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The Swinging Sixties and Beyond

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

The afternoon meetings to accommodate the blackout continued until 1958. Then the members experimentally alternated afternoons with evenings. The spirit of charitable work, however, continued. WI records of the sixties show that voluntary work was very much on the programme. Beginning in 1960, ‘Trading Shillings’ were given out by the Treasurer in January, to be returned, with interest, in July. One year five shillings was sent to the Refugee Fund. A ‘Derby and Joan’ club in Paddington was ‘adopted’ and entertained annually.

Records mention 68 visitors from London enjoying lunch in the Village Hall, then drives around the Forest in members’ cars, and back for tea with homemade cakes and gifts of flowers and eggs for each visitor. The arrangement with Paddington continued until 1966 when the WI founded The Forest Club in Fairwarp. In addition to regular Charity work, sixties and seventies members held ‘special effort’ events, and as an example of this, £10 raised in 1961 enabled donations to be sent to the Blind and Cancer Campaign – after having reserved funds towards entertaining the Paddington folk.

Each year members picked primroses and sent them to the patients at The Royal Sussex County Hospital and The Sussex Eye Hospital. The WI also knitted blankets for ‘needy folks,’ made scrapbooks for the Children’s Hospital, had sewing groups to fundraise for Charities, held frequent Bring and Buy Sales and in 1965 began cooking lunch for the housebound – we still do this in Uckfield.

WI membership at the time was not all about work – fun was had too. One talk mentioned was entitled ‘Why I like being Sixty,’ Competitions included ‘Something made from an old hat,’ and ‘Members’ amusing stories about animals.’ Hats were, of course, widely available as they were worn at meetings. It is also worth noting that in April 1963 two members of the committee had babies.

The educational side of the WI has always been important. Between the Sixties and the Eighties an impressively long list of classes was arranged: Basketry, Collage, Cooking, Country Dancing, Découpage, Dressmaking, Eiderdown and Loose Covers, Flower Arranging, Lampshade Making, Millinery, Painting, Patchwork, Raffia and String, Sweet Making, Tailoring, and necessarily, ‘Keep Fit.’ Discussion groups, outings to theatres, WI County Rallies and Group Meetings were frequent, as were attendances at National WI events.

A postal link with an Australian Institute was formed in 1961 and continued for some years. A second series of communications with an Australian WI happened in 1994.

In 1970 the Fairwarp ‘Good Neighbours’ scheme was started. It was a WI initiative, involving the Village and based on one already operating at West Hoathly. The scheme foundered after a while but was revived under the umbrella of the WI in 1980.

Fairwarp WI birthdays have always been well celebrated. Many were made memorable by the wonderful ‘FWIDS’ (‘Fairwarp WI Dramatic Society’ for non-members!). The 75th Anniversary was celebrated in 1996 with one such party and a service at Christ Church to mark the occasion. In the sixties the Institute put a seat on the South wall of the church in honour of the WI Jubilee. They also planted wild daffodils, three rowan and three cherry trees on the Village Green in 1996; and very recently, members and other village volunteers were seen with trowels planting more wild daffodils in the hope that there will be a pale golden haze edging the Green in time for Fairwarp WI’s 90th Anniversary in March 2011.

E. Gutteridge.

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