Welcome to the Arts and Leisure News Page – find out about all our latest news below. And all our events can be found here: Events Diary.

Fabulous London Walk

A report from Jill Ludlow, Roydon Village WI on our latest (and very over-subscribed!) London Walk.

When you think of the City of London, you probably mostly think of tall buildings, and glass and concrete. You’ll probably not think there are green spaces outside the great squares, most of which seem, at the moment, to be out of bounds due to Cross Rail construction. However, there are many small gardens and green areas, some associated with City Guilds, and others with churches.

After a warm and sunny week, Mothering Sunday dawned dull and chilly, as well as being the day the clocks moved forward an hour, and 30 members of Essex Federation WIs met at Liverpool Street to meet with Jill, who was to lead the walk. Travelling by tube to St Paul’s, our first garden was a few minutes away, at the church of St Anne and St Agnes, in Gresham Street; a church rebuilt after 1666, then bombed and rebuilt again after the War, and subsequently “improved” in the 1970s. This was a fairly informal garden, with some spring blossoming trees, but sadly littered by overnight residents. The pattern of being destroyed in the Great Fire, rebuilt in the late seventeenth century under Sir Christopher Wren’s plans, then being destroyed during the Blitz is very common.

Further along Gresham Street, found us in the Goldsmith’s Garden, a more formal garden, owned by one of the oldest City Guilds, whose headquarters are nearly opposite. With its gold decorations, it was very popular with the group and we spent a long time wandering around it.
 
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Visiting other small gardens en route, we found ourselves on London Wall at St Alphage, where this statue of the Minotaur is. It was previously in another park, near King Edward Street, and has been moved for unknown reasons. The nearby gardens showed the promise of spring, although sadly the weather continued to get colder.
 
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And it was for that reason that we swiftly walked to The Barbican, where the theatre has a Palm Court restaurant, looking like an area of rainforest with tables dropped in. As it was Mothering Sunday, the restaurant was heaving with people eating afternoon tea – at lunchtime!
 
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From there we went to my favourite garden in the City, Postman’s Park, which I walked through most of my working days for three years back in the 1980s. Postman’s Park features a wall of tiles commemorating, mainly ordinary, people, some of them children, who committed acts of heroism losing their lives in the process. Mainly these are pre World War I, and I find the wall immensely moving. The Minotaur at St Alphage had previously been in this park. The tile wall, known as The Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, was the brainchild of the Victorian artist, GF Watts. The gardens themselves included a feature garden of yellow and white primulas.  The adjacent church is also worth a visit.  
 
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We finished our walk at some gardens that were hidden when I used to walk to work along this route. Established in the bombed out ruins of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church Greyfriars, strictly speaking it is on the corner of King Edward Street, but it’s given the address of Newgate Street. The garden has kept the plan of the church, with the planting in the pew area, and the aisle still obvious, as well as two walls and a tower.  
 
The City of London has many of these hidden gems and thank you to Gill who lead us so ably around, in spite of Transport for London’s best efforts in closing roads while building Cross Rail. It’s such a small area and so easily accessible from major stations, it’s worth trying it yourself (www.londongardenstrust.org).
 
With many thanks to Jill Ludlow, Roydon Village WI

Shakespeare Workshop A Success

The Arts & Leisure Committee held a Shakespeare Workshop today at the FEWI Centre. Actor Simon Bridge was such an inspiring tutor as he explored Shakespeare’s language and got all of all the audience participating; our members became working actors in Hamlet and MacBeth and Julius Caesar. There were also many funny moments with members not coming in with their words at the right time, and even a ghost coming through the door on cue! Everyone enjoyed the workshop so much that they have asked for him to come back again. At lunch a delicious butternut and chicken soup was served, which was followed by a selection of lovely home made cakes.

Walking in the Shadows of the Suffragettes

Sunday 25th March saw 30 members of Essex Federation take to the streets of London walking 15,400 steps each! Here’s all the details jointly from Sue MacEwen and Lesley Beckett (The Brentwood Belles WI)…

A hundred years on from the Suffragette marches, representatives of various Essex WI’s assembled at Liverpool Street Station. The ladies wore various tokens in remembrance of the Suffragettes, from small white, green and mauve ribbons to splendid hats and sashes. So off they went, 31 ladies, with maps in hand, made their way to Holborn, via the Central line. he first place of interest was St George’s Church Bloomsbury Way, where 5,000 suffragettes defied a ban and followed Emily Davison’s hearse to Kings Cross on 14 June 1913. Our group was unable to go inside as a service was taking place, but photos was taken outside. Moving on past Covent Garden, and pausing outside the Gardenia Restaurant in Catherine Street, Sue explained this was where Christabel Pankhurst plotted, with the other WSPU militants, a demonstration in Whitehall, while detectives gathered outside to arrest them. Our next stop was the National Gallery, where some dashed off to use the services, others made their way to the café and all ended up at Room 30 to see Rokeby’s Venus, which was attacked by Mary Richardson with a meat cleaver in 1914, provoked by the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst the day before. You can still see some of the damage today. Walking down Whitehall, passing the Household Cavalry museum on the left and a half Marathon on the right, it became harder to keep together, but not much could stop the WI women and they all made it through to Parliament Square. There was even a glimpse of Downing Street where two Suffragettes try to post themselves to the Prime Minister! We heard plenty of snippets about Suffragette deeds like setting off a bomb hidden in a hand bag in one of Westminster Abbey’s chapels. For  Suffragettes, handbags were a tool for extreme patriarchy. On this occasion, one unnamed Suffragette had successfully set of a bomb in Edward the Confessor’s Chapel, close to the Coronation Chair, after ditching her bag in a pew and fleeing. Within the recovered bag was a feather boa and a guide book. Walking past the Cellarium Café was hard; the walk was thirsty work, and this famous café (where Emily Pankhurst sought refuge) had been turned in to a pub – it looked so very inviting! The, nearing the end of the walk, was the most important Suffragette building on the route – Caxton Hall. From the outside little had changed from the days of being used by the WSPU’s women’s parliament, but the building is now luxury flats. In 1907, it was the site of the WSPU’s women’s parliament.,which took place at the beginning of every parliamentary session from 1907. In that year, the day after votes for women were omitted from the Kings speech, Emmeline Pankhurst cried “Rise up Women ” to 400 suffragettes who answered “Now!”. Close by still stands Howick Place Post Office, where in 1912 it’s windows were smashed with stones by two protesting ladies. The Suffragette Memorial Garden was also nearby with a bronze sculpture commemorating the importance to the movement of Caxton Hall. The WI ladies’ 6 mile (or 15,400steps!) walk attracted lots of public interest on the way – for example from a man who shouted ‘women are gonna rule the world! – as he pushed his daughter in her buggy along Caxton Street. This was such an enjoyable walk and above the noise of the traffic it was interesting listening in to the chatter of ladies from the different Essex WI groups along the way. A huge thanks must go to Gill who ably led the walk around London in this, the Suffragette anniversary year.

FEWI Autumnal Lunch 2017

The Colne Valley Golf Club was such a beautiful venue to hold our Autumnal Lunch today. The setting through the windows was magnificent, looking across the Autumn coloured valley. Inside the tables and raffle followed the same theme but the atmosphere was warm. Lunch was most enjoyable and the after lunch speaker, the famous author Sarah Harrison gave a most interesting and humorous talk on her vibrant life experiences.