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Goodbye to Women's Guild of Friendship

After almost thirty years, a local friendship group for women is finally coming to an end. The Women’s Guild of Friendship evolved from a group called the Women’s Gas Federation which was funded by British Gas in the late 1980s. Jenny Bull and Avril Stevens have been back through the minutes of the Guild of Friendship to bring us this look back at the activities of the group across more than three decades.

In the early years the Guild had more than eighty members. In the past at least three outings a year were organised, with trips that included BBC Birmingham, Herefordshire’s Black and White Villages, Highgrove and the Cotswolds, The Forest of Dean and Tintern Abbey. Until the pandemic struck, the Guild only cancelled events twice because of the weather; once in 2007 due to the floods and in January 2010 due to snow.

There have been many excellent speakers at meetings over the years covering topics from local history, costume and travel, the natural world, musical interludes and much more. It is difficult to select from so many speakers but Colin Bowden, Penny Platts and Ray Sturdy made several appearances always with a new talk on a new subject every time. 

Royal celebrations featured strongly. On the occasion of the Queen’s Jubilee in June 2002 a card was sent to Her Majesty on behalf of the Guild. The next month the Jubilee was celebrated with a Midsummer lunch with tables decorated in red, white and blue. Jenny Bull gave a talk about the Buckingham Palace Garden Party she had attended and members joined together in a loyal toast to the Queen.

The Guild held Bring and Buy Sales in aid of charity until 2015, and over the years supported many charities including Acorns Children’s Hospice, St Richard’s Hospice, The Air Ambulance, Community Action, Help the Aged, Noah’s Ark, Cystic Fibrosis, SMILE, Sight Concern and Malvern Community Hospital.

With the onset of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown restrictions, plans for meetings in 2020 and 2021 were curtailed. Consideration was given at several committee meetings as to whether the Guild would be able to recommence once the long-term situation of the pandemic became clearer. 

As it was felt that members would like to meet after a time of isolation, in the Autumn of 2021 a series of monthly coffee mornings were arranged. The first one was well attended but the numbers dwindled which led to the inevitable decision, much to the sadness of its loyal members, that after almost thirty years the Women’s Guild of Friendship would finally close.