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