Who we are and how Wythit WI came about

The idea to form a young and in some ways experimental WI was first mentioned by Ali Mason at a wet and windy bar-b-q in Leeming Village in the late autumn of 2004. Despite being surrounded by sceptics she was convinced, having worked as County Secretary for North Yorkshire West Federation, that the younger women of the UK were ready to embrace the old traditions of the WI by adding a touch of spin.

In January 2005, following a brief advertising campaign, ten women arrived at The Black Swan in Bedale to test the waters and later that evening the same ten women now with a common interest and camaraderie agreed that the idea might just work. The rest, as they say, is history - in the making.

The name of Wythit was decided at the following meeting, at which point the paperwork was signed and the committee were elected. There has been, and continues to be, much speculation and rumour surrounding the name. The reason for the title was quite simply this – since none of the members knew anything about the WI and the permanent venue was as yet undecided, we would all just have to go with-it. The change of spelling was proposed to avoid any offence to members of other WIs who may think we were claiming to be young and trendy, and accusing older longer established WIs of being “old hat”.

Our claim to fame however, is not being the first so called “young” WI; and not for being the first WI to meet in a Pub, it is not even that we were the first WI to go pole dancing, we weren’t! Our claim to fame came about due to our meeting night. We were the first WI to meet on a Sunday night in the whole of its 90 year history; and it is for this that we had a special mention at the AGM held in the Royal Albert Hall in June 2005.

The original idea as proposed by Ali was to change the meeting venue from a village hall to a pub to allow more appeal for a wider range of ages, there was no attempt to change how the WI operates, merely a desire to see how young an age this experimental WI could attract. Permission was granted to deviate away from the pre-planned programmes, competitions, and traditional “speakers”. We have returned to the pre-planned programme as this seems to be the best format, especially as we occasionally switch venues. We also kept the raffle, but dispensed with the singing of Jerusalem (although some know it well and have been known to sing it on the way home after evening refreshments which incidentally is never tea and biscuits!)

As time has moved on we still try to maintain contacts with the Group (our neighbouring WIs) and enter the local shows and competitions. We also usually manage to send a couple of volunteers to help the Federation fundraising at the Great Yorkshire Show. Sometimes we may not all agree - but on one thing we will - we are an excellent WI, we all have common ground, laughter, friendship and so, so much more!! Long, long may we prosper!




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“Better to have come and given it a go than not to have come at all”

Wythit Girls