Anything you ever wanted to know about the Stow Roses

Who are the Stow Roses?


The Stow Roses are the Women's Institute in Walthamstow.  We comprise 110 women from across the borough of Waltham Forest and are the biggest WI branch in London.  We are a diverse bunch, spanning all ages, and with a wide variety of interests.


How did the Stow Roses form?


Our founding president, Jacky, tweeted in April 2013, asking if anyone would be interested in setting up a branch of the WI in E17.  Within weeks, half a dozen women had agreed to attend an initial scoping meeting in the cafe in Lloyd Park to discuss whether or not an E17 WI was viable.  Gently guided by Catherine, the ambassador for Gothic Valley WI, we got in touch with Middlesex Federation and started on the process of formally establishing ourselves.  


Our first meeting attracted over 200 women and we spilled out of the function room and took over the whole of the pub, much to the bemusement of the regulars. 


Where did the name come from?


We toyed with a number of names - E17 WI (like a car registration plate), Stow Belles (rhyming with Bow Bells), Walthamstow Women (does what it says on the tin) - but when our Events & Social Media lady, Jaqueline, suggested the Stow Roses, everyone loved it.  It's not only a play on the Stone Roses, but also means something without the musical connotation.


Are you 'Jam and Jerusalem'?


We don't sing Jerusalem at our meetings (although we did have a version of that hymn by the Fall playing at our first meeting!) but we are partial to a bit of jam, and if anybody offered to come and demonstrate jam-making, we're sure there would be no shortage of interest.


Are you religious or political?


The WI is an apolitical and secular voluntary organisation.  We have no affiliation with any particular political party or religion, but we will make our voice heard in fora where there is something that concerns us.


Can I join the Stow Roses?


We want the Stow Roses to be friendly and welcoming, where women can come together and share their skills and experiences, and make new friends from across the borough.  The concern was that with a larger group, there is a risk of becoming anonymous and losing that sense of belonging.  It also makes events such as craft demonstrations, or even taking a register on the door, a logistical nightmare!   

We have been able to offer spaces for 2015 to those on our waiting list.  To join our waiting list for 2016 membership, please email our Membership Secretary and ask for your name to be added. 


Is there room for two WIs in the area?


Of course there is!  There is now a branch in Leytonstone called the Stone Rangers and we're aware that there is still a huge interest across the borough of Waltham Forest in joining the WI, so we'd be more than happy to offer help and advice to anyone who is interested in starting up another branch.  Please come along to one of our meetings as a guest or get in touch with us at Stow Roses and we'll be only too glad to advise you on those tentative first steps.  It's really not that hard.  All you need to start is three women who agree to act as President, Treasurer and Secretary.


Can I bring my baby/child to meetings?


The age requirement for membership and for guests at WI meetings is 18 years of age.  In addition, our meetings run on until quite late in the evening (past the hour when pubs usually ask minors to leave), address adult themes and are often very crowded, with priority for seating and space needing to be given to members and paid guests.  We would therefore ask that members make alternative childcare arrangements for the main monthly meetings. 


Do I have to volunteer?


The WI is first and foremost a voluntary organisation and is frequently asked to participate in community events.  We therefore encourage our members to be active participants in the WI and to volunteer for activities as much as they are able outside of the main monthly meetings, in addition to contributing whatever time and effort they can to the organisation of the Stow Roses in general.