WIs swing into action to help the Bees

Many of you must have been wondering how our colleagues in the prison WIs have been coping during the various lockdowns. We know how much your support has meant to them from the grateful thanks we received from the women artists of Send, some of whom are Send Inspired members, for your terrific response to their Christmas card and calendar sale. Here’s another heart warming tale of the WI at its best from JILL ELLIOTT, who was instrumental in setting up the first prison WIs in Surrey.

BRONZEFIELD Bees WI is situated at HMP Bronzefield and was the first WI to be formed in a women’s prison.

This came about in 2010 as a result of the WI mandate Care not Custody in 2008. There are now seven such WIs, including Send Inspired and Downview Dames in the Surrey Federation.

If you were able to join our Annual Council Meeting in March you will have heard guest speaker and NFWI chairman Lynne Stubbings speak of this (and what a triumph and technical achievement that council meeting was!)

Shortly before Easter I was in touch with Dee Flarry, the President of Bronzefield Bees WI. She mentioned how much it helped the women to be engaged in craft activities during lockdown and they were very short of craft materials. Knowing how generous and supportive WI members have been in the past, I contacted the Presidents of my local WIs in the Emlyn Downs Group. Members were invited to donate and drop off supplies to my door step over five days.

In addition I suggested that a card and message with the items would be welcomed.

The response was both speedy and generous, plus the added bonus that I enjoyed many socially distanced greetings! By the Friday my car was very full and when Amanda Edge, president of Great Bookham Belles arrived with their contribution, I was pleased to have her help in completing the loading up, as you will see from a photo she took!

On the Saturday before Easter I arranged to meet Dee in a car park to hand over the many bags and packages. On my return home I sent a very grateful thank you to all WI members for their kind and generous response.

Since then Dee has been in touch, having sorted the many donations and it was a great pleasure to receive her  message. We felt it would be lovely to share this story with Surrey members, many of whom have supported our three prison WIs in recent years.

In normal times my good friend and retired WI Adviser Jan Heasman would have been hoping to accompany me on such a mission, but with present restrictions that was not possible and as it turned out the passenger seat was full!

We look forward to the time when we can visit all our prison WIs again.


And a response from Dee, the Bees’ President, to all who donated

THIS message is sent with heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all of you who made donations recently to the Bronzefield Bees WI.

The donations were of a high standard and our members are very grateful for all that we have received.

The well wishing cards are also very much appreciated as the regime at Bronzefield is limited at present and our members are spending a lot of their time in their cells. The good wishes show that many people care and are thinking of our members during this time.

The prison, as with the country, is slowly moving on to the next level and work areas are gradually opening up  affording the women a chance to get back to a bit of normality.

We very much look forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary (2020) delayed by a Covid year in 2021 — if things go well this could be late summer and we will welcome as many of you as can attend.

Once again thank you so much for your support, it means a lot to our members.

Kind regards — Dee Flarry, President of the Bronzefield Bees WI

PS We are also very grateful to you Jill for organising this and have plenty of supplies to keep us going for a while.

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