October 11, 2018

With World Mental Health Day this month (10th October) and the nights drawing in for autumn, it was the perfect time for Manchester WI’s Lady Skillers to team up with The Wilton Street Craft Co. for a candle making workshop. Taking time out for self-care is essential, and host Emma’s (with dachshund Lady!) workshops are simultaneously relaxed and informative. There is such simple pleasure to be found in making useful items with your hands and switching off from the outside world.

On arrival to Emma’s gorgeous home, the intimate workshop (never more than six to a group) were treated to vegan-friendly victoria sponge and vegan jaffa cakes handmade by The Vegan Cake Baker and plenty of tea and coffee, as is WI tradition!

For the brand new ‘chandlers’ among us, there was an introduction to candle making with a bit of history, following which we got stuck right in to creating our own soy-wax delights. From simple recipes and fool-proof combinations to begin, Emma was always on hand to answer...

August 31, 2018

With our usual meetings taking place in a school (the beautiful Chetham’s), August means it’s school trip time for Manchester WI. This gives us a chance to explore somewhere different as a group, and this month we were treated to a tour of the amazing Manchester Art Gallery. WI members came out in force for this meeting – there were so many of us that we were divided into two groups to explore the galleries.

We were met by Chris, a volunteer guide at the gallery who told us that she had been leading tours of the gallery for over 20 years. Chris had created a tour especially for our WI about women in the gallery – both those represented in artworks, and the female artists behind them.

Our tour began in the exhibition on the ground floor, where a collection of contemporary ceramicist Kate Haywood’s work was on show. The exhibition included new sculptural pieces that Haywood had made in response to the fascinating Mary Greg collection at Manchester Art Gallery, as well as some of her existi...

July 25, 2018

With 2018 marking 100 years of women’s suffrage, and gender pay gap statistics sparking a whole new drive for equality in the working world, it seemed like a good time to have a meeting celebrating women in business. We kicked off our meeting with an update on our chosen charity for the year, The Pankhurst Centre. Bex from the Pankhurst came and gave us an overview of the work they do there including the support they do for Women’s Aid in Manchester, it was exciting to see the difference our fundraising could make.

Amongst our members we have loads of brilliant women who have started their own business enterprises, and we were really lucky to have a video from our very own Em Darbyshire of Wilton Street Craft Company talking about her experience in setting up her own business. It was an inspiring and uplifting video. It’s going to be great seeing more of our member’s business endeavours at our November Bazaar.

We followed this up with a spotlight session from Jenny from Google Garage on...

June 5, 2018

Last night the Lady Skillers went to the Jurys Inn where the Manchester Wine School had put on a wine taster for us. We each had 6 glasses laid out with tasting notes about each of the wines, which included three white and three red...plus lots of yummy meat, cheese and crackers. One of the first things our host Lara was offer us a spittoon which of course everyone had a laugh at. I think we can agreed that we all wanted to drink the wine instead of spitting it out!

We were told what to look for in the wine i.e. if it clung to the glass when swirled then it had "legs" and that relates to the alcohol content!! After looking and sniffing our wine we then got to slurp (obviously the bit we were all waiting for)

I think you'll forgive this post for being rather short, as after 6 glasses of wine plus the after drinks in the pub, things do get a bit hazy!! A good night had by all anyway and I'd definitely give wine tasting another go.....perhaps tonight!

May 23, 2018

This month we had a go at creating our own silver jewellery with the help of the Manchester School of Jewellery. Charlotte and Gemma, our tutors, both have studios in the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, so they hired Space2 in which to run our workshop. The aim was to learn texturing with hammers, stamping, doming, wire manipulation, soldering and finishing, with the bonus of having a lovely piece of silver jewellery ready at the end to take away!

Everybody was given a few different sized copper pieces, as well as a length of wire, so we could practice first in copper before we had to decide what we wished to make in silver. This was a great idea- we could try all the various techniques for ourselves before creating our design. Gemma explained all the different tools we could explore and there uses- there were hammers for flattening metal, rivet hammers, ball hammers, heavy hammers (for when you needed to whack something!), texturing hammers, files, doming blocks and punches, stamps...

April 25, 2018

After seeing the results of our annual Christmas wreath classes, and having seen her booth at our November members Bazaar, one of our lovely members requested I arrange another workshop with Alison from The Flower Studio. Well her wish is my command (on this occasion- I don't usually grand many wishes!!), so we met up at the Friends Meeting House on the 23rd April 2018 for a flower arranging workshop.

Inspired by the approaching summer and lazy afternoons spent picnicking in the countryside, the idea was to create a design which introduces some of the basics of flower arranging as well as using some more contemporary techniques to create an arrangement reminiscent of a floral meadow. 

Alison explained the names of all of the flowers and grasses which we would be using- the best name was definitely "Chincherinchee".

Then we were shown how to prepare our lovely "spring" wooden boxes so that they didn't leak water all over your table when watered (very sensible), and how to approach creati...

April 25, 2018

This was a meeting not to be missed! Chocolate tasting? yes please! Gloria Lilley, a co-winner of Divine chocolate’s ‘Three Choclateers’ competition, took us on a journey from the fascinating beginnings of chocolate in Mesoamerica to it’s present form as one of the most loved confectionaries in the world. 

After a brief history lesson we went back to the cocoa farms of Kuala Kokoo in Ghana and she guided us through the bean to bar process - showing us samples of the hardy fruit the beans come from and how they are transformed into the chocolate we know and recognise. Gloria also talked us through the different ways in which Divine ensures they keep to their mission of being 100% fair-trade. There are so many chocolate companies around that do not use ethically sourced beans and to this day still implement child labour. It was refreshing to hear the lengths Divine go to in order to help their farmers become sustainable and allow them to share in the success. 

By this point we were all rea...

April 18, 2018

I’ve been coming to Manchester WI for nearly 2 years now, and have had many conversations with ladies who want to get out on their bikes more. As a keen cyclist I want to share the love, so I took a ride leader training course last autumn with a view to helping those ladies achieve that goal. Rachel suggested that we start by applying to TfGM to be part of their Women’s Cycling promotion, Ride With Us, which took place in February and March, and we advertised three rides as part of this. 

The weather wasn’t great in March, though our rides fell on the weekends either side of the snowy ones, so we didn’t get much take-up, but two excursions were enjoyed. The first ride began at Patricroft station in Salford, with poor Rachel having to ride to the start from the city centre at the last minute due to an unexpected line closure. I met sisters Jenny and Suzy and we did our bike safety checks while we waited for Rachel. They both counted themselves as beginners so I decided not to take them t...

March 28, 2018

This month we celebrated fabulous women to mark International Women's Day. Firstly, we said goodbye to our wonderful President Lex. Lex founded Manchester WI and after 6 years of being at the heart of our group, this was her last meeting as President. Thank you to Lex for being an incredible President and for all your hard work.

This year is the centenary of some women being able to vote and so the meeting was dedicated to women and politics. Lex chaired a panel of women who are all involved in politics: Beth Knowles, Mayoral Lead for Homelessness and Rough Sleeping; Kelly Simcock, Councillor for Didsbury East; Julia Williamson and Sarika Paul; Women's Equality Party Manchester Co-Leads. 

The panel had a fascinating discussion about the challenges that women in politics face and why women are underrepresented in politics. The panel members also chatted about what drove them to get involved and what it is they'd like to see change in the political sphere in the next few years.

Continuing o...

February 28, 2018

“That couldn’t possibly be a prison?” was the first thought going through most of our minds as the presentation paused on an image of the main avenue at Styal. Red brick houses, manicured tree-lined lawns and not a thing out of place. Once a former orphanage, Styal opened as a female prison with the first female prisoners transferred from Strangeways back in 1962. 

Eddie Tarry, Community Engagement Manager, was here to talk to us about the realities of inmate life and what exactly happens on a daily basis. He also shared stories on inmates he had worked with, ones he had helped and ones that would never leave the walls of Styal, and what life had in store for them. 

The word that comes to mind when most of us think of prisons, is surely ‘punishment.’ However, this talk delivered a few home truths, gave us the human factor, as Eddie’s word of choice was very much ‘rehabilitation.’ The statistics he shared were shocking; 46% of women admitted had suffered from domestic violence, 53% of wom...

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