Tuesday, 1 August 2017

J is for July and Journaling

This month, a little update from one of our newer members, thank you Kath Newton.

We had hoped that Mark from Leeds Market would be able to attend and give a short talk, but he was unable to make it which was a shame, but we had plenty to look forward to on the day with another creative workshop to come from Jayne.

Some main points from our meeting:
  • Debbie is arranging a private tour for our group of the Katagami (Japanese stencil) exhibition at Leeds University on 4th August. It will be as late in the day as possible so that most of those interested can attend. Further details to follow.
  • This months supper club was a great success, with a big thanks to Jane for organising. Debbie made it safely home afterwards on her bike and is now looking forward to her next challenge, and rumour has it Bradley Wiggins is worried about this competition.
  • Debbie has kindly arranged an outdoor cinema in her garden for Saturday 29th July. The feature film will be Mamma Mia so a good sing-a-long is on the cards. We can join Debbie at 8pm for a great evening.
  • The Big Lunch was a fantastic event with a local councillor attending, plus good publicity via the Leeds TV stations
  • The NFWI have sent through a lot of campaign material and we need to consider which campaigns, if any, we think are worth becoming more involved in. This may not be the best time to start new activity in view of the start of the summer holidays... but there will be some planning / brainstorming of potential campaign activity over the summer - in particular, we'd like to give some thought to what we can do for the reducing loneliness campaign.
  • In the WI's centenary year, we compiled a list of 100 inspirational women, which we published on a Tumblr blog   The list is amazing and we would very much like to continue sharing our inspirational female heroines, so please email Andrea with the woman you'd like to nominate, and a piece (short or long) on why this person inspires you.
After lunch, Jayne then introduced the craft of Journaling to us. She explained the idea of creating a special book about and for the Darling Roses, and using the pages that we create individually in this workshop to start this project off. We might be looking at what has been done in the past and what we can take into the future, or focusing again on what or who has inspired us. It will be both personal and collective, with everyone taking part. Journaling uses elements of collage, illustration, painting, mixed media etc,  and Jayne talked us through the layering techniques that can be utilised with various paints, watercolour pencils and other materials. The key thing is that there are no rules and all of us quickly got into the spirit of the work. Creative juices started flowing and fabulous results were achieved, which surprised quite a few of us who had never before thought we could create this type of artwork

Footnote - the day was so successful, and enjoyable, that we have swiftly scheduled in Journaling Part 2 for September! :-) 


June - featuring catering, canals and still-life drawing

Our June meeting was held only a few days after round three of our annual residency, running the Armley Mills Wool Festival pop-up cafe. Maia reported back to us on another highly successful day - the festival had slightly lower footfall than the previous year (something beyond our control), but the hard work and organisation we put in this year seemed to pay off, delivering a very healthy profit. We enjoyed great weather on the day and the usual camaraderie that sees us through these events, plus some very positive feedback from the customers. A huge thank you to all of our members who contributed in planning and baking for this event, plus of course the dream team on the day!

Back to June, after running through the rest of our meeting agenda we welcomed Ray from the Canals and Rivers Trust, who gave us a talk on the history of the canal network in Britain. Running from the Victorian heyday to the long, slow decline and the happier picture of today, Ray brought us up to speed. Thank you very much Ray.

Then, after our usual fantastic lunch spread - with BIG plates this month, where on earth did they come from?! - we moved on to this month's workshop run by our Jayne. Still life drawing was the game (aim?) and Jayne talked us through how to choose suitable arrangements of objects, and shared a number of ways to develop our skills and improve our compositions. We had a lovely collection of flowers, foliage, vases, bottles, shells and whimsical objects to choose from, and we set about creating our little scenes with some artfully draped backdrops. And do you know what, despite the usual protestations of "I can't do it, never could" or "I haven't drawn since I was a child", a hush descended on the room and we all diligently worked away... with surprisingly good results - no, that's not a backhanded compliment! As ever, Jayne's creative guidance, patience and encouragement coaxed the best out of us. Thank you Jayne xx

Friday, 9 June 2017

January through May - a mini mega-catch-up!

What on earth is she doing? Read on, in the vain hope of finding out!

OK, DR blogging has been on a cheeky break, let's call it a sabbatical ;-)
In the interest of keeping my equilibrium (believe me, I need all the help I can get), and keeping this blog post at all readable and reasonable in length, here goes with an equally cheeky little whistle stop tour of the year so far.


With the Christmas festivities behind us, and the New Year dawning, for the 2nd (or is that 3rd?!) year in a row we got a bit more serious than usual and indulged in some (fairly) lengthy discussion of this year's shortlist of potential national campaign resolutions. Committee members took one of the options each, and offered up a short presentation of the facts and considerations for our members to ponder. We deliberated and then cast our individual votes... and our overwhelming favourite as a group was the resolution to improve maternal mental health services for women. Then, after a bit of sustenance and a gossip at the shared lunch table, we worked up a tiny bit of a sweat (essential in our stone cold church hall in the Winter!) by shimmying away in a Salsa workshop with Ana Luisa Munoz.


In February, we were joined by the brilliant campaigner and charity worker, Nik Peasgood of HALT, who spoke to us in depth about their work with survivors of domestic abuse. The subject matter was, obviously, fairly harrowing but we don't shy away from the more difficult and troubling issues as a group, and we actually had quite a profound discussion which touched not only on the abuse that some women suffer, but the wider questions about our culture, social conditioning and how abuse happens and is tolerated by some. The general theme of our talking seemed to keep coming back to women's self-esteem and the importance of assertiveness. All in all, a really edifying and valuable opportunity to share our thoughts, experiences and ideas.

Now, to completely shatter that illusion of us all seeming very serious and profound... we followed our shared lunch break with a workshop that was, ahem, a bit of a one-off, shall we say. You see, we had planned some kind of crazy 'weird science' themed workshop (replete with our committee donning lab coats and goggles), in honour of Science Week, but unfortunately the Science guru who was to lead this had to cancel at the last moment, leaving us in something of a quandary. Our President Debbie rode to the rescue, put her teacher's hat on, and devised a simple (oh so simple!) challenge, for us to work on together as teams. Many were totally bemused, to be completely frank, by the instructions to design and make a vehicle from the little packs of materials offered, but we got stuck in, and were ready to race our vehicles against each other within the hour. We were in no danger of winning any innovation awards, I can tell you, with the most beautiful of the 'cars' refusing to budge at all, my group's offering travelling some distance (but using the cheaty tactic of being blown along a length of yarn), and the others managing to move, true, but really failing on the definition of being a vehicle! It was hilarious though. You had to be there! :-)

Waiting for design genius to strike
Ready to race?!
Which one is Keyser Soze?
Weirder and weirder
Words fail me!
Gobsmacking audacity!
Excitement at the finish line


With Spring beginning to make its presence felt, we invited in the very droll ?? from the beautiful little local treasure, York Gate Garden in Adel. ? joined us to share some of the history and beauty of the Garden. He was a brilliant guest who really made us smile, and also really made us want to visit York Gate. The stories of the family who bought the house in the 1950s, and how they developed the garden, were fascinating and bittersweet. ?, Sybil and Robin ? have left a beautiful legacy in the heart of North Leeds. We urge you to visit.

Then continuing the floral theme, Lucy from Blooming Lovely (and her lovely daughter!) joined us to lead us in a workshop, using flowers, greenery and other materials to make beautiful creations, with an emphasis on upcycling and creating something new and beautiful from a bit of 'old rubbish'. Thank you to Lucy and daughter for leading us in a lovely and absorbing bit of green-fingered crafting.


April held the exciting prospect of our 'Victoria Wood Memorial Day' (Feel free to dress up / perform your favourite sketch! Or not! The shy were welcome to just laugh at the memories...) Then seeing as you were already dressed as Mrs Overall, you'd be all set for the voice coaching workshop after, led by, (I'm told) 'a voice coach to the stars'. Oooh!

I was actually swanning in Italy when this happened, so can't really add any more, but I'm sure you'll be happy with these choice photos for a flavour of the day.

The superb Mrs O :-)
Voice coaching strangeness!
What a pair of cuties :-)
Legend :-(


Bringing us, just about, bang up to date, our last meeting in May offered a gentle respite from our sometimes harsh world. Our lovely Emily kindly agreed to tell us all about 'Vesak' or 'Visakah Puja', also known as Buddha Day. Emily's talk introduced the beautiful stories and concepts associated with Buddhism, priming us for our return visit from Steve of the Leeds Mindfulness Group. Steve first visited us around a year ago, and guided us through a mini-meditation exercise as well as talking us through the foundations of mindfulness. This time we waded in in some more depth, trying several different types of mindful meditation as a group. We finished the day feeling restored, a little sleepy, and yes some of us may have drooled and snored a little :-) Thank you so much to Steve for his patience and skill in guiding us. Namaste!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Sharing a bit of comfort & joy at Christmas

 Just before we move onto our December meeting, I wanted to share these lovely photos from our 4th birthday celebration at the end of November - 4 years old and still smiling! Also, check out that simply beautiful cake, made for us by friend of the Darling Roses, Sarah at Kitsch Cakes. Gorgeous.

Moving on to December, our Christmas meeting has been a bit of a highlight for the last couple of years. Now that we're graced with our member Karen and her piano-tickling skills, the main attraction of the day is now always a good old Christmas carol sing-a-long - and will be forevermore! Don't question it, we like a ritual, and if something works, e.g. carols at the piano, wine and cheese tasting in October etc... we tend to flog it to death. This year, as an extra-special triple treat, Karen not only played piano, but deftly produced her ukelele for a few numbers, joined by another of our members and Karen's ukelele bandmate, Sue.

But before the musical finale we had work to do. It might seem harsh on our hardworking members, but we decided to share a bit of goodwill, comfort and joy around, you know... seeing as it's Christmas. Over the last couple of months we had collected a huge pile of food and toiletry donations for both the local food bank and a women's refuge, and so one team of our members in attendance set to work giftwrapping and packing the boxes of donations.

The second team task was something of a last minute addition, but a very worthy one. We'd heard about a local initiative, 'The Christmas Dinner with Lemn Sissay'. Lemn Sissay is a poet who is known, amongst many other things, for drawing on his own childhood in the care system in his work, and also for his exemplary work in helping to support and provide opportunities for young care leavers. The Christmas Dinner began as a single event in Manchester in 2013, and has since expanded to Manchester, Leeds, London, Liverpool and Oxford in 2016. It is a Christmas Dinner with a difference, a lavish event at a secret location for young care leavers aged 18-25. The events are organised by teams of volunteers who comprise a mix of professional creatives and workers in the care and social system. The creative energy of those involved, and the generous donations of local businesses and individuals ensure a really special and beautiful day for the young guests, who otherwise (sad to say, but it is true) would probably be on their own on Christmas Day.

We got in touch with the organisers and asked if there was anything creative we might be able to do to help at our December meeting, and the reply was "Yes, we need invitations!" As a lovely touch, the invitees all receive personalised invites, and case worker Becky joined us to help our production line with the task. A huge thank you goes out to everyone who helped on the day, and we hope that all at the Christmas Dinner had as much fun as we did at our sing-a-long :-) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. xx

Goodies for the food bank

Good job, gift wrapping team

Super work, card-makers

November 2016 Annual Meeting & Book Folding with Trina

November marked our 4th anniversary, time is fleeting! ("It's astounding... madness takes contr..." ah I'll stop there.) Ideally, any anniversary would of course mean a party, but the party must wait - the usual shindig at Pizza Express to take place at the end of the month, it's difficult to persuade anyone else to take us! Official business comes first, and our November meeting was the beefed up version that is an 'Annual Meeting'. Our cue to report back to our members on how the year has gone, and not just the usual vague ideas we bandy about (possibly being too honest there), oh no, using actual hard facts about things like membership and finances. The Annual Meeting is also a great opportunity for us to press pause for a moment and share our ideas and feelings as a group on how things are going, and the general feedback, we must say, has been great. We've had a busy and enjoyable year, packed with the usual activities and workshops, but notably doing a lot more for the community and charities this year (our energies seemed to be mostly taken up with celebrating the Centenary in 2015).

Our second annual stint catering at the Armley Mills Wool Festival in June was stratospheric, with visitor numbers rising from a few hundred the year before to an estimated 2000 at least. The money raised gave us a huge cash injection, and our financial picture is very healthy. We were also able to fundraise for the charities Sunshine & Smiles and Supershoes, and additionally through the year we have collected a huge amount of donations for the local food bank, a women's refuge and local Syrian refugee families. Other highlights of 2016 included a spiffing day out at the Bowes Museum, Castle Barnard in June, and our surprised delight at being presented with the Edward Shaw Cup at the West Yorkshire Federation Annual Meeting in April, for the largest increase in membership in a WI starting with less than 30 members - our swell in numbers has now taken us out of this category! Slaps on the back all round then (kidding) but, seriously, we were happy to be able to report such good news, as our first visit from the new Federation Chairman, Maureen Hancox, coincided with our Annual Meeting. No pressure... happily, the day went well, and we hope that Maureen enjoyed her welcome into the Darling Roses fold.

The serious reporting bit made way for lunch, which in turn made way for the day's activity, book folding. Our lovely member Trina had volunteered to lead the workshop, after she'd discovered a new passion for this craft over the last year or so. Book folding is the art of producing beautiful, decorative 3D objects by folding the pages of a book in a set pattern. We saw angels, Christmas trees, houses, animals, words and names... and I'm sure there's an endless variety of designs available if you were to delve deep into the world of book folding. The art requires precision, but is actually supremely simple once you've mastered the basics, and gives wonderful results as you can see from the pictures below! Trina was a brilliant tutor, thank you Trina for giving your time and effort and introducing us to a fabulous new craft <3 xx

Face of an angel

The growing pile of donations for the women's refuge

Our Federation Chairman (and our official WI 'friend') Maureen Hancox joined us for our 4th Annual Meeting