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Women's Institutes

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: April 29, 2010

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Mount's Bay

On April 15, members welcomed as their speaker Phil Barnett, director of the St Ives-based group Kidz R Us. Still recovering from a hectic time at the Minack with the latest production of Beauty And The Beast and feeling distinctly "under the weather", Phil nevertheless held us spellbound with his account of the history and ethos of Kidz R Us.

Founded 16 years ago for a one-off concert, the group has grown into – in Phil's own words – a "wonderful monster". Since those early days, more than 1,000 young people have taken part in more than 60 productions, as well as workshops, improvisations, role-playing and play readings. For some of the youngsters involved the group is a lifeline, an oasis of security and safety in very difficult circumstances. All of them learn from their experiences about the success and sense of personal achievement that can be gained from hard work and collaborative effort. Phil's maxim is that "if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well", and his expectation of high standards from the Kidz is repaid with some inspirational performances.

Twelve years ago, Kidz R Us was able to buy the old Wesleyan chapel in St Ives as its theatre and headquarters, raising more than £37,000 in just seven weeks for the deposit. The group remains largely self-funding. Phil was full of praise for the many volunteers who give up their time in fund-raising, sewing costumes, painting scenery, chaperoning the cast members or working in the theatre and box office. The group has recently been able to take on three paid staff, but without the efforts of these volunteers, nothing could have been achieved over the past sixteen years.

We were all hugely impressed with Phil's achievements and those of the young people with whom he works – they are very lucky to have him as a mentor and role model.


President Marilyn Bowden welcomed members to the April meeting. Marilyn asked members to stand for one minute's silence in memory of Betty Martin, a long standing member, who had sadly passed away. Jerusalem was then sung.

Marilyn presented birthday posies to members with birthdays in April, and after a short business meeting Ann Prisk spoke to members about the sad loss of Betty Martin, who had very much enjoyed being a member of Halsetown WI for many years. Betty was always willing to help and contributed a great deal in many ways. She will be sadly missed.

The speakers for the evening, Dee and Dave Brotherton, of Bagas Porthia, were then introduced. Their talk was on Brazilian Samba music and was illustrated with slides.

They started their talk by showing a map of Brazil and explained what a huge country it is with a large population. Slides were shown of Rio de Janeiro bay, Sugar Loaf mountain, also large apartment blocks and, in contrast, the shanty towns. They then went on to talk about Samba music and how involved the people are. Samba bands and carnival floats are a lifelong part of the people, from when they are small tots up to all age groups. Members were shown slides of brilliant costumes and magnificently decorated floats which are pushed by hand. Dee and Dave then gave a brief demonstration of different Samba music and told members that Brazil is a vast country with extremes of both poverty and stunning beauty.

Mary Darlison thanked Dee and Dave for their informative and interesting talk. Pasties were then served and the evening finished with a quiz.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 11, when the speaker will be Stephanie Haxton and her subject will be 'Bring Back Mrs Bickford Smith of Trevarno.' All welcome.

St Mary's

The March 9 meeting was the anual meeting and was held in the Methodist Church Hall, St Mary's opening with the singing of Jerusalem. Annual meetingsare not renowned for entertainment value, but nevertheless the meeting was well attended. As the committee is to remain more or less unaltered, the chairman swiftly went through the formalities of annual reports from secretary, treasurer and chairman. These reports served to remind members of the events of the last year and highlighted the down-sizing of the budget. There had been a busy and varied programme of home-grown activities and local speakers. It was agreed that 2010 would include some fundaising so that the St Mary's Institute could again welcome speakers from the mainland.

During the year members had initiated walks that take place once a month – usually on a Friday morning, the idea being to take pleasant exercise with friends and to share social time after the walk over coffee and cakes. It was agreed the members would initiate a monthly luncheon club which would start with a lunch at the Atlantic Hotel in April.

The formal meeting was followed by the traditional cup of tea and biscuit and then the members settled down to hear all about the newly set up LINK. Carol Clark had come along to inform the members about and maybe inspire some to join in the good work that is currently being done by this new organisation which has recently been set up. LINK should be important to all residents of the islands as its aim is to oversee the wishes and concerns of local people about social and health care in the community.

The meeting ended with the singing of the National Anthem.

The April 13 meeting opened with the singing of Jerusalem and the usual WI business. Two outings have been arranged: on June 23 the members have been invited to tour the new community hall on Bryher, followed by a renowned Bryher tea, and on July 7 the members will be visiting the water desalination works.

Members were encouraged to attend Stitching for Arts Week – the quilters will be stitching and displaying their handiwork all day on Thursday, May 13, in the Garden Pavilion. They were also invited to sign up for the launch of the luncheon club.

Finally members were made aware of the WI National Challenge for each institute to take part in a triathlon – walking, cycling and swimming. All members of the group will be encouraged to take part – so watch this space!

The first meeting of the new year for St Mary's WI proved to be fascinating, nostalgic and very entertaining. At first glance it appeared it may become a disaster as the programmed speaker was unable to attend, but David Rogers, at the 11th hour, agreed to step into the breech. And what a treat that proved to be. Mr Rogers regaled the group with tales from his six years serving in the RAF, which included the war years he spent on Scilly defending the islands against bomb attack from returning German bombers. He flew Hurricane planes, six of which were based at the airport, supported by a number of pilots and 25 ground staff. Two planes were always at the ready and could be in the air in only one minute – quite astounding when one takes into consideration the planes were fuelled from jerry cans using a giant sized funnel! It was a marvellous talk and brought back memories for most of the assembled company.

After having a look at the exhibition of old photographs of family members, the meeting ended with the singing of the National Anthem.


THERE was such a good turnout, with yet another new member as well as a guest, we almost ran out of chairs on the night. It may well have been that members wanted to welcome our new team, Donna Rodda as president and Liz Anderson as our secretary. With such a good team the business was over very speedily. Donna mentioned that we are hoping to arrange our own outing to the races, possibly Newton Abbot.

Our speaker this month was born to be a dancer. Olga Statham escaped from the school system as early as she could in order to pursue her ballet career by studying the Italian Cecchetti method, particularly noted for beautiful hand and arm movements. She had great success in her career, which included a period when she was based as a member of the Swedish Royal Ballet in Stockholm. Luckily the company spoke English. More recently Olga has been involved in dance locally with Shallal. She continues to dance to this day, dancing impromptu for us once she found some suitable music on the radio she had brought with her!

Dance however has been only part of her story. While working in London and between ballet tours she thought that it would be good to find additional work, perhaps in one of the large museums, but here her early escape from school worked against her – no qualifications. Luckily she was interviewed and given training by a very sympathetic employer based just behind Harrods. This allowed her to have time for her ballet career yet also to learn under the direction of a Wedgwood ceramic expert and to restore pieces, very satisfying.

This tiny woman gave birth to triplets (hardly believable to some of us) and later on she would climb into her babies' playpen in order to work on her restorations while the toddlers rampaged around the room. Mothers do what they have to in these situations.

Twenty years ago the family moved to West Cornwall. Olga spoke movingly of her son Joe, who when born was thought to be blind, but despite severe eyesight and other serious health complications lived an adventurous and fulfilling life before his sudden death four years ago while in his 30s. He was a sailor on the tall ships, fearlessly climbing the rigging as part of a race-winning team, a homeopath, and finally a gifted potter.

After all the stories a delicious supper was provided by Lynn Picknett, Bev Robinson and Sue Searle.

Our monthly competition result: 1, Ann Maddern; 2, Sylvia Pezzack; 3, Jean Torrie.

Next month both Donna's sons will be with us to tell the story '47,500 strokes later – can I smell garlic?'. Matthew is possibly the first Cornishman to swim the Channel, he did it in memory of his dear Grandmother and to fund raise for Macmillan. Guests are welcome to come and hear the inspirational story, 7.30pm, on Thursday, April 8 – don't worry we'll get all the chairs out ready.

September last year saw a young man from Newlyn take on the challenge of swimming the English Channel and, in doing so, is thought to have become the first Cornish person to achieve this amazing feat. The members at their March meeting were enthralled to hear Matt Rodda tell of his remarkable experience which culminated in more than £8,000 being raised for Macmillan Cancer Support by way of a thank-you to the charity which helped his grandmother in her final illness.

There was a special interest in the talk as Matt is the son of president Donna Rodda and her husband Roy, and their other son, Stuart, who was also present, were great supporters as Matt took on the challenge of a lifetime.

Matt, a physical training and remedial instructor with the Royal Air Force, explained what a daunting task it turned out to be as only ten per cent who attempt it succeeded. It is swum in the world's busiest shipping lane in temperatures of 15° and can drop to 10. Because of tides, the distance swum can vary considerably.

However, after determined training, including swimming locally between the Jubilee Pool and Newlyn, he set out on the day thinking he would be swimming in daylight for most of the time. Sadly his departure time had to be changed and it meant most of the swim was in the dark, something he had not done before! But it went well. He said: "We were really lucky with the weather conditions – Gran must have been watching over me."

The crossing took 12 hours 50 minutes and he swam a total of just under 30 miles. He arrived at Cap Griz Nez France at 3.30 in the morning and had to land on a cliff face before swimming back to the boat for the return trip to Dover.

Stuart and his helpers were in the boat alongside adding encouragement all the way. Stuart was not only the photographer but constant swim watcher. This is necessary as the swimmer can drift away from the boat with the tide or needs to avoid obstacles floating in the water. He was also the occasional feeder.

All the money Matt raised went to the charity as he paid for all the expenses out of his own pocket, including the hire of the boat, which cost £2,500.

The preferred stroke was front crawl and surprisingly the swim is completed by using upper body strength as the legs are not used much. Matt explained that the success is thought to be 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent physical.

During training he met one woman who had swum the channel 42 times including a three way crossing.

In proposing a vote of thanks Val Chatterton said everyone – his gran, brother, parents and Cornwall – should all be really proud of his achievement.

Before the talk Donna explained about future events the WI were holding, including a visit to Trengwainton Gardens and a trip to Newton Abbot races, and encouraged others to join her and others in the Race for Life for Cancer Research.

Winners of the competition for a photo of a beach belle (themselves) were: 1, Ginny Kingston; 2, Jeanne Torrie; 3, Donna Rodda.

Teas were served by Aileen Castle, Sue Atkinson, Jenni Roberts and Diana Burroughs.

The next meeting is on May 13 when a resolution will be discussed about food labelling, which is often misleading.

If you fancy coming along on the night you will be more than welcome. The meeting begins at 7.30pm and we will be delighted to see you.

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