Saturday morning saw some planting taking place to beautify Forest Gate.
The Queen held one of her garden parties in honour of the WI centenary this July, she only throws 6 such parties a year so it felt really exciting. 8000 women were invited and each group was asked to hold a ballot to pick members . Our group held this in March and Laura Glendinning’s name was pulled out of the hat. All the other members names who wanted to go were sent to the Essex Federation. I think because we are a big group 4 further members were chosen at random.
June 2nd was the garden party day, the group, Laura, Christine Vinell, Helen Walley, Rachel Emmerson and Seyi Akiwowo met altogether at St James Park Station, where it was easy to spot lots of other WI women arriving in big hats and posh frocks, covered in coats and rain gear. Unfortunately the weather was not good! Luckily the rain did stay away but the wind kept going. . Emma Jones from the Leytonstone branch came with us, as she was the only one from that branch who was attending
As we approached Buckingham Palace you could see a long line of women, all dressed up, taking photos, there was lots of laughter and excitement and at 1.45 the queue started moving into the front of the palace. We had been told we couldn’t take photos but we checked this out early on, Rachel asked a Beefeater (yes a Beefeater!!) and he made it clear that they couldn’t stop us all but asked us to be discreet.
Walking out into the grounds was lovely, there is a vast terrace at the back leading onto the lawn, there was a massive marquee to the left this to collect our tea, there were further marquees for the Royal tea, the royals didn’t mix with us ordinary members! There seemed to be two factions within the garden, those who prioritised the tea and those that prioritised seeing the Royals. The Duchess of Cambridge – Camilla, Duchess of Wessex – Sofia and the Duchess of Gloucester – Brigitte, were the Royals that attended and they spent at least an hour mingling and chatting, we got a brief glimpse as they left the terrace.
We prioritised the tea!
The Tea – as we arrived there was lemon barley water handed out and there were two brass bands that played throughout. Of course everything was impeccably organised lots of people on hand to help. Tea was served at 3pm, the queues were too long, which was good as we were ready for a cuppa! Our very own Christine was the first to get served!
The menu was extensive*, and you were encouraged to have a try of everything – so we did! Really delicious sandwiches, cakes and canapés, followed by ice cream.
After tea we had a walk around the vast gardens, they include a lake, tennis courts, and rose garden. It was fantastic talking to everyone it felt as though we knew everyone because we all had the WI in common. As it drew towards 5pm the sun did come out, the wind did not die down and throughout the afternoon you could see women chasing after their hats across the lawn. The band played its last tune, the national anthem, and then we sang Jerusalem. It was a fabulous afternoon which will not be forgotten.
Our normal meeting took place on the 1st Tuesday as always and a craft session was planned to make pieces for bunting for the centenary celebration that would later to be made up into a banner.
Members got busy with thread, fabric crayons, fabric pens and some glitter and in spite of protestations of “I’m not really creative” all were proved wrong and a good collection of pieces was produced.
While all this was going on, we also had breathless returnees (Laura, Rachel, Seyi, Helen and Christine plus Emma a neighbour from a nearby group*) still in their finery fresh from The Palace Garden Party and as a late addition a news crew from ITV News to film our meeting to broadcast later that evening. If you haven’t seen it, it is on our Facebook page.
More about The Palace and about The RAH in another post.
*Edited for accuracy
We were delighted to welcome our very own FGWI expert gardeners at May’s meeting. Based on Radio4s Gardener’s Question Time, Jan, Janet, Penny, Dina and Cathy answered a variety of questions and gave us a few gardening tips. (e.g. don’t throw your banana skins away, they’re good for the roses . Chat to the slugs and snails and ask them whether they want to move away. Putting bran, egg shells & copper bands around your plants deters slugs and snails.) these were some of the tips we learnt on Tuesday as well as a seed swap and plant sale (proceeds of the plant sale are on their way to Nepal).
It was a fun lively evening which we may repeat.
We had a great AM with the help of Jane Bird, the WI Advisor from Essex
The new committee were formed.
They are: Adzovi Nyanyo,
They will hold the posts for the next twelve months. Exciting times ahead.
We have an exciting 12 months ahead, with the centenary party, bunting, 100 tips and good deeds, trips to the theatre, cocktail clubs, hopefully craft club will resume soon.
Cinema club, the walking group and supper club are all up and running.
We had a thought-provoking talk from Sarah Kwei from Focus E15 mums.
Focus E15 mums started in October 2013 when 29 mums from the hostel (Focus E15) received eviction notices due to funding cuts.
Newham Council said no housing was available in Newham and they would be rehoused but up to 200 miles away. They decided to stick together and refuse this and after the protests every mother was rehoused in Newham.
The campaign continued. Things like the one year contracts that were given were not good enough with children to settle in school.
The Carpenter’s Estate was largely emptied ostensibly on the back of the Olympics but was not used and the housing remained empty so the land could be sold.
In 2014 the occupation began and the group was astonished to find that the flats although long term empty were in good, liveable condition.
The occupation was planned for two weeks and the bond of community grew.
The group had to go to court to avoid eviction before the scheduled two weeks and following this, Newham Council changed tone and said 40 homes would be given to families.
A great deal of experience has been gained and this is shared with other groups in similar situations across London in addition to marshalling eviction resistance through social media and helping families progress to a better deal.
There were many questions asked during a Q&A session following Sarah’s talk, the one that brought the biggest gasp was “How many flats remain empty on the Carpenter’s?” “About 600.”
Give support by visiting the street stall in Stratford every Saturday outside Wilkinson’s.
Sarah had hoped to show some film footage outlining their work but we were unable to arrange this, I hope to be able to give a viewable link either as a post script on here or in the newsletter.