Talking with Elaine Graham of the Roach W.I. (January 18th 2011)
Rochford Life: Elaine, we’ve heard from you about the Rochford Hundred Historical Society, but you’re also part of the WI in Rochford?
Elaine: Yes, the Roach WI which meets in the evening. I’m actually the Press Officer and I am on the Committee. The Roach Women’s Institute meets the second Monday of the month at 8.00pm in the WI Hall. I think it probably started up as an evening one, originally to cater for ladies who were not free in the day. The London WI’s have got quite young membership. The daytime WI has been there for a very long time, but of course things change and that started when women didn’t tend to go to work, and so the evening one eventually started to meet the changes.
RL: So how long have you been in the Roach WI?
Elaine: Actually, I’ve only been a member for a couple of years because I waited until I’d stopped working but I went to the evening one because I knew a couple of people who already went there. Since I’ve joined the evening one I also now know people in the daytime one as well. The WI is the biggest women’s organisation in Britain. They do have speakers most months but on much broader themes, on craft things, for example, and that sort of evening, and then they might follow it up and have a craft evening. We also have outings; there is someone who arranges those. There’s a lunch club, someone arranges that. There’s a craft club and someone arranges that. There’s a book club that someone else runs. With the WI what I really like are the County Days and the National Days, because the WI’s all belong to the Essex federation which is the biggest one in Britain. The National Days are fantastic.
RL: How would you sum up the WI?
Elaine: It’s to try and give women support to build on their talents. For instance we have a choir. Perhaps there’s only ten people in it but that’s good. I’m good at cooking but we don’t do that because we don’t have the facilities at the hall. We have a craft class and I’m useless but I go along, I’ve been going for about four evenings and I’ve learned to crochet. There were twelve people in the class and three people could crochet so they taught the others and now we can all crochet. Our next one is in the beginning of February and we’ll probably find someone who can do something else.
RL: How many members do you have and what’s the age range?
Elaine: Roach has been 40 and 45 but unfortunately we haven’t got anyone who is younger than 50. It would be very nice to have some young people. The London WI’s have working women in their thirties. I think the daytime group are even older. It is a shame and we need a break through because the WI are really having trouble recruiting young people. Years ago there were not so many things for young people to do. The daytime WI open the hall every Tuesday for coffee and biscuits and they do fantastic rolls for 65p. You can hire that hall for £25 and that is fantastic. As you can see we regularly do lots of things. Every year we also hold a Garden Party and we also hold a Fashion Show. They are really superb.
RL: Well thank you, Elaine. Perhaps some of the younger ladies of Rochford might read this and come along. Thank you for your time.