The soaring Seagals
Susan Stephenson met the soaraway Seagals and their modern version of a Women’s Institute
Meet the Scarborough Seagals, a modern WI group that is booming and enjoying visits and tours without any jam.
T he very fact that I was meeting the SeaGals at Scarborough Art Gallery led me to believe that this was going to be different to a traditional, stereotypical WI meeting.
We were being given a ‘behind the scenes’ tour by Julie Baxter, the gallery’s venues and volunteer manager, titled ‘Costume in Art’.
The group usually meets at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on the second Monday of every month, but outings and special events are a frequent part of being a ‘Seagal’.
It was a busy night, with around 30 members present and group business to see to following the interesting hour-long tour, and it gave a real insight into life as a modern WI member.
Many were keen to speak to me about their experiences, including 35-year-old Laura Brown, who has been a member since the Seagals started up a year ago.
She said: “One of my friends told me about it – and my mother-in-law is really into the WI. I’m keen on crafts, jewellery making and baking, and I thought it would be a good way to meet people. It’s different to how traditional WIs are viewed. Everyone pictures them in church halls!
“But we have members of all different ages and we have lots of events and trips to different places. We’ve been fossil hunting at Cayabout.” ton Bay, to a carol concert at Ampleforth and on a trip to Leeds Armouries.
“I really enjoy it – I would encourage everyone to come and give it a go. Everyone is really friendly and you meet members from other groups.
“I would definitely see the Seagals as a modern WI group. They are forwardthinking and are bringing it to a younger age group.”
Committee member Ann Beaumont, 67, a retired palliative care nurse, says that lots more is in the pipeline, such as a craft group, theatre group and book club.
The group already organises a coffee meet every Monday morning and a walk every Thursday. Ann, of Ten- nyson Avenue, said: “People can focus on their particular interests. We ask people to put their ideas forward – anything from tai chi to bellydancing!
“I do a lot of crafting and it’s been nice to meet likeminded people. We’re now in the process of making items to sell to raise group funds.”
Ann added: “We want this to be for everybody – for nobody to be excluded. It’s not jam and Jerusalem any more!
“It’s about women meeting up and having a natter. I think it’s been good for Scarborough. We’re a very friendly group – do come along and see what we’re Gardener and lumberjill Maria Arnold, 54, of Ramshill, has been a member since the group started and got her love of the WI from her grandmother.
She explained: “I wanted to be in the WI since I was about eight years old. My grandmother was secretary and chair of a group in London and she would come back with amazing stories of what they did and where they would go.
“She was an active member and used to take me on trips. There are still lots of trips, but things have moved on from home baking and jams.
“There’s something for everybody and I think there’s a less formal feel now, it’s more relaxed.
“I love it – it’s lovely to come somewhere where you can do an activity in the evening and it’s all organised for you.
“The ladies are lovely and everyone is so receptive and open to new things.” Group president Sue Wright is looking to welcome new members, as for the first time in a year the group doesn’t have a waiting list.
Sue said: “We try to do something different every time, whether is chocolate making, talks on a particular subject or jewellery making.
“We’ve got 40 members at the moment, of all ages – there are no restrictions. Come along and meet us!”
The Seagals WI group meets on the second Monday of the month (no meeting in August) from 7pm to 9pm, usually at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Go to www.scarboroughseagalswi.org.uk, email scarborough.sea.gals.wi@gmail. com or search for Scarborough Seagals on Facebook. Membership fees apply.
‘ They are forwardthinking and are bringing it to a younger age group.’
Sue Wright, Maria Arnold, Ann Beaumont and Laura Brown enjoy their membership.