Crafting an arty comeback for the Women’s Institute

Crafting an arty comeback for the Women's Institute
THE ART OF SUCCESS: The WI’s Paula Bates with Matthew Palmer

With three speakers as well as stalls, more than 400 women attended the annual event, which was branded a huge success.

The two days, which were held in Ditton Community Hall on October 6 and 7, were organised by Tunbridge Wells resident Paula Bates, who is the Chair of the West Kent Art & Craft Team, along with Jennifer Way and other valued members of the team.

“After all the lockdowns we were keen to go ahead with the hugely popular Art & Craft Annual Days. And although the WI has very much stayed in touch online throughout the pandemic, we had no idea how many members would attend our first live event,” said Mrs Bates.

“But we need not have worried – the requests for tickets came flooding in as soon as they were announced!”

The headline speaker was watercolour artist Matthew Palmer, a member of the Society of Artists of Great Britain, who appears on TV on the Craft Store Channel and has taught the likes of Jenny Eclair and Penny Smith how to paint. He has additionally appeared in the series Time Team and A Splash of Paint, and his books are published by Tunbridge Wells-based Search Press.

Matthew Palmer’s painting demo

He painted a landscape on stage while he gave his talk, pointing out many clever watercolour techniques.

The Great British Sewing Bee’s Rosie Geiger

Also speaking were TV producer Rosie Geiger from the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee, who has also worked on Bake Off among many other shows and had many entertaining behind-the-scenes stories to tell, and quilting queen Pascale Michalski, who revealed how she became hooked on the intricate art.

Quilting queen Pascale Michalski

Among those attending were members from around 80 branches in West Kent, including several from Tunbridge Wells’ Nevill branch.

“Wednesday started with the sun shining and the queue quickly forming in anticipation of the day. It was as if the last 18 months was a bad memory,” added Rita King, a Member of the Board of Trustees.

“Ladies were eager to return to the ever popular Art & Craft Days. Everyone was cheerful and smiling and after a very busy hour perusing the retail stalls took their seats ready for the first of the speakers.”

Afterwards, she said she received many ‘glowing reports’ on how the members enjoyed the two days, and meeting up in person again.

For more information on the local WIs, visit:


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