Jam and...the Women's Institute

I’ve been telling stories to branches of the WI in the Avon Federation for a few years now. Little did I know how important that would become during the COVID pandemic.


2020 had started well. I’d told stories by the fire in The Packhorse pub in Southstoke, near Bath. I’d been to the Arthouse Café in Southampton for an inspiring evening of performances and friendship. I’d hosted and told a story at Talking Tales #27 in Stokes Croft, Bristol and I’d returned to Story Friday to leap off a bridge...in story form at least. That was the 28th of February.


You’ll have heard about COVID and lockdown and the devastating effect on the arts and all those in creative industries. I carried on with the day job so I had it easy in many respects. But it didn’t feel easy for the 510 days before I got to tell a story to a live audience again. The village hall doors and windows would have been wide open for ventilation but it was also a boiling hot evening in a boiling hot week.


The welcome by the Wick WI was equally warm and as it was their first meeting together in a long time, there was a celebratory air. I was really nervous but it was like deliverance and time travel in equal measure. Such a joy…such a relief, I was home again.



I’m still telling stories to branches of the WI. It’s still a joy but it’s more than that too.


There are branches celebrating 100 years of meeting and the belonging that brings. 100 years of community that world wars and a pandemic could not suppress. That is inspiring and something worth celebrating. There is tradition but there are open minds and open hearts too - it’s a leap of faith to book me in the first place.


I am rewarded by the happiness of telling stories to a new audience. I hope the branches feel the stories are rewarding too – despite the revelation that England’s green and pleasant land includes a jam mine in my garden.


With thanks to WI Branches everywhere,


Mark

xx


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