Welcome to the Arts and Leisure News Page – find out about all our latest news below. And all our events can be found here: Events Diary.


We are pleased to announce an exciting new photographic competition for 2022.  Inspired by our members’ talent and love of photography, we are inviting you to send in your photos taken in Essex showing well known and/or typical Essex features, activities or events.

The winning photo will be used on the cover of the next edition of the Panel of Speakers book and runners up will feature on the front cover of Essex WI News.

Photos must be taken during 2022 in Essex.  Maximum of three entries per member.  Please send your photos to admin@essexwi.org.uk in jpeg format, in as high a resolution as possible.  Please include your name, WI and contact details, along with where and when the photo was taken.

By entering the competition you agree that your photograph(s) can be published in FEWIs publications, website and social media pages.

The deadline for sending in entries is 5pm on 31st January 2023.

FEWI Presents Manners Please Dearest with David Allen – event report

In February 2022 A&L presented David Allen.  His Zoom talk was interactive and a lot of fun, despite the wind causing difficulties with the sound.  We had been asked to have available a fan, a cup and saucer, a teaspoon, and a lightweight book. David checked we had all these, and the talk commenced.

We were introduced to the owner of a young ladies finishing school who introduced himself as Mr Bottomley Smythe and reminded us that his school would teach us the very up to date manners for 1859.  Our course would be divided into seven parts, and we would be trained in these.

  1. The Art of Deportment. We were told to stand straight with our arms at our sides, a book on our heads and then to walk a few steps and then sit down with the book still in its place.
  2. Preparation for courtship. How to use the language of the fan to indicate interest or not.
  3. We were encouraged to look for a suitor who had certain qualities as suggested by the group – appearance, family, property, servants and wealth!
  4. How to indicate our interest or not in a suitor. Always to have a chaperone and no touching not even fingers. How to curtsey remembering how wide our skirts were.
  5. How to pay a morning call. First, we would present our card to indicate our wish to make a call. If the lady accepted us, she would indicate we could call by giving us hers. Morning calls often took place in the early afternoon sometimes as late as 3pm. We were shown the correct way to hold the cup and saucer.  No raised pinkie finger!
  6. We would now attend a dinner with our chosen beau where we had to sit between two other gentlemen and show we knew which cutlery to use and how to make small talk – usually about the weather.
  7. The training was now complete, and we were declared to be finished young ladies.

The talk ended and as there were no questions at this point, these having been covered throughout, Gill thanked David for a very enjoyable evening and the meeting closed.

FEWI Presents A Village Headmaster with Dr John Ridley – event report

As a “convert” to WI Wanderers I always look at the titles of talks and events to find an interesting subject.  Dr Ridley did not disappoint.  After College and Teaching Practice John found his place in small village schools, preferring to teach younger children at primary rather than secondary school.  He became Headmaster.

His recollections, enabling children to learn about life whilst they enjoyed school took us back to our own schooldays. It was obvious from the way John spoke that he had his children at heart, encouraging them to learn with understanding, kindness and compassion.

A BBC team visited the school filming the children working on an art project involving going to the village, making sketches, preparing designs, modelling in clay then painting and varnishing for display.

John described taking pupils away for holidays, showing them the night sky, getting them to lie down and look at the stars. A friend played the ghost of a local legend, parading along the lane playing his bagpipes in the dark! 

John was using his talk to support the funding of the charity, Action for Children.

Marion Keates
Hawking Evening WI
East Kent Federation

Burnham Literary Lunch declared a roaring success

In August 2021 some of our Wild at Heart Virtual WI members went along to Essex Federation’s Literary Lunch at Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch. The speaker, Ruth Dugdall, a domestic noir writer, gave a fascinating insight into her research, writing process and the genre.  She spoke about drawing on her experience as a parole officer and her interest in secrets and lies among family and friends, as inspiration for her writing. The lunch was delicious and the whole afternoon was enhanced by the beautiful view over the River Crouch. Thank you to the author Ruth Dugdall and Essex Federation for a lovely afternoon of literature and lunch – the perfect combination!

Andrea Neale
Wild at Heart WI


Did you come to our Clacton literary lunch?

The sun shone, the food was good, the company exceptional and poet, Roz Hall kept us entertained.  It was such a pleasure to see friends from local WI’s; to catch up on the past 18 months and to look forward to the future.  The ladies from the east of the county were thrilled that Jan Curtis our County Chair was able to attend the event.  My thanks to Clacton on Sea Golf Club for hosting the event and to the members of St Osyth WI who ran the raffle and the shop.

Steph Smith
St Osyth WI


We Rambled through the Solar System with Martin Lunn

We went for a ramble through the universe on a virtual tour. It was an informative tour working outwards from the sun, stopping at each planet for a brief description of its size and characteristics. If ever you thought we were important, this was the talk for you. Earth is quite insignificant in the great scheme of things and consequently humans too. It was a well-constructed talk, and the speaker wore a waistcoat made of solar system fabric. Very appropriate.

Judi Marie
Orchard Springs WI

Review of Fancy a Boogie – Liz Scholey

Liz got us all moving about our kitchens and lounges at home. It was a mix of Zumba and line dance and the music took us around the world from Ecuador and the Caribbean to East Anglia with dances to tracks from Shakira and Ed Sheeran.  She had organised the routines so they were able to be danced in a small space. The class had us all glowing, was great fun, and left us feeling uplifted.

Kate Clarke
Orchard Springs WI

Review of A Buzz in the Garden – Richard Rickitt

Anyone who did not attend this fascinating and informative Zoom presentation missed an excellent talk full of advice on how to encourage bees into the garden. After an introduction to many of the bees that we may see in our gardens we were then told of ways to encourage them to stay as well as ways we could both be helping them and also poisoning them.

Richard also spoke about honey- bees and how some countries have to import swarms to pollinate their crops at certain times of the year because their own bee populations have been decimated by pollution and disease.

Are you aware that honey sourced in some countries contains a poison that will kill bees if they come in contact with it?

Do you know which plants to grow throughout the year to provide for the bees in your garden?

Did you now that they prefer blue and purple flowers?

These facts and many others were provided by Richard in his talk. If you get the chance to hers him then go for it. I have heard his talk twice now and have leant new things both times. Become like me a bee-bore!

Gill Sewell

Shakespeare – The Real Deal with Simon Bridge – A Review

Theatre in the Age of the Bard

To celebrate National Shakespeare’s Day on the 23rd April I joined Simon Bridge with others for a virtual walking tour of some of the key places in London to explore what life was like for Shakespeare, his actors and his audience.

Starting at The Globe, the significance of the Bankside area was highlighted as one of the main centres of entertainment in Shakespeare’s time. Extracting just a few points from the tour I learned of the necessity of patronages that were needed to enable companies to be formed for actors, gained an understanding of James Burbage and his business model that resulted in the first successful theatre to be established in England, known as The Theatre and could see where The Rose theatre had stood. On return to The Globe Simon described how the design enabled interaction between the actors and the audience.

On route  Simon quoted extracts from Shakespeare’s works and he told the story of how Shakespeare saved his life, or as he says (‘well …almost’).  All I’m saying is that a fig tree was involved, but I say no more as that tale is ready for you at hopefully one of Simon’s future talks.

As we had a chance during the evening of speaking as they would have spoken in Shakespeare’s time, I thought I would also have a go in my vote of thanks and said, ‘tis with most wondrous pleasure yond i sayeth, thanketh thee, on behalf of thy audience this evening’.  For Simon had invited us into the world of Shakespeare, taking us on a journey with relevancies to today. We appreciated the knowledge he shared, the interactiveness along the way and the encouragement for us to use our imagination – making it a really interesting and enjoyable evening. Thanketh thee Simon.

By Kerry Franklin, Brightlingsea WI

Delights & Possibilities of RHS Hyde Hall with Rob Brett – A Review

We were recently joined on Zoom by Robert Brett our Guest Speaker who is the RHS Hyde Hall Curator. What a Inspiring Talk we all heard . As you can see from the photo we were mesmerised by all the beautiful plants and amazing areas at Hyde Hall of which Robert showed us pictures . From the Rose Garden and Rope Rose Walk to the Dry Garden and lots more in between. . Fascinatingly , the specialist Lawn Grounds man “Chris and Nigel “only put out the sign inviting visitors to “Take of there Socks and Shoes “ When the superbly manicured Lawns meet there exacting standards .

There were pictures of Daffodils and Crocuses showing the Spring flowers are starting to wake from the winter . I personally am really looking forward to visiting in the near future to see all the changes that have happened over the last few years and in particular during the Covid shutdown . So ladies I hope to see you there soon……

Report by Lesley Evans, 


Fabulous London Walk

A report from Jill Ludlow, Roydon Village WI on our latest (and very over-subscribed!) London Walk.

When you think of the City of London, you probably mostly think of tall buildings, and glass and concrete. You’ll probably not think there are green spaces outside the great squares, most of which seem, at the moment, to be out of bounds due to Cross Rail construction. However, there are many small gardens and green areas, some associated with City Guilds, and others with churches.

After a warm and sunny week, Mothering Sunday dawned dull and chilly, as well as being the day the clocks moved forward an hour, and 30 members of Essex Federation WIs met at Liverpool Street to meet with Jill, who was to lead the walk. Travelling by tube to St Paul’s, our first garden was a few minutes away, at the church of St Anne and St Agnes, in Gresham Street; a church rebuilt after 1666, then bombed and rebuilt again after the War, and subsequently “improved” in the 1970s. This was a fairly informal garden, with some spring blossoming trees, but sadly littered by overnight residents. The pattern of being destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt in the late seventeenth century under Sir Christopher Wren’s plans, then being destroyed during the Blitz is very common.

Further along Gresham Street, found us in the Goldsmith’s Garden, a more formal garden, owned by one of the oldest City Guilds, whose headquarters are nearly opposite. With its gold decorations, it was very popular with the group and we spent a long time wandering around it.
Fabulous London WalkIMG_1948
Visiting other small gardens en route, we found ourselves on London Wall at St Alphage, where this statue of the Minotaur is. It was previously in another park, near King Edward Street, and has been moved for unknown reasons. The nearby gardens showed the promise of spring, although sadly the weather continued to get colder.
London Wall at St Alphage20190331_114247
And it was for that reason that we swiftly walked to The Barbican, where the theatre has a Palm Court restaurant, looking like an area of rainforest with tables dropped in. As it was Mothering Sunday, the restaurant was heaving with people eating afternoon tea – at lunchtime!
The Barbican London
From there we went to my favourite garden in the City, Postman’s Park, which I walked through most of my working days for three years back in the 1980s. Postman’s Park features a wall of tiles commemorating, mainly ordinary, people, some of them children, who committed acts of heroism losing their lives in the process. Mainly these are pre World War I, and I find the wall immensely moving. The Minotaur at St Alphage had previously been in this park. The tile wall, known as The Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, was the brainchild of the Victorian artist, GF Watts. The gardens themselves included a feature garden of yellow and white primulas.  The adjacent church is also worth a visit.  
We finished our walk at some gardens that were hidden when I used to walk to work along this route. Established in the bombed out ruins of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church Greyfriars, strictly speaking it is on the corner of King Edward Street, but it’s given the address of Newgate Street. The garden has kept the plan of the church, with the planting in the pew area, and the aisle still obvious, as well as two walls and a tower.  
The City of London has many of these hidden gems and thank you to Gill who lead us so ably around, in spite of Transport for London’s best efforts in closing roads while building Cross Rail. It’s such a small area and so easily accessible from major stations, it’s worth trying it yourself (www.londongardenstrust.org).
With many thanks to Jill Ludlow, Roydon Village WI




Shakespeare Workshop A Success

The Arts & Leisure Committee held a Shakespeare Workshop today at the FEWI Centre. Actor Simon Bridge was such an inspiring tutor as he explored Shakespeare’s language and got all of all the audience participating; our members became working actors in Hamlet and MacBeth and Julius Caesar. There were also many funny moments with members not coming in with their words at the right time, and even a ghost coming through the door on cue! Everyone enjoyed the workshop so much that they have asked for him to come back again. At lunch a delicious butternut and chicken soup was served, which was followed by a selection of lovely home made cakes.

Walking in the Shadows of the Suffragettes

Sunday 25th March saw 30 members of Essex Federation take to the streets of London walking 15,400 steps each! Here’s all the details jointly from Sue MacEwen and Lesley Beckett (The Brentwood Belles WI)…

A hundred years on from the Suffragette marches, representatives of various Essex WI’s assembled at Liverpool Street Station. The ladies wore various tokens in remembrance of the Suffragettes, from small white, green and mauve ribbons to splendid hats and sashes. So off they went, 31 ladies, with maps in hand, made their way to Holborn, via the Central line. he first place of interest was St George’s Church Bloomsbury Way, where 5,000 suffragettes defied a ban and followed Emily Davison’s hearse to Kings Cross on 14 June 1913. Our group was unable to go inside as a service was taking place, but photos was taken outside. Moving on past Covent Garden, and pausing outside the Gardenia Restaurant in Catherine Street, Sue explained this was where Christabel Pankhurst plotted, with the other WSPU militants, a demonstration in Whitehall, while detectives gathered outside to arrest them. Our next stop was the National Gallery, where some dashed off to use the services, others made their way to the café and all ended up at Room 30 to see Rokeby’s Venus, which was attacked by Mary Richardson with a meat cleaver in 1914, provoked by the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst the day before. You can still see some of the damage today. Walking down Whitehall, passing the Household Cavalry museum on the left and a half Marathon on the right, it became harder to keep together, but not much could stop the WI women and they all made it through to Parliament Square. There was even a glimpse of Downing Street where two Suffragettes try to post themselves to the Prime Minister! We heard plenty of snippets about Suffragette deeds like setting off a bomb hidden in a hand bag in one of Westminster Abbey’s chapels. For  Suffragettes, handbags were a tool for extreme patriarchy. On this occasion, one unnamed Suffragette had successfully set of a bomb in Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, close to the Coronation Chair, after ditching her bag in a pew and fleeing. Within the recovered bag was a feather boa and a guide book. Walking past the Cellarium Café was hard; the walk was thirsty work, and this famous café (where Emily Pankhurst sought refuge) had been turned in to a pub – it looked so very inviting! The, nearing the end of the walk, was the most important Suffragette building on the route – Caxton Hall. From the outside little had changed from the days of being used by the WSPU’s women’s parliament, but the building is now luxury flats. In 1907, it was the site of the WSPU’s women’s parliament.,which took place at the beginning of every parliamentary session from 1907. In that year, the day after votes for women were omitted from the Kings speech, Emmeline Pankhurst cried “Rise up Women ” to 400 suffragettes who answered “Now!”. Close by still stands Howick Place Post Office, where in 1912 it’s windows were smashed with stones by two protesting ladies. The Suffragette Memorial Garden was also nearby with a bronze sculpture commemorating the importance to the movement of Caxton Hall. The WI ladies’ 6 mile (or 15,400steps!) walk attracted lots of public interest on the way – for example from a man who shouted ‘women are gonna rule the world! – as he pushed his daughter in her buggy along Caxton Street. This was such an enjoyable walk and above the noise of the traffic it was interesting listening in to the chatter of ladies from the different Essex WI groups along the way. A huge thanks must go to Gill who ably led the walk around London in this, the Suffragette anniversary year.