On the morning of 15th October, I made my way up to London from Winchester. I have never visited the Fulham/ Putney area, so prior to my visit I did some research to make the most of my day trip to the capital, and my day off work! I came across Fulham Palace, home of the old Bishops of London on the tourism website. So on arriving in London armed with my camera and a map, I headed towards the Palace through the gardens which run along the river Thames. It was a beautifully crisp and sunny autumnal day. I spent a couple of hours enjoying the palace grounds, learning about the palace’s history and enjoying a lovely lunch at the café there- any excuse to have a cuppa and a piece of cake!
After lunch, I headed over to the NFWI Office at 104 New Kings Road. Upon arrival I was shown to the waiting area, where who should I find but four ladies from another Hampshire Federation WI! It turned out that the ladies from Stakes WI meet about 20 minutes away from where the Whiteley WAGs are based!
Other ladies started to arrive and we were shown downstairs to the room where the board meetings are held. There was a lovely array of cakes and biscuits laid out as well as lots of information leaflets on resolutions and various sub committees. I then found out that the ladies I was sat next to were from a WI twinned with a Hampshire WI, who are based 5 minutes down the road from the Whiteley WAGs and who we have dual members with! The WI world is a small one!
Once everyone had settled, we were welcomed by Janice Langley- NFWI Chair, along with Joy Thompson, Chair of the NFWI Membership Committee, her side kick for the day, and they explained about the work that is undertaken at WI HQ. After the introduction, all the ladies got an opportunity to have a photo taken with Janice and Joy, which was put on a mock cover of a WI Life magazine. Being by myself I asked the ladies from Stakes WI if I could join them and make a Hampshire federation photo; luckily they were happy to have me join them!
|Outside the door of 104...|
After the introduction, several members of staff from the various departments gave an overview of the work that they and their teams carry out. Most of the teams are made up of 3-6 people and they have a great deal of work to do. In total there are about 90 members of staff over 3 sites that work for the NFWI, WI Enterprises Ltd and Denman College. The other surprising factor was the diversity of work that is carried out at 104 New Kings Road; everything from the website, Facebook page, to finance, HR, advertising, the magazine and the design of the centenary goods and logos. This is certainly a mammoth task for such a small (wo)man force!
The group was then split into two for the grand tour of the office; the first group were marched up four flights of stairs to the top floor and the second were taken to the Resources department on the ground floor (fortunately I was in the 2nd group). On the tour we visited all the various departments and were given the chance to speak to the staff and ask questions. We were also given a sneak preview of the Christmas edition of WI life, which looks fantastic! One other notable thing about the tour was the amount of tea we saw…. There are cupboards full of it! It doesn't matter where in the WI you are; tea is an integral part of the WI!
The whole day was thoroughly enjoyable, and it was an eye opening opportunity to see behind the scenes. In our individual WIs it is easy to forget about the amount of work it takes to keep this impressive organisation running. Simple things such as ensuring your MCS records are up to date so every member gets their magazine will save the team there from having to process the hundreds of magazines which are returned each month. If you have an exciting event coming up, let the magazine team know in good time so they can arrange to send a photographer and cover the event - they are always looking for stories. Or if you have any ideas for guest speakers at events or a resolution suggestion- send it in!
The other outcome from the day for me was a new friendship with the Stakes WI ladies. As a relatively young WI (we turn 4 in November 2014), building relationships and learning from other WIs is important, and hopefully at our birthday party this year we will have two visitors from Stakes WI. I have also learnt that whatever WI event I attend there will always be a smiley and friendly face, so you needn't worry about going by yourself… the WI really is what you make of it. There are so many opportunities and events there really is something for everyone.