Spa Sweethearts Women’s Institute was the brainchild of Bex Brown (now Bex Hartley), who visited the WI tent at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2011. She hoped to find a WI she could join, following the footsteps of her grandmother, a well-known member of a group in Goldsborough for many years. However, before she knew it, Bex was being encouraged to set up her own group aimed at younger women.
With help from some friends, Bex organised an initial meeting in September 2011 to gauge interest. To her surprise, 32 women turned up to find out more, and two WI advisers helped to guide the group through the process of deciding whether to become a new WI. A vote was taken on the name, and Spa Sweethearts WI was formed. It is part of the North Yorkshire West Federation of WI, which in turn is part of the national Women’s Institute, boasting more than 200,000 members around the UK.
The first official meeting took place in October 2011, when the Spa Sweethearts learned about cake decorating. The second meeting, American beadwork, saw the room at the Conservatives Club on East Parade, Harrogate, full to bursting with new members, so a new venue had to be found. In December 2011, Spa Sweethearts met at Harrogate Rugby Club for the first time, where the large function room was very much appreciated as more than 80 women packed in to learn how to make festive Christmas wreaths to decorate tables or hang on doors.
After a few months at the rugby club, we soon found ourselves on the move again, and after a lot of searching we discovered St George’s Social Club, which was exactly what we needed: big enough to cope with our membership (which had reached 100 by this point) with good facilities for plenty of tea and cake at our meetings, as well as lots of free parking for people travelling from further afield. St George’s was our home from summer 2012 until the end of 2017 and has seen all sorts of bizarre activities, from competitive baking to beetle drives, jam-making to belly dancing, and beer tasting to power tools.
We moved to our new home, Christ Church on the Stray in January 2018 and we have settled in very nicely. It is a lovely location which has lots of space and even a dishwasher! Highlights from our first year there include; swing dancing, cider tasting, burlesque dancing, bread making and more.
Our programme is always as varied as possible, including talks from interesting speakers, trips out to new places and the chance to try our hands at new crafts and skills. Spa Sweethearts WI was established with the idea of offering women the chance to try new things and meet new people, and it has certainly fulfilled its aims.
In February 2014, Bex stepped down as president as she was expecting her first baby. Becky Warburton became our second president and served until Summer 2015 followed by Lucy Cooper. Lucy took the reigns until February 2017 which leads on to our current president Amy Ball. The committee is made up of some long-term members (including a few who have been on the committee since the first meeting) and lots of newer people. We are always looking for more volunteers to help out by joining the committee, or taking on other roles to make Spa Sweethearts WI the best it can be.
The group is open to women of all ages who are young at heart. We offer a warm welcome, hot and cold drinks (and often cakes too!) and a fun evening out with good company. If you would like to join us, or come along to a meeting as a guest to find out more before you commit, you’ll be very welcome. We meet on the second Thursday of the month at 7.30pm, at Christ Church on the stray – but do check our Facebook page and Twitter feed before you set off, because we occasionally meet elsewhere.
We look forward to seeing you soon!