes there and then, more than enough for the group to be declared an official new WI!

See the slideshow below or the events pictures in the sidebar for pictures from the night.

Thank you so much to everyone who came along on the night and to all of you who signed up.



How The Sotonettes Began

I started the Sotonettes, along with two friends – Cat and Somali – because I was interested in joining the Women’s Institute but couldn’t find one in Southampton that really fitted with what I was looking for.

I was drawn to the WI for a number of reasons, mostly, the crafting, the campaigning and the sense of community. There seemed to be so much possibility in the WI, with a great variety of different groups across the country, making their WI what they wanted it to be. I found the stories of The Shoreditch Sisters WI in London and Buns and Roses WI in Leeds, two modern WIs founded by young women, inspiring – so I decided to find out about founding my own WI, and recruiting my friends to help out!

With Cat and Somali on board, we chose a name and set a date for the first meeting of the Sotonettes – in only 6 weeks time!

In the time between the idea and the first meeting we did some research and visited some other less traditional WI’s.

We headed up to London to attend a meeting of the Shoreditch Sisters, where we got involved in some social bingo (an idea we borrowed for our first meeting) and chatted with them about starting out .

Cat and Somali also paid a visit to the Disparate Housewives, another ‘non-traditional’ WI based in Twyford, Hampshire (you might have seen them making silk roses on Kirstie’s Handmade Britain!). The girls joined in with some Tai Chi and also picked up some hints and tips from the ladies.

We also met up with Lynne Andrews the chairman of the Hampshire County Federation of Women’s Institutes, to talk over our ideas, as well as what running our own WI would actually involve. Everyone was really helpful, I must have emailed the WI ladies on a daily basis in the weeks before our first meeting, checking ideas, possibilities and what we could and couldn’t do.

When we weren’t running around meting other WI ladies, the three of us also met up on a weekly basis for planning. We sent out dozens of emails – requests for help and favours from friends, to get a logo, website, posters and badges together for the first meeting. Our following on Facebook was pretty good, we had a basic website up and running and had posters put up around town. The time flew by and before we knew it there was only a week left before we were due to turn up at The Slug and Lettuce in Southampton City Centre, and hope some other interested ladies would join us!

A few days before the meeting, the three of us gathered in Somali’s kitchen to exploit Cat’s baking skills to bake like we had never baked before, turning out so many cakes and cookies.

When the day finally came, I was terrified! We turned up at The Slug and Lettuce with granny trolleys in tow, much to the amusement of the manager. We set up and waited. We needed 20 people to show up and sign up in order to become an official WI group.

In total, 90 of you turned up to pack out the upstairs bar and find out what we were all about and 35 ladies signed up there and then, making us an official WI! I was absolutely flabbergasted, I still am.

Thank you so much for your support.


Sotonettes WI President

Welcome to Sotonettes WI Blog!

Welcome to the official blog for Sotonettes WI!

We’re just getting things set up over here, in the mean time check out these links to find out more:

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Our next meeting:

If you have any questions, either fill out the comment box on the website or send an email to


Hope to see you at our next meeting on Tuesday 27th March.