Sarah (of the Craftivist Collective), Sarah (of Oxfam London and South East), and I (of Significant Seams/Poesie Grenadine "fame") travelled to Shenfield in Essex to attend a meeting of the Brentwood Belles W.I. This isn't the Women's Institute as you may know it; in recent years women of all ages have been joining the organisation. There's a contingent in Shoreditch - the Shoreditch Sisters - composed of young, hip, crafty East Londoners.
The women of Brentwood cover a greater age range than their East End counterparts, but lack none of the same enthusiasm! Soon after we arrived a hundred or so women poured into the hall where we were setting up; Sarah Pelham, a W.I. helper, and I, had to make a mad rush to get the tomato jam sandwiches ready in time.
Sarah Corbett gave a moving and informative talk introducing the Belles to Craftivism, and before the tea break the ladies had some time to consider Christine's story (and their reactions and thoughts about it), the world food crisis, and the message they might choose to stitch on their jam jar cover.
After the essential tea and cake break, we reconvened and got down to sketching and stitching. I had the pleasure of lending a couple of first-time embroiderers a hand, and was tweeting away on behalf of the Craftivist Collective throughout proceedings.
As is to be expected at any large W.I. gathering, there was a bit of a mother's meeting, but despite all the chattering, much stitching was done. We were presented with several finished jam jar covers at the end of the night, which the Belles promised to fill with tomato jam. There was also some (spirited!) discussion about the politics and quandaries of shopping and eating ethically. The ladies really did themselves proud, and gave us a very warm welcome - we were even presented with some gift-wrapped embroidery hoops at the end of the night! Thank you, Brentwood Belles!