300 flock to meeting of new Women’s Institute branch

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A ‘pretty amazing’ response to plans for a new Women’s Institute in Tunbridge Wells means two groups are to be set up instead of one.

Organisers say up to 300 people poured into an initial meeting in the King Charles the Martyr church hall, Warwick Park, on Monday. This was too many for the proposed single branch, the Wells Angels WI, so it was suggested another be set up in the St John’s area.

Founder Hanna Sorrell came up with the idea, but had no idea how popular it would prove.

The web designer said: “Monday was pretty amazing, it’s exceeded anything I could have imagined.

“I think there’s a real need for a group where women can get together and share and support each other.

“I used to be a member of a WI in Islington and when I moved here, I thought it would be great to join one. But there wasn’t really anything like I was looking for, there’s a few in the area but they’re very much the old-fashioned kind.

“I was talking to friends and we thought, why don’t we start one?”

The 32-year-old wants to challenge the ‘real misconceptions’ she believes exist when it comes to the WI, which celebrates its centenary this year.

She said: “There’s been a new wave of groups starting, which are much more inclusive.

“My previous group was very modern and diverse, with ladies of all ages, a real mix.

“We had fascinating speakers and lots of things to do, from food to crafts to school issues.”

Asked whether the baking and jam-making side of the WI still applies, Miss Sorrell said: “Very much, because it’s still part of being a modern women, but so is web design or photography or women’s rights. It’ll be a real mixed bag.

“Just come, and keep an open mind. The WI isn’t the old-fashioned organisation some seem to think, it’s come a long way.”

The Angels group is to meet on the second Monday of each month at the King Charles hall, the next meeting being October 12, while the other is likely to meet in the St John’s area.

For more information, email tunbridgewellswi@gmail.com

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