Smart new look for Widdrington women’s institute

September 25, 2017 | Brenkley News

Members of Widdrington WI with (far left) Jeannie Kielty of The Banks Group

The headquarters of a Northumberland Women’s Institute group has taken on a smart new look thanks to a four-figure grant from a regional employer.

Widdrington WI is one of only a handful of branches which owns the hall in which it meets, thanks to the foresight of members who bought the hall on Garth Lane in the village back in 1935.

The hall is hired out on a regular basis, and hosts a range of activities including parish council meetings, birthday parties and social gatherings, as well as the WI’s own events.

But while the rental income generated covers the hall’s day to day running costs, it isn’t enough to cover the capital required for larger projects, which include the increasingly urgent need to redecorate the building interior that was identified as a priority in its most recent annual inspection.

But now, after receiving a £1,560 grant from The Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund, Widdrington WI has been able to bring in local contractors N & F Young to completely redecorate both the main hall and kitchen.

And the committee is hoping the improved surroundings will encourage even more local people and groups to hold their functions in the hall in the future.

Widdrington Women’s Institute has around 20 members aged between the mid 50s up to 83 years old, and hosts a varied programme of speakers, workshops and fundraising events every Monday evening.

Margaret Shepherd, secretary at Widdrington WI, says: “Owning our own building, rather than renting as most WIs do, gives us a lot of advantages, but it does mean that we have to cover the cost of keeping it in the appropriate condition, and the cost of staying on top of everything can be quite substantial.

“The hall hadn’t been touched for at least five years, and our last building inspection identified the need to improve the deco as soon as we could, but if The Banks Group hadn’t stepped forward to help, it would have had to remain on the To Do list.

“We’ve had lots of really nice comments from members and guests on how much of a difference they can see in the hall – the building is set in lovely surroundings, and it’s nice that the inside can live up to them.

“Our users want a smart, welcoming environment in which to hold their events, and we hope that the much-improved facilities we can now offer will help to bring more people and community groups in to take a look at what’s on offer, which will in turn help us generate more income to keep things ticking over.”

Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at the Banks Group, says: “Widdrington WI has long been a central part of community life in an area we know very well, and we’re very pleased to have helped the members bring in a local contractor to give their very busy building a much-needed makeover.”

The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.

Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.

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