By Kate Loynes, a Beanstalk Recruitment and Training Executive in London 

This week Beanstalk is lucky enough to be attending the National WI Fair taking place at Alexandra Palace between 29th March and 1st April.

The fair is expecting over 14,000 visitors over the four days, WI members and non-members alike who will enjoy over 300 exhibiting stands, craft workshops, cookery demonstrations, talks from inspirational people such as Jan Leeming and Harrriet Harman MP and books signings in the Book Club feature with WHSmiths.

There is a great synergy between Beanstalk and the WI as one volunteer, Tricia Ross, told us:

“I have been a member of the Streatham WI for about 5 years and a volunteer reader with Beanstalk for nearly 10 years.

When I first attended WI meetings I didn’t go to every session, but realised after a relatively short time that I enjoyed the speakers, the craft sessions and the outings so signed up to become a member. Over the past year there have been craft sessions at the meetings as well as a variety of speakers including: a talk on London and Crystal Palace exhibitions, a speaker from the local Streatham society, a female judge and an 82 year female comedian. Probably one of our most famous speakers was Cynthia Payne (aka Madame Sin) who gave us a great talk about her life, and highlighted the scandal of the luncheon voucher system used at her local ‘parties’ in Streatham.  She was a near neighbour of George Galloway, it’s wonderful to speculate how she and ‘gorgeous George’ got on. 

We have a number of sub groups which meet regularly. I am a member of the book group and sometimes attend the outings to local restaurants and London museums.  The group takes part in various local activities like the Kite Day, Streatham Festival and Lambeth Country Show. 

I really enjoy the sessions. Even though I have friends and go out with them, it’s good to meet an entirely different group of people – many of whom have different views and opinions to my friends and myself.  In other words it’s good to step outside your comfort zone sometimes.

My time with Beanstalk has been at St Boniface School in Tooting. It’s a lovely school with friendly teachers and pleasant children.  I have read with a variety of ages i.e. from year 1 to year 5 and with both boys and girls. I have to say though that most of the children I’ve read with have been boys. It would be good to think we make a difference as volunteer readers. St Boniface have a number of people helping, often with the same children, so it’s probably fair to say between us it helps those we read with. 

I love reading – especially stories – and I think one of the similarities between the WI and my reading at the school is that both involve reading and the opportunity to meet other people with similar interests and values.  It’s the first time I’ve joined a book group and it’s certainly meant me reading books I’d never have thought of pursuing, let alone finishing, unless I’d been part of such a group.”

Tricia Ross pictured with a fellow Beanstalk reading helper from St Boniface in Tooting. 

We intend to spread the word about Beanstalk’s magic formula amongst the vibrant, dynamic and entrepreneurial group of women attending the WI Fair and hope that many will sign up to volunteer with us so that we can help more children across the country discover the joy of reading.