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Wi Ducks Unlimited Calendar

WI date with the Calendar Girls ( and it ended in a raffle, of course )

“We’ve been to London and Dublin and Switzerland. We’re going to Australia and Rome but we’ve looked forward to this one because it’s the WI,” said Tricia Stewart, the woman who persuaded fellow members of Rylstone WI to strip off for a charity calendar.

SW Wisconsin Calendar Raffle: Tue, Dec ,
SW Wisconsin Calendar Raffle: Tue, Dec ,

Nine hundred women from the North Yorkshire West Federation of WIs turned up to watch the film at Harrogate’s Odeon cinema on Friday night.

Poking fun at the traditional image of the WI, the invitation said champagne and pearls and the ladies obliged.

Ducks Unlimited Calendar Wisconsin
Ducks Unlimited Calendar Wisconsin

As the queue snaked past the cinema and down the street, the clacking of pearl necklaces could be heard above the good-natured banter. Some had even donned hats to add to the glamour of the occasion.

Judi Pennington, who organised the event, said: “Initially, we booked just one cinema screen but the demand for tickets was so huge that we ended up taking over three – and we’ve got a full house.”

Many of the women in the audience had worked as extras on the film and were thrilled to see themselves on the big screen. They included Rita Swallow, former federation vice-chairman. She acted as liaison between Rylstone WI and the federation for the original calendar.

She said: “There were quite a few raised eyebrows at first but, once people saw what it was about, most of them realised what a good idea it was.

“We haven’t got to get away from our roots – the fellowship and support – but we have to move forward and I think the calendar has helped to do that.”

The audience seemed to agree and there were plenty of laughs as the film gently sent up the WI stereotype.

Carol Copeland, of Richmond WI said: “The WI had a bit of a stuffy image but I think the film is fantastic.”

But behind the fun, there was a serious message.

The Calendar Girls posed nude to raise money for Leukaemia Research when one of their husbands, John Baker, died of the disease.

“We thought it would last three weeks and raise £5,000 for Leukaemia,” says Tricia. “We had absolutely no idea just how massive it would become. It’s been absolutely amazing.”

So far, the women have raised £650,000. The royalties from the film will also go the charity and they’re hoping to reach a staggering £1m.

At the end of the film, the Calendar Girls were invited in front of the audience. Wearing their trademark black outfits, adorned with a single sunflower in memory of John, they said their thanks.

And, in the best of WI traditions, the evening ended with a raffle.