Past Speakers

WI aim: to inspire and enlighten

A selection of a few years of past speakers to give an idea of the types of talks at Shadforth WI


2009 - India, Gardening, Alzheimers, Music, Dance, Folklore

Performance by "'Spot On' Song and Dance" (June 2009).

Another very well polished and highly enjoyable performance!

Garry Hillery - "Hanging Basket Demonstration" (May 2009).

Garry Hillery demonstrated how to plant out hanging baskets and talked about plants, as well as his work as a trainer at Finchale Training College, a national, specialist College providing vocational training to enable unemployed, disabled adults gain the skills they need to enter and retain employment. The hanging baskets he created and brought along were lovely. Garry’s knowledge, passion and enthusiasm were impressive and his talk was entertaining and infectious. After a talk on plants, the following discussion regarding this year’s Resolution for the National AGM which urges the government to devote more money to the problem of the disappearing bees, a problem which could cause severe problems to plants throughout the UK, was particularly poignant.

Joe Maloney & friends - "Billingham Folklore Festival" (March 2009).

Representatives from the Billingham International Folklore Festival talked about their well established festival which collects together skilled performers from all over the world and celebrates it’s 45th Billingham International Folklore Festival on 1st - 8th August 2009. They talked about their selection processes (choosing only around eight acts from the hundreds that apply), the challenges of hosting the performers who arrive from throughout the world, of funding and finding suitable venues year after year. This is one of the most respected international folk festivals and it offers performances to the public and workshops for local children. You can find out more at:

Tom Harker and Aileen Scott - "Memories Are Made of This" (February 2009).

Four people came to talk about different aspects regarding the care and treatment of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Tom Harker sang a selection of entertaining songs and spoke about his own experiences as a carer for his wife. Ann and Vivienne, from the Bowes Lyon unit in Durham, and Jennie, from the Carers Support charity, spoke about the help and support available, both for patients and their primary carers and families.

Judy McLean - "My Journey to India" (January 2009).

Judy McLean and her daughter Alison spoke about their journey to the east of India in November 2007, illustrating their talk with slides. They saw all sides of life on their journey which was mainly to visit areas which have been linked to Durham, through the continued support of the parish of St Cuthbert in Durham, for over 40 years. They visited schools, dispensaries, religious institutions and leper colonies. They talked of local issues from the problems of elephants trampling crops, to the stigma still faced by lepers, for example the many people suffering from leprosy who live on the coast at Puri. They also spoke of the devastating effects of more recent acts of religious persecution and murder in the east of India, since December 2007, which has affected people of all religions and caused set backs in the valuable work to bring positive changes to the area.

On a happier note they talked of the pleasure of the people that they visited and the happy singing children that welcomed them at the various schools and institutions. They could see how support from Durham was making a real difference and was highly appreciated. In particular they visited Belpahar, in the east of India, where the parish is twined with the one in Durham. Judy and Shadforth raised money for through an ‘Open Gardens’ event in June 2007 and as a ‘Thank You’ the Sisters at the church in Belpahar gave Shadforth a tapestry, showing two green birds, which is proudly on display in Shadforth Village Hall.

2008 - Slavery, Wills, Silversmith, Music, Dance, Preserves, Fjords, Danube

Barbara Beveridge - "Leazes Dairy Preserves" (November 2008).

For the November meeting Barbara Beveridge, from Leazes Farm near Bishop Auckland, came to talk about her business Leazes Dairy Preserves. She explained how she set it up at home, around the time when the supermarkets were squeezing milk prices and her and her husband decided that their farm should branch out into other activities. She talked about the creation of her distinctive preserves labels, complete with a picture of a Friesian cow, and selling through fairs and a farm shop in Wolsingham.

In setting up her preserves business she was strongly supported by her local WI, which she still attends even though it is nearer to their previous farm. She said how she really enjoys the friendship it offers and that she has learned so much through it. In particular, she recently received a travel grant from Durham County WI Federation to attend a preserves course at the WI’s Denman College, which really helped with new recipes and gave advice on selling preserves as a business.

The best part of her talk was, of course, getting to taste her work! These included: apple chutney with cheese, mango chutney with crackers, caramelised onions with sausages, pate and elderberry chutney, teacake with marmalade, wild bramble chutney, and rhubarb and ginger chutney (though not all at once!), and finally a seasonal Christmas pudding and rum sauce! (Now don’t you feel hungry reading this?!)

Vivien Slack performing with "'Spot On' Song & Dance" (September 2008).

For the first meeting after the August break, instead of a speaker, we were entertained by the group Spot On. With one of the group indisposed due to illness, the two extremely talented sisters sang a selection of songs from the Shows and from the Forties (Andrews Sisters style). Their choice of songs was different from the norm and very enjoyable. After the show they stayed to enjoy a supper of a choice of four homemade soups and stotties (rather than the usual tea and biscuits!). Everyone enjoyed Spot On’s performance so much that we have invited them back for 2009!

Les Howe - "Silversmithing" (July 2008).

Les Howe is a silversmith and a member of the Society of Northumbrian Craftsmen. He specializes in Celtic jewellery and in creating his work he is inspired by the cultural heritage of the North East, for example historic artefacts like St Cuthbert’s Cross from Durham Cathedral, the Lindesfarne gospels and knot-work designs from this region. His work is handcrafted in silver and 9ct yellow, red and white gold in his workshop in County Durham, and it is hallmarked at Sheffield Assay Office. Amongst his commissions have been work presented to HRH Prince Charles and a Pectoral Cross for a former Bishop of Durham. For us he spoke about his occupation in general and brought along some lovely examples of his work.

Age Concern - "Wills, Trusts & Power of Attorney" (May 2008).

Age Concern talked about legal issues that everyone should consider, as well as particular issues that people face as they age and the support available. For further information about Age Concern see:

John Charlton - "North East Connection With Slavery" (March 2008).

John Charlton gave a very interesting talk about how the North East was involved in slavery and also how it affected the whole UK and beyond. He put the issues into the social context of the time, for example describing the feelings of a ship worker who worked on ships that moved goods and how he personally felt when his job changed to moving human “cargo”. He also spoke about the people involved in the anti-slavery movement and their contributions to abolition. For more details about this very interesting subject see his book Hidden Chains: The Slavery Business and North East England, published in October 2008 by Tyne Bridge Publishing (ISBN: 978-1857951233).                                                                      


Kenneth Mankin - "Things European" (January 2008).

Kenneth Mankin performed a son et lumière style slide-show to music, to illustrate his sea and river tours around Europe. First he transported the audience on a Norwegian journey by ship to and from Bergen, travelling up the coast, through fjords, past the Arctic Circle to the land of the midnight sun and reindeers (with snowy weather but sadly no Santa!). The second tour was along the Rhine and Danube, from Cologne to Vienna, and finally some scenes of Berlin, both pre and post the fall of the Berlin wall!

2007 - Mining, Poems, Craft, Queen's Garden Party, Home Sitting

Jean Carlisle - "Queen's Garden Party" (September 2007).

Jean, who on her last visit to SWI amused everyone with her tale of her son’s Irish wedding, returned to talk on her experience at the Queen’s garden party. She also told of her husband’s charity fundraising which earned this invitation. After loosing much of his sight, her husband spent time making fudge and toffee which he sold, raising a substantial amount of money for charities relating to sight-loss.

Barry Mead - "Woodhorn Colliery 'Mining Memories'" (July 2007).

Barry gave a very informative and interesting illustrated talk on mining in the North East, and the lives and conditions of those who worked in the mining industry. He contrasted the history with life in the North East today, where he has spoken to children who had never even seen coal.

Joyce Swan - "Poems What I Wrote" (May 2007).

Joyce entertained everyone with a selection of her poems from an extensive collection of her work. "Poetry" could sound stuffy, but Joyce's poems would make anyone love the genre. All her poems expertly observed "truisms" of everyday life and were very funny! Joyce has not published her poems to date, but hopefully she will in the future!
Kathleen Adams - "Prick and Stitch Card Making" (March 2007).
Kathleen demonstrated "Prick and Stitch" card making, creating greeting cards decorated with hand-stitched designs. Then, with a choice of coloured card and an extensive range of metallic and decorative threads, everyone had a go at a heart design (see picture for result)! Kathleen also brought along many examples of cards she has made, for all sorts of occasions (such as Christmas, Easter, Graduations and fishing - well there was a fish on it anyway), to give us an idea of the wide range of possibilities using the "Prick and Stitch" method.

Margaret Blythe - "What is a Home Sitter?" (January 2007).
Margaret gave us a very interesting talk about her, and her husband's, second career as Home Sitters, staying in people's houses while they were away, often for months at a time. She had many anecdotes to share, including haunted houses, taking care of interesting and varied animals (including neurotic parrots, goldfish and large dogs), attempted burglaries, and huge country houses with "help". On one occasion they took care of a hunting lodge, complete with residents requiring breakfasts, with so many rooms that the Home Sitters had to synchronise watches in order to meet up for meals. It sounded exhausting but Margaret assured everyone that she had really enjoyed the job - and all its infinite variety!

2006 - Craft, History, Weddings, Tanzania, Cookery, Embroidery, Women in Politics

Clarice Cooper - "Craft With Clarice" (November 2006).
Clarice was excellent as usual. She brought along bead kits and taught us how to make lovely Christmas tree decorations. Very festive! See the picture to the left for the result!

Pearl Laidler - "The History of Banners" (October 2006, Members' Night).
The Members of the Institute organised Members' Night and invited Pearl Laidler, of Silver Stitch, based at Vane Tempest Hall in Gilesgate, to speak about the history of Banners and her work. Pearl has been making School, Community and Miners Banners for several years. She spoke about their purpose and manufacture from a historical point of view, and how she makes them today. She also talked about her work as a Seamstress for her company Silver Stitch and her sidelines of making coats for dogs and dog grooming. She brought along examples and photographs of her work. The banners made by the school groups were particularly colourful, one stating "Care for the Future, Remember the Past".

After a delicious Faith Supper, there was also a performance by local talent, Marjorie Watt, playing guitar and singing beautifully.

Roberta Blackman Woods MP - "A Non-Political Talk" (September 2006).
Roberta Blackman Woods MP is an MP for the City of Durham, but as the WI is non-party political she talked about non-political issues. Her talk was in two parts. Firstly she spoke about growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and how the troubles taught her to live for the day. The second part was about the role of women in public life. She spoke about being a female MP in Westminster, the challenge of balancing home and public life, and let us know that the ladies toilet situation has improved, but the nearest one is still 5 minutes from the Chamber of the House.

Sheila Tock - "Embroidery Demonstration" (July 2006).
Sheila brought along examples of many beautiful and differing styles of embroidery. She often enters competitions so she gave us tips on how to win such competitions.

Jean Carlyle - "An Irish Wedding" (May 2006).
Jean amused everyone with her tale of attending her son's wedding in Dublin in only 3 days, including return car travel from the north east of England, via ferry from Holyhead! This tight schedule further exacerbated confusion with the in-laws she had not yet met, and a priest who was conducting a wedding service for the first time. Naturally there was also a problem with the rings - they got stuck in the boxes! Luckily it all ultimately worked out well and Jean is now a proud grandmother!

Helen Grindley - "Local History" (March 2006).
Helen is a leading light of Shadforth Community Association History Group. She gave an interesting and informative illustrated talk. She started off by explaining how the History Group came into being on the refurbishment of the Village Green in 2004. She then talked of the work of the History Group, their exhibitions, the Walks Leaflet they have produced and the book on the History of Shadforth that they are working on. She also brought along a display of photographs charting the history of the village, some bringing back fond memories. For more information on the history of Shadforth see the Information on Shadforth page, with links to the Shadforth History Group.

Liz Wilkinson - "Cookery Demo" (February 2006).
Liz and her helpers, Alex and Katie, made making food look easy. They brought along all the ingredients, including their calor-gas cooker and showed everyone how they too could recreate this delicious food at home. They gave out copies of their recipes and everyone enjoyed tucking in to the end result. Delicious! As they were cooking Liz also told anecdotes about her experiences as a caterer at various parties.

Jane Ackroyd - "Tanzania" (January 2006).
Jane and Marion are Deputy Heads at a UK Church School which has been supporting a school in Tanzania. They both came and gave an illustrated talk about their visit to the Tanzanian school.

2005 - Craft, Soap, the Co-op, Guide Dog Puppies

Edna Oswald - "A Christmas Card" (November 2005).
Edna brought along numerous handmade cards which she had crafted herself. These included examples of decoupage and quilling and gave everyone lots of ideas. Members had the chance to make their own Christmas Card with the lettering "Season's Greetings" and a picture of a Christmas tree on varied backgrounds. Edna showed everyone how to use layering effectively, and to use tea-bag folding to make the points of the Christmas Tree literally stand out!

David Hughes - "The Co-op" (January 2004).
David talked on his life and career with the Co-op (rising from shop boy to Chief Executive Officer) and the various changes to retail from the mid-20th century. He has written of his experiences in A Journey to Remember (published by Durham County Books). He also paints watercolours, examples of which he brought along. The proceeds of his newer, co-written, book The True Story of Alice Sahher, will support the running of an orphanage in Palestine.

Maggie Dearmer - "Soap" (September 2005).
Maggie talked about her handmade organic soaps, bath/shower gels, shampoo bars, conditioners, herbal creams, scrubs and specialities such as her Organic Baby Collection. She talked about her experiences at Farmers Markets and how she made her products. She brought along a number of examples and gave members the chance to test samples of their choice.

Elaine Leek - "Training Guide Dogs" (March 2004).
She talked on her experiences as a puppy walker for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and brought along the puppy she was currently walking - who was very cute! She explained that following vaccination the puppies, at 6 to 8 weeks old, meet their volunteer puppy walkers. To become good guide dogs the puppies must be brought up properly and the puppy walkers introduce the puppies to the sights, sounds and smells of the world by taking the dogs on buses and trains, into shops and along busy streets. The puppy walker teaches the puppy to walk ahead on the leash (not "to heel") as it must do as a guide dog, and to obey simple commands such as "sit", "down", "stay" and "come". When the puppy is about a year old it returns to the Guide Dogs organisation for the next part of its training, or be rejected if it is judged unsuitable (at which point it is re-homed). To find out more see: