A modern take on womanhood is giving the WI a resurgence in the North East.
With everything from self-defence, salsa and wine tasting on the menu, a number of new Women’s Institutes have been formed, and, last night, Jesmond in Newcastle became the focus of a potential new WI group thanks to company director and mother-of-one Danielle Dunn.
The 34-year-old recently moved into the area ahead of taking up residence at the historic La Sagesse school with partner Jeff Winn, founder of Byker-based Winn Solicitors.
She hopes to recreate her previous success after setting up a thriving WI group in Tynemouth.
“It was three years ago, shortly after I had my baby, and I just really wanted to get involved with something in the community which would be fun and give me the chance to be part of the community and make new friends and get new skills,” said Danielle, mother to five-year-old Imogen.
She added: “I think it has had a bad reputation of being about jam-making and old-fashioned but there are now loads of WIs popping up all over the country. I think it is younger people starting them up but it is for all ages. In Tynemouth we have people from 18 up to 70.”
Last night, women in Jesmond gathered at St George’s Parish Hall for an exploratory meeting to see if there were the numbers to found a new WI.
Danielle is confident of her new group becoming a success, and has booked the hall for the next six months, organising diverse activities for any ladies interested in joining.
“We have Jesmond Dene House Hotel’s chef coming in to do baking, then someone coming in to talk about natural remedies so the ladies can have a go making face masks and stuff,” said Danielle.
“We are also looking at beginners salsa. I think what we do is a mix. We have cooking, crafts, speakers, activities. In Tynemouth we’ve had yoga, dancing, anything that we can get active with, we’ve even done self-defence.
“It’s thinking of things that the modern woman needs in her tool kit.”
Danielle, who runs her own digital marketing agency, said she hoped she could create a group in Jesmond where women could share their skills, get together and have fun and make new friends.
She also called on local businesses to get involved by helping the group with activities and offering interesting speakers for the monthly meetings.
“It is really modern now, the WI, it is getting cool – a lot of young people are running WI groups and membership is soaring. It is having a resurgence,” she said.