The naked truth about the WI

For many of us, the sacred realms of the Women’s Institute will forever remain a mystery. They appear to be a secret group of middle-aged to elderly women, who meet every third Thursday of the month in village halls and meeting rooms throughout the country. They make jams of various flavours. Bake cakes of varying types, drink some quality tea then listen to a nice guest speaker talk about their interesting trip to Angkor Wat or the history of Lace making in Devon. It’s an idyllic lifestyle and the ladies fit into a certain stereotype. However, one group of courageous members decided to take a new approach to the usual round of charity work the institute supports. It’s one group that someone moving into Gloucester Park Homes might consider joining.  See for yourself the new homes they offer by visiting

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Based on a true story, with quite a lot of poetic licence, the film Calendar girls tells the tale of one group of WI members who decided that the usual ways of fundraising weren’t going to cut it. One of their member’s husbands has been diagnosed with terminal Leukaemia. Visiting the hospital on a regular basis for her husband, Annie comments that the sofa in the visiting room is very uncomfortable. Considering what people have to go through in the hospital a better sofa isn’t too much to ask for.

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The WI respond with the usual suggestions of fetes and whist drives, but Annie’s friend Chris has a better idea. She sees a rude calendar at a local mechanic and realises that if they do something similar, albeit a bit more tasteful, and less revealing, they could easily make the money for the sofa. In a clever twist, the ladies will be photographed doing traditional WI activities like cake making, floristry and singing Jerusalem.

At first, only Chris and Annie are up for the calendar, the other members treating the idea with a degree of disbelief. Soon more joined them, especially after the death of Annie’s husband John. Chris and Annie are not to be dissuaded. They go to the very top of the organisation to seek permission. Under intense scrutiny, the local leader agrees.

The first 500 copies sell out in a week. As the project gains attention in the media, demand for the calendar grows. In the end, as with the real story, the ladies raise millions for Leukaemia research and have even funded an entire treatment wing in the local hospital. They also bought the sofa.

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