The official New Forest Show schedule is here!

Last week, three Sotonettes members ventured to the edge of the New Forest to find out the final details about the WI tent at The New Forest Show. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, see our previous blog posts here and here.

We are now able to reveal the final Schedule. A scanned copy will be available shortly but the typed version below has the same information. The parts in italics do not appear in the schedule but come from some very active discussion during the meeting and are extra information for entrants.

If you’re interested in taking part in one or more of the categories, let us know – we’ll be getting a New Forest Show group together in the next few weeks. We have a copy of “On With The Show” (OWTS) which everyone can consult… lots of vital info is in there! Please get in touch if you’d like more information or would like to take part – either send us a message on Facebook or email us at


2014 Women’s Institute Schedule, New Forest Show

Theme: Myths and Legends

1. William Tell’s Apple Jelly. See OWTS p129-132. A small jar of Apple Jelly (no larger than 225g/8oz). Recipe: Use either cooking or crab apples. Allow 1 pint of water to 1lb of fruit. Simmer fruit to a pulp (no need to peel or core the fruit). Put pulp through thick muslin or a jelly bag and hang overnight. Measure juice and allow 1 pint juice to 1 lb sugar and boil rapidly until set. No other ingredients or flavourings allowed. Must use a wax disc and screw top lid or a wax disc and a cellophane cover. No restriction on date of potting.

2. Hallowe’en. 3 cup cakes presented on a circular disposable plate – no larger than 8″ (20cm). Your design should represent this celebration. No decorating of plate/board allowed. Both decorations and cake itself will be judged. 3 different designs, no restrictions on sizes as long as all 3 fit on the plate.

3. Bacchus’ Fruit Syrup. See OWTS p135. 250ml syrup shown in a clear glass bottle with a screw top. Not wine! Preferably no trademark or logo on bottle or bottle top. Label and date of bottling required.

4. Finn McCool (Irish Giant) – Produce Co-operative. 3 small Irish Food tasters. Ready displayed in a rustic box no larger than 12″ x 9″ (30cm x 23cm). Accessories may only be used inside the box. The exhibit will be viewed from the longer side.  At least 3 members to take part. No baskets may be used – must be a box. No restriction on height. No board required – just bring box and contents already laid out within.

5. Guinevere’s Beaded Bracelet. A beaded bracelet suitably presented. Present it on a display stand, velvet card or covered circle of card. No need for the materials or design to be medieval but indications of this period are fine. No restrictions on design or type of beads used.

6. Mythical Beast – A Stuffed Toy. A toy using any craft and can be any size.  No restrictions at all here – the toy can be a replica of a ‘real’ mythical beast, e.g. Loch Ness monster, or one you have dreamt up yourself!

7. Magical Charity Quilt (for the Linus Project). Sizes requested are 20″ square (51cm) OR 30″ x 40″ (76cm x 1m approximately) OR 40″ square (1 m). Any craft, sewn or knitted but no embellishments or lacy patterns please. The quilt can be backed with fleece but does not have to be padded. Indicate on entry form if you are happy for quilt to be donated to Project Linus after the show. Fleece not mandatory but recommended. If knitting, use a close pattern and back with fleece/fabric to keep it together. Should be washable.

8. Aesop’s Fables – Craft Co-operative. Select 3 crafts from the following: Calligraphy, canvas work (this includes cross-stitch on aida), cold porcelain, hand embroidery, hand knitting, lace or macrame to portray your selected fable. The exhibit should be displayed on a board no larger than 30″ wide x 24″ deep (77 x 61cm) to be viewed from the longer side.  Only one fable can be portrayed. No height restriction for back boards or staging.

9. Iris – Goddess of Rainbows (Novice Class). A fresh flower arrangement. The display shown on a 12″ (31cm) square board. The overall width no greater than 18″ (46cm) and the height appropriate to the chosen design. Accessories can be used bu no loose items on the board. The exhibit should arrive at the Showground ready assembled and will be displayed on a tiered and neutral background (provided). The Novice Class is pen to members who have not previously won a 1st prize in the category in the WI Marquee. No need to use only irises!

10. Mythical Setting. A photograph with atmosphere (portrait or landscape style). The entry should be no larger than 7″x5″ (18x13cm) and must be mounted, framed and ready to hang. No clip frames please. The chosen frame should complement the photograph but will not be judged.

11. Mermaids & Neptune. A painting using any medium but nothing sewn or stitched.  This exhibit must be gramed and ready to hang but no clip frames. The overall width no larger than 14″ (35cm) and the height appropriate to the design. Painting can be done on glass but will not be hung with light from behind. Dimensions includes the frame.

12. The Little People – Committee Cup (Public vote). A decorated Garden Gnome or Fairy.  One entry per WI and perhaps a combined effort from a group of members. Make your gnome or fairy yourselves – nothing is provided this year! Think about maybe using recycled materials or buy a shape and then decorate. Make whatever you fancy! No size limits. Item should stand up but can be supported by a stand or on a board.

Campaigning and WI Resolutions

The monthly mailing from the WI has dropped into the Sotonettes’ email account today and one thing we’ll be discussing over the next few months are the WI campaigns and resolutions. Campaigning is a key part of what the WI is about – we’ve mentioned some recent campaigns here on our blog recently, including Love your Libraries.  

Each year all WI members get the chance to vote on a shortlist of campaigns that have been proposed by WIs all over the country; these are known as resolutions. Passed at the WI’s AGM in June, one of the resolutions may become our key campaign for the year.

WI resolutions are well established (the first being passed in 1926) and have had real impact; this is not just a bunch of women moaning about women’s issues, this is serious campaigning and lobbying. These women have made a difference.

Did you know…?

It was a 1954 WI resolution against litter that eventually led to the formation of Keep Britain Tidy.

Some WI resolutions also reflect that these women were spearheading the fight for issues that have taken a long-time to establish into law. For example, in 1943 a resolution demanded equal pay for equal work. It was almost 30 years later in 1970, after strike action by women machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant in 1968, that the Equal Pay Act was passed in the UK. You may remember this story from watching the film Made in Dagenham (2010).

Other resolutions that have been passed include:

• prohibiting smoking in public places (1964), not enforced in England until 2007 under the Health Act, 2006 –

• lobbying for the introduction of breast screening clinics (1970s); there is now a full NHS breast screening programme

• calling for improved arrangements for people wishing to become organ donor (1974)

• calling for a public campaign on HIV and AIDS (1980s)

• calling for More Midwives (2012) – still a prevalent issue in the UK press in January 2013 –

The latest resolution passed is SOS for High Streets. For this campaign, the Sotonettes have developed a local Business Directory and some people went along to Small Business Saturday events held on the 7th of December 2013.

At the beginning of 2014, we all voted on the campaign for 2013/14.  You may have seen our blogs on each campaign. The choices were:
1. Increasing organ donation
2. Campaign against female genital mutilation
3. Provision of non-acute hospital beds
4. Funding for women’s centres to cater for the specific needs of vulnerable women at risk of offending

All this research into resolutions, writing blog posts and voting got us wondering… how can we get involved in proposing a resolution, so we asked!

Have a think about what issues you feel are important to you and the rest of the society, and those you think that the WI could help by campaigning. If you think you can come up with a good case, we want to hear from you!

Our next blog post will be about how those resolutions get to our main meetings to be voted upon from individual WI members – the next one we vote on could be yours!

Book Club scores

Competition Judge Giving Surprisingly High Score
After a few months of Book Club meetings, a few people suggested that each book could be scored out of 10 to help keep a record of those books most enjoyed by the Sotonettes but to also help guide people looking for a great read.  Unfortunately a simple suggestion is never simple and everyone quickly decided that it was just too difficult to decide on a single score out of 10 for each book! After much debate and discussion, no less than 5 categories have been agreed and selected!
At the end of each meeting, the 5 categories below are discussed and something alike to bartering takes place between everyone to find an agreed score.  For the sake of everyone else, we also average out the 5 scores to give the ‘Sotonettes Rating’ – additional statistical methods have been discussed but fingers crossed we just stick with averages for now!
The past scores are:
Plot – 8/10
Portrayal of women – 7/10
Writing style – 9/10
Enjoyment – 9/10
Discussion – 9/10

Sotonettes Rating = 8.4/10

Plot – 5/10
Portrayal of women – 2/10
Writing style – 4/10
Enjoyment – 3/10
Discussion – 5/10

Sotonettes Rating = 3.8/10

Anna Karenina:
Plot – 6/10
Portrayal of women – 8/10
Writing style – 5/10
Enjoyment – 5/10
Discussion – 6/10
Sotonettes Rating = 6/10

Gone Girl:
Plot – 6.5/10
Portrayal of women – 7/10
Writing style – 4/10
Enjoyment – 6/10
Discussion – 9/10
Sotonettes Rating = 6.5/10

If you’re interested in coming along to our Book Club, find more information here.

Women in business!

The world has just finished celebrating International Women’s Day – did you do anything special to mark the date? While we’re all thinking about women and their impact on society, here’s a very inspiring blog post from Hannah Farmer, last year’s President, about her newest venture in business…

Last year I made the decision to leave a job that I’d started to hate and start my own business. While at the time it was a terrifying decision and my family still thinks I’m a bit mad, it was definitely the right decision, and I’m finally making money doing something I love. In my case, that’s messing around on the internet!

One of the things I immediately noticed when I started going out and using things like professional and networking organisations to build my customer base was how male dominated they were. It’s common to be one of only two or three women in the room and while the people I’ve met – both male and female – have been incredibly helpful and supportive, a lack of diversity in any community is a bad thing. Having talked to other women entrepreneurs in Southampton it turns out that this experience is pretty typical.

There are a range of women-only networking groups, where I’ve found the members to be hugely supportive and helpful. In my experience, they’ve been a little more socially focused and I didn’t want to restrict my customer base to only women. A group of us got together and decided there had to be a better way.

After talking to local business organisations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Solent Businesss Growth Network, we found that there was a lot of willingness to help women start and grown businesses, but these mostly male groups didn’t feel that they were the best ones to take the lead on the issue. From this, two of us started a project we call The Next Word. Although it’s very early days, we’ve had an amazingly positive response, especially from Southampton City Council, who immediately told us they wanted to support us.

Over the next few years, as part of the City Deal and other national and European funding streams, a lot of money is coming into the Southampton area focused on providing training, starting businesses and increasing employment. However, without access to the mainstream community, many women who run their own business are totally unaware of the kind of help, both financial and practical, which they’re entitled to. In fact, there’s a European funded project to build a network of French and British women entrepreneurs, B-NEW, being piloted in Hampshire right now. And yet they’ve struggled to find women to participate!

As a group, The Next Word wants to provide training, support, mentoring and networking to help women start and grow businesses. Many women we spoke to told us that having the confidence to approach large and mostly male organisations was a hurdle that they had to actively work to overcome. They also told us that much of the business training that was available was focused on skills that were perceived as traditionally male, and geared towards persuading women that they had to imitate these gendered behaviours in order to be successful in business. This was particularly the case in sales training, where we found women being told to “try and be one of the boys”.

Our first steps will be small: we’re running a one-day sales and marketing workshop (details on the flyer below), focusing on building the confidence to present yourself and your products to everyone. From there, we’ll be meeting with the council to discuss other projects and how we can make sure that any women who wants to start a business is able to.

If anyone would like more information on The Next Word, they are on Facebook, Twitter @tnw_hants and they too have a blog. If you’d like to attend the workshop later this month, tickets are available online.

Inspiring Women Working Together Conferences

This spring the National Federation of Women’s Institutes is holding a series of conferences for WI Presidents up and down the country. The Inspiring Women Working Together Conferences are a chance for representatives of every WI in England and Wales to get together, hear more about what the National Federation does, and form links with WIs we’d never normally meet.

Although I’m two weeks past my presidency, the committee was nice enough to still let me go, so on Friday I headed up to Ascot in Berkshire to see what it was all about.

As with every large WI event I’ve ever been lucky enough to go to, there’s something amazing about sitting with hundreds of other likeminded women. As many Hampshire WIs were represented, it was a chance to catch up with some people I already knew, as well as meet many others I didn’t. Personally I was also thrilled to see representatives of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire WIs there, many from of the villages around my hometown.

The main bulk of the day was made up of short talks on everything the NFWI does: these varied from those about how it manages finances, how it’s governed by charities law and how it communicates with its thousands and thousands of members to the more fun stuff like how the Craft and Cookery Committees work. And the fact that the two NFWI trustees on the Cookery Committee will be making, in their own kitchens, cake for all 5000 attendees at the 2015 AGM celebrating the WI’s 100th birthday.

If there was one thing I learned, apart from how amazingly friendly WI ladies are, it was what an amazing resource the WI Moodle is. This online learning system has been going since 2008 and is a free resource any member can have access to. It provides information about anything and everything WI related. If you want to learn how to make pastry or sew on a button, the Moodle knows. If you want to become a Federation financial advisor or trustee, the Moodle knows how you go about doing that too. Although I knew it existed, I never knew just how much was on there and I know I’ll be using it in the future.

At the end of the day there was an open forum where any attendee could ask questions or make comments. It was great to see that many of us had the same things on our minds. We all wanted to know more about the centenary celebrations next year but we also raised concerns about making sure the WI is a welcoming place for all women. Several questions were asked about increasing the diversity of women represented in WI literature, particularly to show women of all ages working together, women from minority backgrounds and positive representations of women with disabilities. Although I was terrified of speaking up in front of so many people, I managed to take my turn and ask what steps were being made to increase the numbers of female speakers at NFWI events after my experiences at the Cardiff AGM last year where all four speakers were male.

Hannah with Janice Langley, NFWI Chair

Hannah with Janice Langley, NFWI Chair

All in all it was a great day. I met some really interesting women, found out about a whole host of resources available to all WI members and even found myself chatting to several members of the NFWI Board during lunch. I even had a chance to meet NFWI President, Janice Langley, who was lovely and talked to several of us about the challenges of not just starting up new WIs, but keeping them going. It was a great reminder that the WI is more than just the Sotonettes, or even just the Hampshire Federation. And it made me even more excited about the WI’s 100th birthday next year.

Hannah (2013-14 Sotonettes President)

If this has got you inspired to attend a national WI event, why not consider going to the Spring Council Meeting later this month.  More details in our blog post here.

Posted in WI

International Women’s Day


In case you didn’t know – it doesn’t get a huge amount of media interest so you may not – it’s International Women’s Day today (Saturday 8th March).

The origins of this day lie in a group of female factory workers in New York who wanted to campaign for better conditions back in 1908. 15,000 ladies decided to go on strike and marched through the city to demand improvements. As a result, the 28th of February of the following year was recognised as the first IWD to remember this event. From then, it has grown into a globally recognised day – some countries such as China, Russia, Cambodia, Cuba, Afghanistan and Vietnam even celebrate it as a national holiday and it is the equivalent to Mother’s Day in other places – here’s hoping the UK will soon follow suit!

It is a great platform to celebrate women’s achievements and highlight certain issues such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence, the pay gap, sexual violence and other pressing concerns affecting women. The UN is a big force in the promotion of the day and their theme this year is ‘Equality for women is progress for all.’ To read more about the history of the day, and the UN’s involvement, visit the UN website.

The IWD website encourages us to ‘think globally and act locally’.  Southampton is offering a small selection of activities to recognise the day, such as a Cabaret at the Art House Cafe, a film night at the Third Age centre, a concert at City College, and the University of Southampton is extending it from a single day’s celebration to a whole week with a huge programme of events on offer. More information about everything going on in Southampton can be found on the Southampton City Council website.

Are you doing anything in your community? Please let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page or tweet us @Sotonettes.

Of course there are always dissenting voices about the day, especially those asking when the international men’s day is. However, since women are still heavily oppressed in many countries, many believe it is an important day to raise awareness and keep these issues at the forefront of the global agenda.

Even in the seemingly advanced Western world alarming issues crop up regularly in the news –  the anti-abortion legislation in places like Texas and the shocking case of a high school student who was gang-raped at a party in Steubenville, Ohio – both caused huge media interest and concern. Here in the UK, there are still cases that reinforce the case for feminism and the IWD.  These include the sustained abuse that many prolific users of Twitter have to endure – Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez, who started a campaign for the Bank of England to feature women on the banknotes; and the continued good work of the Everyday Sexism campaign which highlights the constant barrage of sexism that women still face.  Also, the recent and ongoing revelations about public figures such as Jimmy Saville show that victims of abuse, primarily women, are being let down. These cases reinforce the need for the focus of this day and show there is still much work to be done in bringing equality for all genders.

To celebrate our feminist icons, the Sotonettes will be running a profile each month on a different figure. If you have any suggestions, or would like to write one yourself to feature on this blog, please get in touch.

For more information about the day, visit the International Women’s Day website.

Also follow @womensday on Twitter for up to the minute info and use the hashtag #IWD2014.