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Page last updated at 11:51 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Norfolk WI celebrates turning 90
The Norfolk WI at St Andrew's Hall, Norwich
The Norfolk WI attended the 90th anniversary in Norwich

The Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes celebrates the 90th anniversary since it began as a social meeting for ladies back in 1919.

"I became a member of the WI for the friendship, the activities you learn to do and the shear enjoyment of it," said Cindy Brooks, WI federation secretary.

To mark the occasion, 797 people filled St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, on Tuesday, 24 March, 2009, in a blaze of colour.

Such was demand from the 5000 Norfolk members, 200 had to be turned away.

Attending the official celebration were politicians Baroness Gillian Shephard and Ann Widdecombe, who spoke with joy at the success of the Norfolk branch of a very 'British institution'.

Even though it is widely known as a 'British institution', the WI in-fact originates from Ontario, Canada, in 1897
The WI started in Britain in 1915, under the auspices of the Agricultural Organisations Society (AOS)
The first WI meeting was formed at Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, in September 1915
In 2008, there were around 7,500 individual Women's Institutes in the world

The Women's Institute has been very successful in the past 90 years at getting the views of Norfolk women across into society.

"We are very outspoken on all sorts of controversial things and things that will benefit people all around Norfolk and the UK," said Cindy.

The WI has had a reputation of hats, cake competitions and jam making, but people in recent years have looked at their work in a new light, particularly after the success of the 2003 British film - Calendar Girls.

The movie, based upon a true story about the Women's Institute in Yorkshire and their charity fundraising efforts through a naked calendar shoot, was a box-office hit and the low budget movie even gained a nomination for a Golden Globe.

Attitudes have been changing and the Norfolk branch believes it has shook it off some of its older image, with the WI gaining a consistent influx of new members from all age groups.

"We try to have a very good mix of members - you can join when you're 16 and we have some young mothers with babies who even come along too," said Cindy.

"We're having a service in Norwich cathedral in May 2009 to celebrate the 90th and we are involved in many other activities - we make sure we put everything we do into the local newspapers," she added.


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