How the Uckfield WI began...

Our president and founder, Leasa, has written an article all about how our wonderful new group came about.

13 years ago… Fulham WI, the first of the new wave WI’s, was formed and reading the articles I instantly felt connected to the idea, the seed had been sown.  Fast forward to 2015 and ‘Cake Makers and Trouble Makers’ a documentary into the background and ethos of the WI
aired on BBC.  Here was a bunch of feisty, opinionated, passionate women ready to stand up
and be counted whilst also having fun… and I wanted to be part of it.

I sent an email to a few friends…  I’d looked into the local WI and it wasn’t for me, would
anyone join me if I started one up…  Surprisingly my friends seemed as keen as me!!

The new year dawned and I wanted to get started, first stop was the East Sussex Federation,
i was put into contact with Shirley Kirby a WI Advisor, we discussed the idea of starting a new
group for Uckfield and the Surrounding area and a few hours later we had a plan to create a
group for around 30-40 local women.

On the 21st January I published the Facebook page ‘Uckfield and Surrounding Area Women’s
Institute’ and forwarded the link to a few friends.  A date of the 29th February was set for the
exploratory meeting.

What followed was honestly quite extraordinary, after a week and through word of mouth alone there were 75 attendees, an article appeared in Uckfield Talk a few days later and the number shot up to 150.

The Kent and Sussex Courier picked up the story, following some lengthy interviews with
myself and Shirley an article was published, now we had over 220 people interested.

On the night just over 230 women came along.  I was supported by some amazing friends
answering questions, making tea and taking copious, detailed notes.  It was hot, we ran out
of seats and I really needed a bit more practice with a microphone.  BUT, its was clear there
was a huge demand for a group like this in the area.

Explaining that the number of members would have to be capped at 150 was hard, there just wasn’t a venue in Uckfield big enough to take everyone.  Shirley and I knew that we may
need to form a second group and thankfully we had a lady offer to start the ball rolling, they
have since gone onto form the Uckfield Divas.

Registration for the Uckfield WI opened at 8pm on the 8th March coinciding with
International Women’s Day.  

9 minutes and 53 seconds later we were full and there was a long waiting list.

There have been some extremely long nights, copious amounts of chocolate and wine and I
sometimes wonder what the hell I am doing, BUT, 8 weeks after publishing the Facebook site
we opened the doors on March 22nd to our first Uckfield WI meeting.  150 fabulous women
call themselves members and I am incredibly proud to be their president.