From girl gangs to ghosting: Wells Angels explore female friendship

WI-friends.jpg

“It is often said that it is love that makes the world go round. However, without doubt, it is friendship which keeps our spinning existence on an even keel.”

This quote is an extract from a popular wedding reading, so popular in fact that my Mum read it at my wedding earlier this year. While it’s clear that friendship is a fundamental foundation for a successful romantic relationship, we often overlook or take for granted a different kind of vital - and sometimes life-saving - relationship: female friendship.

In books, films, songs, TV shows, platonic friendship between women usually plays second fiddle to romantic relationships. How often do you hear a song about the passion someone has for their best mate? How many conversations between women on TV shows or in films don’t focus on their relationships with men? (This is such a point of contention, in fact, that there’s an entire test - the Bechdel test - dedicated to measuring whether two named female characters have a conversation that doesn’t involve a man!).

According to friendship expert Dunbar, this disparity goes beyond the media; apparently, we lose two close friends for every new romantic relationship we enter. So why do we put so much emphasis on romantic relationships at the expense of close friendships, and how can we get more out of our arguably as-important relationships with friends?

This was the focus of our July meeting, when Wells Angels welcomed guest speaker Kate Leaver, a journalist and the author of bestselling book, The Friendship Cure, to explore and discuss female friendship. From the moment the Committee announced the theme of the meeting, there was palpable interest among the Angels. This isn’t surprising, given that so many of our members (myself included) openly admit that part of the reason they joined the WI was to make more local gal pals.

Many Angels have moved to Tunbridge Wells from London, sometimes - and definitely in my case - with few connections to the local area. And let’s be honest, making friends as adults is hard. Gone are the days when you could run up to someone in the playground and ask them if they want to play with you (I mean, you could try it. But I think you’d be met with raised eyebrows, and potentially a call from the local social services). It can be awkward and embarrassing to admit that you’re lonely, or to feel like you don’t have many friends nearby. And sometimes, you don’t even realise that’s how you feel (adult life is busy, after all!) - I certainly didn’t until my SO went away for a week and it dawned on me that, at the time, I didn’t know anyone in town that wasn’t his friend.

Before the meeting, we asked the group to put forward questions for the discussion. The questions, which ranged from “how do I maintain friendships when I’ve moved away?” to “how do I let go of toxic friendships?”, revealed not only the significance of friendship in our lives, but also its complexity. As Kate Leaver said during the course of the evening: “Friendships are a source of great joy, but also intense darkness.”. I’m sure every woman can relate to that!

Despite the brevity of the meeting, Kate took us on a whiplash, whirlwind tour of friendship. We explored not only the benefits of friendship, but also the science of friendship (did you know, based on the size of brains, we should have space for 150 friends of varying closeness?), the representation of female friendship in the media (which is so frequently negative - the media love to pit women against each other. Just think Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift!), the sometimes fine line between feeling included as part of a girl gang or excluded from a clique, the challenges of making friends as an adult (did you know there’s an app for that?), and our own responsibilities as friends. Too often, she said, we take our friendships for granted, and don’t make the effort that such important relationships deserve.

We also tackled some of the more challenging aspects of friendship, from being “ghosted” (when someone stops returning your calls or replying to messages), to gently removing ourselves from toxic friendships that have run their course and now only bring us anxiety or pain. Kate was refreshingly candid about her own difficult experiences, revealing her own anxieties and vulnerabilities, and (I think!) giving us the confidence to voice our own worries and questions.

The evening absolutely flew by, and it really felt like we could have gone on discussing friendship forever. Sadly, we had to wrap it up, but I’m confident that this fascinating meeting left every Angel feeling inspired and with renewed determination to work on their friendships.

It was a great reminder for us all that, when women work together and support each other, great things can happen. Certainly, for me, it made me happier than ever with my decision to join Wells Angels - I’ve met so many strong, inspiring, creative and interesting women in the past year, and it’s wonderful to be part of the ultimate girl gang!

I spoke to a few Angels on the evening to find out why they joined the WI, and their experiences of friendship:

Making friends at the school gate - Natalie

“I settled in Tunbridge Wells when my son started school about two years ago. I’d moved from South East London, and didn’t know anyone who didn’t know my husband. That’s part of the reason I joined the WI - to meet some new people.

“There’s a stigma about school mums and playground bitchiness, but actually I’ve made loads of friends through my son’s school. I think it all starts when your kids go to birthday parties - it’s amazing how much of a bonding experience being stuck in a soft play area with a coffee can be!

“Now, there’s a big group of us from the school, and we do loads of things together, like barbeques. It’s hard making friends afresh, but I’ve been happily surprised by how well I get on with other school families.”

Opposites attract - Rebecca

“I joined the WI earlier this year, through the ballot. The ballot was at 9:30 and I was waiting on my computer at 9:29, poised! I joined because I think Kate and Hannah kick arse - they do the marketing for my side hustle. When they told me places had come up I was like “I have to join this thing they’ve been talking about!”

“My bestie is called Amanda, and I’ve known her since uni when I stumbled into the uni bar and she was talking about sex really loudly, and I thought: “that’s an interesting topic of conversation!”

“I was slightly shyer than she is, or was back then. I’d not been out in the big wide world, and she was so worldly wise, and I just thought we’d get on like a house on fire. We’ve been best friends ever since! I love her because she’s probably the polar opposite of me in many ways, so we see the world completely differently but in a really complementary way. And I KNOW, if the sh*t hits the fan, she’s always be there!”

1000s of miles can’t keep us apart - Tracey

“I joined the WI about a year and a half ago, to meet new people and also because it’s about women supporting women, which is a really good thing to have because we tend to tear each other down instead of supporting each other.

“Because I’m from South Africa originally, I’ve got friends far and wide. For me, it’s those friends that you can not talk to for six months but pick up the phone and pick up exactly where you left off that I love. I’ve got a school friend that I’ve got that relationship with, and I know she’s my go-to person for anything, even though I might not see her for 6-8 months at a time.”






2018/2019 Bursaries

We are excited to announce the third year of the Wells Angels WI Bursary Award! Fancy getting your learn on? Read through the guidelines below, fill out an application, and you never know, it could be you! 

To apply for and be awarded a Wells Angels Bursary you must be a full or dual member of Wells Angels WI. 

For 2018/2019 a sum of up to £300 is available. This can be awarded to one individual or to a group of members i.e. one member could do a course which costs up to £300 or a group of members could all do the same course with a total cost for all participants of up to £300. If the course costs in excess of £300, the recipient will be required to make up the difference.

Applications must be submitted by 30 November 2018. To apply, please complete the application form below.

The Wells Angels WI Committee will form a shortlist from all applications. The shortlisted applications will be voted on by Wells Angels WI members at our January 2019 meeting. The application or applications which receive the most votes will be awarded the bursary. Any members of Wells Angels WI Committee who wish to apply for the bursary will be excluded from the shortlisting process.

On being awarded the bursary, the recipient has a maximum of 12 months to complete their course and feed back to the group in the form of a skill share, workshop, presentation or other format.  The format of the skillshare must be agreed before the bursary is awarded. If the recipient of the bursary leaves Wells Angels WI before feeding back to the group, the cost of the bursary will be reimbursed by the recipient to Wells Angels WI.

Bursaries for Wells Angels WI members are available for a course or activity which is defined as educational, learning or personal development. A bursary can include travel costs but cannot be solely put towards travel.

Payments for bursaries will be arranged with the Treasurer and must be discussed prior to a course being booked.

If you have any questions about the bursary scheme, just drop us a line.

How Does All This WI Stuff Work?

This post is by Wells Angels WI Vice President, Julia Mortimore.

So how does this all work then, this W.I stuff? How does it happen every month? Who decides what and why and when and HOW? 

The truth is, it’s a group effort and the Wells Angels Committee is the place that formulates a plan for what we’ll do for the whole year. All the ideas get thrown in, jiggled about and we see what feels right. There are 10 of us at the moment, all different, all busy and all committed to making those few hours every month worth every penny of your subs. It’s a juggling act, for sure, but it’s worth it. 

Our purpose, is to make sure you’re getting the WI you want. We follow some basic principles of trying to spin things in a more modern, women-positive and dynamic way, but essentially we are here to serve all of you. And we absolutely welcome ideas, suggestions and brainwaves on topics to curate. 

There are different roles, some bigger than others. Think of a job, we do it - from treasurers to secretaries to instagrammers to head office correspondence-sifters to wine buyers to minute-takers to newsletter-writers to subgroup-coordinators to get-to-the-hall-and-set-up-firsters. Basically there’s a bunch to be done. 

We meet once a month, normally at one of our houses and plan. And nibble. And often sip. We do have an agenda each month to keep us on track but the AnyOtherBusiness section at the end is normally the best bit. 

Some very special friendships have been born from being part of this WI and the committee is testament to that. I’ve also laughed so hard... often at times when I’d nearly forgotten what that felt like. Some of those girls are now mine for life. And no matter what life is throwing at any of us, I always feel a little better after committee meeting. That’s pure girl power. 

If you’d like to be part of the committee then you can read all the official details here and apply to be put forward at our AGM in May. The deadline for applications is Monday 9 April.

Join the Wells Angels WI Committee!

The May Annual General Meeting is almost upon us once again and that can mean only one thing... No, not just an open bar, but your chance to get involved with the Wells Angels WI Committee!

Do you love our WI and want to get involved with the behind-the-scenes work that makes the meetings, subgroups and events run smoothly whilst ticking *all* the WI rulebook boxes? Great!  

The committee is hella fun but it's also a big commitment and a lot of work. We need you to be:

  • Available to attend and, if you're able, to occasionally host meetings on the evening of the last Monday of each month
  • Enthusiastic about helping our WI run like a well-oiled machine
  • Pro-active in your approach to representing your role and carrying out all duties
  • Able to devote time outside of meetings to taking care of anything relating to your role
  • Willing to muck in and help out with the responsibilities of other members of the team
  • Great at working collaboratively with a group of amazing women

If this sounds like you, please send the following information to us via email by the end of the day of Monday 9 April, the date of our April meeting.

  • Your name
  • Your contact information
  • A brief biography
  • A brief summary of why you want to join the committee and what you would bring to the group
  • A photo of your lovely face! 

All nomination information will be collated into a ballot sheet so that members attending the May meeting on Monday 14 May can vote on who they would like to make up the committee for this year.