One of Devon’s newest WI’s, North Bovey Belles held a spectacular evening to showcase their new WI and welcomed Miss February, Angela Baker from THAT calendar to entertain members and guests with a first hand account of the story of the unofficial WI calendar and it’s subsequent impact on cancer research funding and the WI.
After enjoying a welcome glass of bubbles and assorted canapés the audience was transported from a wet and windy Dartmoor by Angela’s enthralling storytelling talents back to the Yorkshire Dales of 1999 when the story began of a few ladies from a Yorkshire WI who initially set out to raise a few £’s in order to buy a new sofa for the waiting room at the local hospital in memory of Angela’s husband who had recently died of non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Tired of the usual humdrum offerings of the usual WI’s yearly calendar featuring local landscapes they revisited an idea they had jokingly discussed amongst themselves of producing a calendar featuring W.I. ladies performing typical W.I. crafts and activities IN THE NUDE -carefully maintaining their dignity with strategically placed props! They were convinced they would end up recycling a fair few unsold copies as they were advised to print a minimum of 3000 copies to be cost effective. By the end of that year they had sold 88,000 copies and today, 20 years later they have raised over £5m for the Bloodwise charity, inspired a stage play as well as an award winning blockbuster film – Dame Julie Walters played Angela’s character – and a stage musical written by Gary Barlow. Their story captured the interest of the world’s press and they have travelled the globe giving interviews and appearing at promotional events but never losing sight of their original aim which was to fund research into the disease that claimed the life of John Baker, Angela’s husband and friend and neighbour of the other Calendar Girls.
The audience was swept along by a story of incredible bravery, hilarious antics, and raw human emotions as Angela left her audience eager to hear more of her incredible experiences of the last 20 years. She is now very happily married to Charles, a retired vicar who was a close friend of John for many years; and still participates in her W.I. as well as continuing to raise money in John’s memory.
Devon is home to one of Angela’s closest and oldest friends and it is hoped that she will visit the area and the W.I. again in the future where she has endeared herself to all those who met and heard her speak.
Truly, an Inspiring Woman.
North Bovey Belles meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 7.30pm in North Bovey Parish Hall, (TQ13 8RA) and welcome any women to visit their meetings. Please contact us for further information.
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Article written by Sarah Shorthouse