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Not all jam and Jerusalem! WI branch aims to break with old stereotype

The Women's Institute in Debenham will be celebrating its 100th birthday. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Women's Institute in Debenham will be celebrating its 100th birthday. Picture: GREGG BROWN

It is stereotypically seen as a place of jam and Jerusalem.

But a Women’s Institute (WI) branch preparing to celebrate its illustrious past is aiming to use the occasion to show how it has modernised – and attract people for the future.

Established in 1918, Debenham WI was one of the few branches of the organisation to continue during the Second World War – making it one of longest continuous running WIs in the country.

Members plan to celebrate the special occasion from 2.45pm on Saturday, October 6 with a party at Debenham Sports and Leisure Centre, in Gracechurch Street, where they will sing songs from each era of their history.

There will also be a table with a display of items relating to the WI’s 100 years, as well as an afternoon of entertainment.

Members are also gathering a collection of historic photographs to show Debenham WI throughout the years, with people encouraged to dress in clothes from different eras.

But June Rodgers – who has been a member for the past 10 years and branch president for the last six years – said that despite celebrating the landmark anniversary, the organisation wants to break with its old stereotype.

“We don’t want this image that we all bake cakes and make jam,” she said.

“There’s a lot more going on.

“We have always got interesting speakers and the WI has got a much younger generation coming through.

“We do need to attract more younger members but it’s quite hard to stop that image that it’s for older people.

“We hope younger members are going to project a new image.”

Mrs Rodgers, who said members often enjoy pub lunches, said companionship is one of the main reasons people join the WI.

“I think a lot of people, especially ladies, are perhaps a bit lonely,” she said.

“The WI is somewhere you can go to meet friends.”

According to the Suffolk East Federation of Women’s Institutes, Debenham WI currently has approximately 38 members.

Meetings are normally held at Debenham Sports and Leisure Centre on the first Monday of each month at 7.30pm.

For more information about the branch and for details about joining, visit www.sefwi.org.uk/institues/debenham

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