Friday, 28 March 2014

Belly dancing at our February meeting

After our recent excursions, we were back in the church hall on February 22nd for our first proper meeting there since October. We've missed the old place! Our special guest was the lovely Helena, an amazing belly dancer who is known as one of the best in the North of England. Helena teaches belly dance and performs extensively, both solo and with the Orientale Dance Company which she founded (to see more about Helena's work visit

Helena joined us to first give a talk on the history of her specialism, Egyptian belly dance (or to be more correct, Raqs Sharqi or 'Oriental Dance'), and then Helena performed for us (including one dance with a sword balanced on her head!) before finally leading us in a taster workshop. It was a pleasure to have Helena with us as she's a very genial and talkative guest - her love of Oriental Dance shines through - and she is a brilliant performer. Getting the chance to watch her dance was definitely something different for our group. The workshop was also lots of fun and surprisingly strenuous, but in a good way of course! After our warm-up, we delved into a box of scarves to be properly kitted out for our veil dance. Helena performed a miracle by actually managing to teach us a whole routine in quite a short space of time, although I won't say too much about how well we all executed it! Here are some pictures of the fun.

Sarah's practically gone professional after one session

After whirling round dementedly with our scarves for 20 minutes, we were definitely ready for a cup of tea and our usual gargantuan shared lunch. We thanked Helena and bade farewell, and after a short break to refuel, we were joined by our second guest, Dr Wenqing Li, who practises Chinese Herbal Medicine locally at the Good Health Centre on Street Lane. Dr Li talked through the principles behind Chinese Medicine and how it differs from Western Medicine, and as a doctor who qualified and worked at a high level in China, Dr Li was particularly concerned with the more unregulated status of Chinese Medicine in countries outside China (Dr Li studied full-time in China for 6 and a half years and then worked as a doctor in a Beijing hospital for 25 years, whereas here Chinese Medicine is treated as a complementary therapy and practitioners with much less knowledge and experience can practise it). Thank you to Dr Li for her insights into Chinese Medicine, and you can find out more about her work at

Dr Li

Next up, on 29th March, we will be making a return to our creative workshops with the fantastic Jayne showing us how to block print. An apron and tote bag will be provided for everyone, but you can also bring along anything else you'd like to print on. Can't wait!

Kicking off the year with Pilates

Kieren gets in on the selfie trend!

Hello, back again to give you the lowdown on our January meeting. We started 2014 with something a bit different for our workshop. We went off-site and met up at Leeds Pilates Place, the brilliant pilates studio co-owned and run by our very own Darling Rose, Claire Sparrow. Claire and her team made us feel very welcome, and we installed ourselves in the matwork studio for our meeting and lunch. The first of our two guest speakers was Sue Vickerman, local poet, author and life model. Sue gave us a very interesting talk on her approach to her writing and life modelling, and how the two intersect. Much of Sue's creativity is channelled through her alter ego, Suki, who is (Sue told us) a much more daring, creative and successful version of herself! Sue told us how the work of Suki has taken on a life of its own, particularly through her blog. You can find out more at

Debbie with our guest, Sue Vickerman

Our second speaker was (naturally) Claire Sparrow, and it was lovely to hear about her career history and how she came to be the pilates impressario that she is! Claire was originally a dancer (who knew?!) and only discovered pilates when recuperating from injury. Shockingly, Claire told us that she didn't even like pilates at first! The tale of her developing love of pilates (she lives and breathes it now), and how she came to set up the studio with her business partner Kath Nisbet, was fascinating. We see Claire at our meetings and, yes, we know she's a pilates instructor, but other than that we knew nothing about how she's got to where she is today. It's very enlightening and interesting to hear about the personal journey of a friend - and, of course, it's very inspiring because there aren't too many in this life who can truly say that they're on a personal path with their career and have built something themselves.

Claire Sparrow tells all!

Talk and lunch done, we were raring to go. Some of us had the chance to try the reformer machines and various other swish and advanced-looking pieces of equipment, and others took part in a matwork session. The instructors were great, and very patient with us mostly novices. So, we all had a chance to limber up and have a good stretch - which was a good feeling on a cold January afternoon. I'll leave you with some pictures, but firstly must say thank you again to Claire and her colleagues for their hospitality and expert instruction. (Check out the final pictures to see Claire and co really showing us how it's done!)

Clair K and her new fella
A new man, AND she won a Banksy calendar in the raffle!

October to December 2013 - a bit of a round-up!

Hello again. Well, it's been a little while... but just because there's been nothing new on the blog, that doesn't mean we've been idle all this time. There's a lot to report back on, so I'll start with a bit of a round-up on what we did in the last couple of months of 2013.

On October 26th, our usual monthly meeting was beefed up slightly and became our Annual Meeting - fanfare please! We presented our Annual Report and Accounts to our members, and this was a good chance to look back together and reflect on our first year. Since our inauguration in November 2012, we've had many ups and some downs (the downs being things beyond our control - meetings cancelled due to extreme weather, and personal loss that we've all shared). But on the whole it's been a busy and enjoyable year. We all gave ourselves a bit of a pat on the back actually (sorry if that sounds sickening!) because we do feel that we've hit the ground running as a WI and, most importantly, lots of lovely people have joined us and we're now a very varied and nice, sociable group - if we do say so ourselves. Anyway, enough patting ourselves on the back...

After lunch, we had our last workshop in the hall for this year - making cute felt Christmas decorations. Here are some pictures from the day.

Then in November, we were officially one year old and so, of course, instead of just having our usual meeting we had to mark the occasion with a bit of a treat and a celebration. We were let loose from the church hall, and gathered together in Harrogate for a day out at The Knitting and Stitching Show - an event already loved and visited many times by some of our members, and so "What larks!" we imagined if we could all go there together! We had a fab time - as anybody who's been to this event will know, it never disappoints. If you're into doing things with fabric or yarn, or both, it's an absolute stuffed-to-bursting treasure trove, almost too much for your eyes to take in! As there was quite a big group of us, and it does get a bit, ahem, 'competitive' around some of the stalls, we did have to split up into smaller groups to tour around it. We managed to reconvene in the beautiful Royal Hall for lunch though, and as usual drew lots of attention to ourselves by insisting on a photo call with the central knitted Nativity! When we'd walked our legs off and emptied our purses, we all headed on to Pizza Express for our 1st birthday meal. Wishing a Happy Birthday to all of us, and a big thank you to Debbie for bringing along a lovely birthday cake.

Our favourites, Luc Smiers and his lovely mum on their amazing stall, Fine French Lace from The Netherlands
This guy's quite useful too - yummy chocolate from Linden Lady