THE Women’s Institute takes great pride in its crafty and culinary skills, so much so, members from all over Lancashire will be showcasing their work at an event open to the public, in Garstang, next week.
More than 2,000 examples of Lancashire WI members’ work will be exhibited at the Lancashire Federation of Women’s Institutes’ County Show - believed to be the largest craft and produce show of its kind in the north west.
And the WI would like as many people as possible to go along and take a look, at the Garstang Country Hotel and Golf Club, Garstang Road, Bowgreave.
The show will be open to the public next Wednesday, September 21 from 10am to 9pm and on the Thursday, September 22 from 10am to 6pm, when there will be an awards ceremony at 6pm.
There will also be a craft and produce market each day from 10am to 4pm.
Each year, members of this growing organisation, who belong to Lancashire’s 140 branches, are encouraged to enter the show by a committee of nine from all over the county who meet regularly throughout the year, also organising events associated with the show, such as a ‘Show Know How Day’ and evenings for tips on showing.
Five of this committee live within the circulation area of the Longridge News and Garstang Courier and are well known faces in their communities: Longridge (Margaret Rich, who is the secretary), Garstang (Davida Mackay), Hambleton (Elena Clarke), Claughton-on-Brock (Pam Wade) and Scorton (Ann Wilson).
Stemming back 30 years, when it was held in Barton and Bilsborrow village halls and once at Hoghton Tower, prior to the move to Garstang 11 years ago; the show became a two-day event in celebration of the WI’s 90th birthday for the first time last year, and if chairman, Andrey Weatherill has anything to do with it, it will hopefully stay that way.
Audrey, who describes the show as a “fun” event at which they don’t allow anything to get “too serious,” and at which the judges (from out of the county) are asked to be careful with their comments, says: “We are very proud to be able to display everything for the public to view and hope people will be enticed to join us when they see what can be done in the WI.”
A member of Barley WI for 40 or so years, as well as a past county chairman, she believes it is important to keep the show going because so many of their members are interested in crafts and cookery and it is an opportunity for them to come together, display their work and compete at the same time.
Throughout the year, the Lancashire Federation organises various craft classes to suit interests and trends and the show committee, she says, chooses classes at the show accordingly.
They also run a novice section each year, for those who haven’t entered before; special classes for the children or grandchildren of members; choose a theme for the co-operative entries which this year is ‘Around the World’; have a section for set recipes and this year there are two - honey fruit loaf and honey flapjacks; and because members are prolific knitters, have a class for which all items are then donated to charity and this year it is ‘Teddies for Tragedies’ or bed socks.
Audrey believes the ambience of Garstang’s Best Western Hotel provides the perfect setting to exhibit their work and the show takes over most of the rooms at the hotel, with a preview evening on the Tuesday.
This year there is a bumper entry of 2,170 exhibits in 93 classes and she says when the show first started that was in the region of 300-400, growing to around 800 12 years ago, prior to the move to Garstang.
This year one of the sections boasting a particular good entry is that of the floral art and horticulture, and classes in this include fresh plant material in a children’s welly; cut flowers in a stone jar; pots of growing, home grown herbs; floating flower heads in water and apples, potatoes and cherry tomatoes on a disposable plate, just to mention a few.
Vegetables and fruit were introduced for the first time last year, says Audrey, due to the current trend of so many people turning to growing their own.
“We try to keep up with the times,” she says, explaining that also where crafts are concerned, if old ones were revived, they would put on a class accordingly.
Within the preserves section there is a class for a jar of ‘unusual jam’ besides that of marmalade; three fruit marmalade; mince meat; pickled onions; orange chutney, etc.
In the cookery there is anything from three chocolate brownies or a coconut cake through to three small Danish pastries, a baked item using oats, three savoury scones or a Madeira cake.
Craft classes include home-made headgear from around the world; a miniature cross stitch picture; a fur fabric animal; a rag doll; hand knitted gloves; an item of macrame; item of recycled material; a plate of fabric or knitted cakes; item of beadwork or a decorated pot plant as well as classes for crochet; embroidery; patchwork or quilting Japanese style; cushions; hand made lace and more.
There are also sections for greetings cards; sugarcraft; art and photography and no less than 30 judges have been asked to adjudicate, with some of the judging taking place at WI HQ at Leyland - because there are so many entries - prior to the event.
It is no small task organising such a show and its organising committee is now hoping for a good crowd of support throughout the two-day event. Admission is £4.