We are Borough Belles Women’s Institute.
Founded in September 2009, we’re looking for as many like-minded ladies as possible to join our group. We celebrate all the things the WI stands for: insightful speakers and presentations, interesting craft projects, and a whole lot of cake. Our mascot is our lovely London honeybee – industrious and adaptable, not to mention a provider of delicious treats!
We seek to embody the WI’s motto of ‘Inspiring women’, forging friendships and sparking passions that will benefit both us and the communities we live in.
We are always looking for people to step up and take on roles within the committee. If you are interested please do get in contact for more information or look at the Jobs Board HERE
THE BOROUGH BELLES COMMITTEE
PRESIDENT: Alison Pearce
There’s no two ways about it, I LOVE the Belles! Joining a Borough Belles meeting in 2015 was absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’d urge any woman to take a leap and give us a try. I’ve worked in Southwark with my partner since 2011 and since there’s just the two of us in our business there’s a distinct lack of colleagues to befriend. I only wish I had discovered the Belles sooner as not only have I had many fantastic experiences, learnt a lot and challenged who I think I am, I’ve made some very special friendships too.
I came as a guest twice before joining – my first meeting was a wine tasting, no such bad choice for the unconfident though it was a talk so I didn’t chat to many people, followed by a Christmas party the next month where one member asked me if I could smell her garlic breath when she breathed on me*! Undeterred by these experiences I joined at the next meeting in January where I met another Belle who happened to lead the running club (and was the entirety of the running club!) From our regular runs I took over when she stepped down from the committee and from then on I’ve enjoyed being part of the team helping shape BBWI. A year as Secretary has now led to me becoming President and I couldn’t be more proud to have been voted in. I think what I’m trying to say is that a little perseverance can really pay off – it takes time to get to know people in all circumstances and I like to think that the Borough Belles have a welcoming and relaxed vibe with lots of opportunities to get involved and learn things while also making friends.
Shared with Becky (Vice President), I’ll be heading-up our monthly meetings and chairing the committee that organises our WI as well as penning the monthly newsletters. I’m really looking forward to continuing to deliver alongside our committee the creative, challenging, fun and inspiring meetings, clubs, visits, fundraising events and experiences that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself so far.
*a strange and isolated experience 😉
VICE PRESIDENT AND FILM CLUB OFFICER: Becky Marlow
I joined Borough Belles in January 2017. It’s a great fun group with lots of social activities and opportunities to do and learn different things! I joined wanting to widen my social circle and I have certainly done that since joining! This year I have been nominated as Vice President and I look forward to helping out in that role! I also organise the FilmClub – this was originally an off-shoot of the Bookclub. We are checking out all the cheap ticket deals at the local cinemas on the first Monday or Tuesday of the month to see the new releases and are also finding new and interesting ways to watch beloved films! Recent and upcoming trips include picnicking at an outdoor screening at the Barbican, drinking cocktails and watching in comfort on bean bags and I’m hoping we can try interactive cinema in the future too!
SECRETARY AND GREENER ECONOMICS CLUB OFFICER: Susan Hunter
I joined the Borough Belles in 2018 when I came back to London after working abroad. I’d been to a couple of meetings before I left and was disappointed that I couldn’t set up my own group while I was out of the UK!
There are loads of ways of getting involved. WI campaigns like “End Plastic Soup” made me want to learn more about Green Economics so I set up the Greener Economics Club. We go to talks and debates about green matters in the news. The plan for the coming year is to put what we learn to practical use. Watch this space!One thing led to another and now I’m Secretary as well. That’s the person ticking off names at the front desk at meetings and managing member data. I also minute the Committee meetings and share news and info from our Federation and the NFWI where needed.
TREASURER: Christel Hernalesteen
As Treasurer I look after the finances for our W.I. club: handling membership fees, paying expenses and helping to manage our budget.
BELLES OF FIRE OFFICER: Amelia Parsons
I have been a keen Borough Belle of Fire for three years. We meet for chatty weekend morning runs in South East London’s lovely dog-packed parks including Dulwich, Peckham Rye and Crystal Palace and sunny evenings along the Thames. Belles of all running abilities are welcome to join our jogs! I am taking over organising the group in 2018 and we are going to branch out to other exciting forms of exercise including hula hooping, yoga and trampolining.
CULTURE CLUB AND SOCIAL MEDIA OFFICER: Johanna Wilson
As the Culture Club and Social Media Officer, my role is to organise culture outings (museums, galleries and talks), as well as cover the Borough Belles Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I joined the Borough Belles in 2015. I came as a guest to for a session on urban beekeeping and I was hooked! It’s a really friendly group that makes you feel welcome from the very first session. There’s such a great range of activities and events going on, as well as ways to get involved and give back to the local community, so there really is something for everyone
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Lara Clements
I joined the Borough Belles in 2010 and can honestly say it was the best New Year’s resolution I have made. I am a really proud WI member, I love that it raises a few eyebrows in the office and is the largest voluntary organisation of women in the UK. When I first moved to London I really missed having a group of crafters to hang out with and with the Borough Belles I have found a wonderful community of likeminded people. I’ve learnt to dance like Beyonce (ahem), embroider, make amazing jam, dream of keeping bees and learnt about giant squid! Currently I’m a committee member without portfolio, helping out as needed.
CAMPAIGNS, COMMUNITY AND CRAFTIVIST OFFICER: Sarah Miloudi
As Campaigns, Community and Craftivist Officer, it’s my role to think of ways Belles can give back to their local community and to organise great craft events.
Craftivism, volunteering and group making are all fun ways to get involved with the WI and help us shift the needle on our annual resolutions, which in recent years have included taking action to boost the bee population and curbing the volume of plastic entering our oceans.
STALLS OFFICER: Kiki Lo
I have been a Borough Belle for a couple of years and found that you could not be with a better group of women. They are always up for trying something new and care passionately about their community, social and environmental issues. There is something very special about being part of a group of people who are all from different walks of life and yet you will have an immediate rapport with them.
My background is in design, both architecture and textiles, but I do love cooking and since joining the Belles took on the challenge and improved my baking in order to help supply our stalls.I have now taken on a more of active role which entails helping to organise our cake stalls as well as our bi-monthly supper club which has become very popular and is a great way of getting to know fellow Belles.
VENUE QUEEN: Fiona Smark
I joined Borough Belles in July 2018. I’d just moved to London and wanted to make some friends, and the WI is the perfect place to try new hobbies and meet other women. I’ve just joined the committee as Venue Queen.
COMMITTEE MEMBER: Emily Simpson
I have been a member of the Borough Belles for a couple of years now and it’s been great! I joined after moving to the area and doing some googling on groups and things going on in the area and I found the Borough Belles site. For quite a while I just checked in and read what they were up to and then one day I went along as a guest. I remembered going along to WI events with my mum where I grew up in Kent and I have very fond memories of the voluntary warmth the community gave out, there is just something special about that. It also feels like an important social and historical society that we owe to the world to continue with!
It’s a great group of smart fun ladies and it’s refreshing to be part of something totally voluntary. No-one is forced or obliged to go and yet people just turn up week after week.
The monthly speakers have been fantastic and varied, I have learnt practical, emotional and financial skills through them! The fringe clubs have been awesome too and being part of the National Campaigns vote has been really interesting and satisfying.
I would recommend anyone tempted to come along, to just have a try, I really have no complaints! 10/10
COFFEE CLUB OFFICER: Honey Langcaster-James
I first met the Borough Belles thanks to a particularly tasty jar of jam! One day I was mooching around Borough Market and I was drawn to a stall that stood out from all the rest. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that purchase ultimately led me to get to know the loveliest bunch of women I could ever have hoped to meet. And yes, I know that’s a cliché since everyone thinks the ladies of the WI are all about knitting and making jam. However, I can assure you I have since found out the Borough Belles are about so much more than that. Oh…so much more!
A few months later, when I moved into central London through work, I remembered that jam and, moreover, all those friendly faces. I went along to a meeting, just to see what it would be like, and I soon found myself joining up. Since then, I’ve got up to all sorts of things. I’ve attended supper clubs, been on group tours and I’ve been to see movies I would never have thought to go and see. I also love the monthly meetings where I’ve learned about anything and everything from the origins of different types of tea to how to play the steel drums! Now I’m on the committee and I run the Coffee Club (because who doesn’t like meeting up for a coffee and a chat with friends?) and I’m so glad that, thanks to that little jar of jam, I ended up meeting such an interesting, inclusive and inspiring group of women because ultimately, while Borough Belles make really great jam, they make even better friends!
WANDERING BELLES OFFICER: Lisa Ancliffe
When I moved across London in 2018 I joined the Borough Belles as a way to meet new people in the area and also to encourage me to get off the sofa and start doing more.
The Belles have certainly delivered on both points. It has been great getting to know such a wide variety of amazing woman that you wouldn’t normally find all in one room. After usually being the odd one in the office it has been lovely to meet people with similar interests ranging from baking and crafting through to campaigning and being green.
There are so many activities on offer that you can dip in and out of as your interest/time allows. I have loved all the activities and talks that the monthly meeting offers as well as movies, football matches and volunteering on stalls.
I will be taking over the Wandering Belles walking group from Christel and am looking forward to finding some great walks in London and the surrounds to further shed my inner couch potato.