Aug 282015

With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.

Scottish Women's InstitutesIn cities, towns and rural areas of Scotland, a new generation of women is discovering for the first time the appeal of the Scottish Women’s Institute.

They are trying activities like speed crafting, going on brewery trips, making cocktails and learning to play the ukulele at new branches that have popped in Leith, Shawlands, Aberdeen and Dervaig on the Isle of Mull.

Moves to introduce the SWI to a broader reach of women have led to the birth of pilot meetings which are being trialled in different parts of Scotland.

These less formal gatherings have been encouraging women to meet with other like-minded women to make friendships and learn new skills and interests at times of the day and week that best suit their lifestyles.

The latest pilot to get off the ground is in Aberdeen which held its first meeting on Wednesday, August 19, inspired by the new style groups that are taking root elsewhere in Scotland.

Ann Milne, the driving force behind the Granite City’s Deen Divas says:

“There has been tremendous interest in an informal group of women getting together to socialise, enjoy shared interests and above all have fun.  About 40 people attend our first meeting and we’re looking forward to developing and growing in the coming months.”

Leith SWI is part of the new generation SWI with Facebook taking the place of committee meetings and cocktail making and ukulele lessons among its meeting themes.

Member Dawn Endean says:

“It’s about people getting together because they want to make friends. We do whatever people fancy doing.”

Dervaig Divas held its first meeting in a pub in the north of the island of Mull and has been the brainchild of the SWI’s Sheelagh Still who finds it refreshing to go forward with younger people’s ideas, input and enthusiasm.

Says Sheelagh:

“We recognise that women want flexibility and may wish to dip in and out of meetings as their other commitments allow. It’s great to see new interest being generated in the SWI.”

Shawlands in Glasgow launched its new-style SWI on Sunday, 23rd August with plans to focus on women’s safety, alongside crafts and baking.

Angela Tamburrini of Shawlands sought out a local SWI to learn more about homecrafts and baking, but with none near her home decided to do something about it by forming a new group.

“That was at the beginning of June and I’ve had 80 women register their interest,” explains Angela.

“Activities will be whatever the majority want but will include speakers to talk about topics such as women’s safety.

“Some of the talent out there is gobsmacking and some of the ladies are happy to do demonstrations like make jewellery, quiltmaking, baking, decoupage, paper crafts. 

“I’d also like to help women improve their employment prospects and am thinking about getting someone from a recruitment background to give their CVs a health check – for free of course!”

SWI national chairwoman Christine Hutton is encouraged to see new members coming on board and taking an interest in the organisation and says it bodes well for the future.

Christine adds:

“The SWI will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and to see fresh blood coming in, and new institutes being formed, is a positive step in the right direction.”

The new style meetings have come about as part of the rebranding of the movement introduced earlier this year to address the organisation’s ageing membership and to inspire women to join an organisation more reflective of modern lives where women work, have family and busy lifestyles.

The word ‘Rural’ has been dropped from the name, to reflect the growing membership in urban areas, while a new logo has been designed to give a fresh look along with the strapline ‘Women Together’. A new website has also been launched making it easier to search for Institutes.

Flexible meetings at different times of the day and in different venues are being trialled with new Institutes encouraged to take up themes and activities that reflect their own interests, lifestyles and communities, alongside existing SWI groups where education and training in home skills, family welfare, citizenship and friendship remain the key aims.

The new groups complement the existing network of traditional meetings that have been held all over Scotland since the organisation’s foundations in 1917.

The SWI remains one of Scotland’s most loved institutions with a membership of around 17,700 women.

For more details of how to find your nearest institute, or advice on how to set up a new one, visit or go to its Facebook pages at

Feb 202015

Scottish Women's InstitutesthmWith thanks to Eoin Smith, Tricker PR.

In a drive to attract a new generation of members, The Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI) will introduce a pilot project adopting new-style flexible meetings at different times of the day and in different venues to fit in with the lifestyles of prospective new members.

Meetings taking place in informal settings like coffee shops in the daytime or straight after work  will be trialled, to help the organisation become accessible to more women who work, have family commitments and busy lifestyles.

New Institutes will be encouraged to take up the themes and activities that reflect their own interests, lifestyles and communities.

The existing key aims of the SWI will remain as education and training in home skills, family welfare, citizenship and friendship and to promote the preservation and development of Scotland’s traditions, rural heritage and culture. However, there will be less formal minute taking and members being required to take on formal roles, with new institutes communicating perhaps instead by blogs and social media.

These pilots will run alongside the network of traditional meetings held all over Scotland by members since the organisation began in 1917.

In tandem with the pilot project of new style meetings, the organisation will in future be known as the Scottish Women’s Institutes rather than the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes, to show that women from urban as well as rural locations are welcome.

A new logo has been designed to replace the Luckenbooth logo first introduced in 1918 and the motto ‘For Home and Country’ will be replaced by the strapline ‘Women Together.’ A new website is under construction and will make finding out how to join a local institute easier through a simple postcode search, and online payment option for the joining fee will also be introduced. (launch planned for March 2015).

Membership has fallen from 30,000 in the 1980s to under 18,500 today and it is seen as crucial that changes are implemented to attract a younger generation of women to continue the legacy of one of Scotland’s most loved institutions.

Chairman Christine Hutton explains:

“We are the guardians of our organisation and it’s our duty to leave a legacy for Scottish women of the future. Although they may not seem to be pioneers by today’s standards, the women who started the SWRI during the First World War were forging a new path for women learning and socialising together. It’s very important for us to retain and build on our aims, but we have to do this by attracting new members.

It has been estimated that if we continue a membership decline similar to that which we have experienced in recent years, our organisation may simply cease to exist. I am excited that we are pioneering new ways of reaching out to different generations of Scottish women while we retain our structure of traditional meetings which are so valued by many of our current members.”

Christine continues:

“We are aware that many non-members who live in cities and towns feel we are not open to them; just to rural, country people and this could not be further from the truth. We may be dropping the word ‘rural’ from our name, but I am sure generations of women will continue to refer to us as The Rural and we welcome this. Whether we are known as the SWI or the ‘Rural’ our aims remain the same – to bring Scottish women together to enjoy learning and extending their crafts and skills.

There has been a UK wide revival in baking and crafts thanks to the popularity of television shows such as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’, there is a clear interest from women of all ages, in learning and sharing knowledge in skills including cooking, the arts and crafts, as well as leisure activities. We aim to move forward as a relevant, appealing membership organisation for women of all ages.”

One of the youngest institutes in the SWI is Garnethill  in Glasgow, where the programme of recent events has included an ecstatic dance workshop, life drawing; talks on drug law reform and working in child psychiatry; and members joining  a ‘Reclaim the Night’ march in Glasgow. The new pilot projects may adopt similar styles of meetings and activities.

Chair Lindsay Finnie and her fellow Garnethill members are excited about the refocus of the national organisation and she says:

“We are more of an ‘ideas and brainfood’ group than some of the more traditional institutes but we became affiliated to the SWI as we see how members get so much out of meeting with others, having fun and also taking part in stimulating activities that are relevant to them and the communities which they live.

“I would encourage more women to be part of the move to make the SWI increasingly relevant to women of all ages.”

Long standing SWI member Isabell Montgomerie of the Ochiltree Institute in Ayrshire says:

“This evolution of the SWI is an exciting and interesting time for us as current members. Being relevant and inclusive for women across Scotland has always been at the core of the SWI and while I am sure we’ll all still be calling it ‘the rural’ for many years, it is time for us to reach out to many more women in Scotland’s urban and rural areas to join us.

“It will be great to be able to choose between our traditional meetings and a more informal get together while still having the chance to meet like-minded women and to improve our skills.”

With a membership drawn from Shetland to Wigtown, the SWI remains one of the largest women’s organisations in Scotland. It offers women of all ages the opportunity to learn new skills, take part in a wide variety of activities from art, crafts and cookery to choral singing, debating and dancing, all of which offer friendship and fun and the chance to get to know your neighbours.

Christine Hutton adds:

“We celebrates our centenary in 2017 and we hope to reach this important milestone with an increased membership and a choice of meeting structures for institutes which will be enjoyed by members old and new.”

For more details of how to find your nearest institute, or advice on how to set up a new one, visit or go to its Facebook pages at

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Aug 182014

GrampianTransportMuseumImage1With thanks to Martyn Smith, Marketing and Events Organiser, Grampian Transport Museum

Want to get involved with a great local institution?

Grampian Transport Museum is expanding its range of services and activities and needs to add to its teams of volunteers. GTM is an educational charity and much of the operation is already run by dedicated volunteers who give up their time either regularly or as required.

The award winning museum is now into its fourth decade is again on the development trail.

Additional volunteers are needed under the following headings:

Customer Care Assistants to assist visitors, demonstrate exhibits and add to the visitors experience during opening hours.

Exhibit demonstrators to adopt a working exhibit and demonstrate it as required.

Conservation Project Engineers to help with conservation of collections, mostly vehicles.

Market Intelligence Officer to collect and process data from visitor surveys, spot and exit surveys. To advise Marketing group.

Signs and Banners Marshal to help with temporary signage on and off site for events and activities.

Membership Coordinator to help run the museums membership scheme

Website and Social Media Officer to help GTM with SEO, web updates, Facebook, Twitter, Trip Advisor, Google Analytics, Photography, Crowd Funding etc. Objective – improved web presence. To advise Marketing group.

Events Volunteers to join our large team of events staff, marshals and helpers. Good training opportunities.

Interested? Please phone 019755 62292 or email for further details of the offered positions, rewards and induction process.

Aug 142014

A brand new event celebrating Ford through the ages will be taking place at the Grampian Transport Museum later this month. With thanks to Martyn Smith, Marketing and Events Organiser, Grampian Transport Museum.

Mike Ward GTMAllFord at Alford is the museum’s first ever gathering of everything Ford, from 1908 to the present day and will be held on Sunday 31st August.
With over 100 vehicles already confirmed, fans of the iconic Blue Oval can expect an eclectic mix of vehicles including Model T’s, Model A’s, Cortina’s, Zephyrs plus a replica of the Gran Torino from the iconic TV show Starsky and Hutch.

Ford Powered vehicles will also be represented, with a 1991 Jago Jeep and a Ford Powered Robin Hood Lotus 7 Kit Car also in attendance.

A fun addition to AllFord is the ‘Show and Shine’ competition plus a special award for ‘The Choice of the People’, where members of the public will be able to vote for the vehicle they deem the most popular at the event.

Mike Ward (pictured), museum curator, is looking forward to the first AllFord event.

“The idea of having an event called AllFord in Alford has been talked about for a number of years now. Since the museum opened 31 years ago there has been a continuous storyline about Henry Ford and the enormous contribution he made to the motoring industry and this has always been a key part of our exhibition.

“When it was launched back in 1908 the Model T made motoring for the masses a reality and there isn’t anywhere more fitting than an award winning museum in Alford for an event called AllFord to take place!”

Feb 202012

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party is to complain to Aberdeen City Council over mistakes in the mailing and online information for voters in the Union Terrace Gardens referendum. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party is one of seven groups participating in the referendum process in support of retaining Union Terrace Gardens. With thanks to Martin Ford.

As a registered ‘campaigning organisation’, the Green Party was entitled to have a 300-word statement included in the information pack sent out to voters. However, in the information posted out to voters by the City Council, about half of the Green Party’s statement is missing. Only the first five paragraphs are there, while the last six paragraphs are omitted.

There is also a word missing from the half of the statement that is included. The contact information given for the Party is not the contact information provided to the City Council for use in the referendum mailing.

Voters in the referendum can vote online at:

The statements provided by the various registered campaigning organisations are also included in the online information. As with the printed information sent to voters by post, about half the Green Party’s statement is missing.

It is reported that some of the statement submitted by Aberdeen Against Austerity, another campaigning organisation in favour of retaining Union Terrace Gardens, is also missing from the online information for voters. Another two statements run into one another without a break, so could appear to be one statement.

Commenting, the vice-convenor of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Green Party, Rhonda Reekie, said:

“I find it quite incredible that multiple mistakes could have been made in the referendum mailing. Wasn’t the material proof read? Even the most cursory check would surely have revealed that six whole paragraphs were missing from our statement.

“This is not good enough. This referendum is important and must be fairly and competently conducted. What has happened is not fair.

“Errors on this scale amount to gross incompetence by the City Council. The Green Party will be complaining to the Council in the strongest terms.”

The Green Party’s full statement can be read by voters on the party’s own website:    


Rhonda Reekie 01224 714135;
Martin Ford 01224 790052.

Feb 102012

City support organisation the Friends of Duthie Park (FODP) has welcomed the news that an action group has been formed to investigate ways of re-establishing Hazlehead Park as a top Aberdeen attraction, Dave Macdermid informs Voice.

Tony Dawson, FODP Chair commented:

 “I was delighted to hear that an Action Group had been formed for Hazlehead Park. In recent years, it has visibly suffered from a lack of investment.

“However, all is not lost, as can be seen with the developments in Duthie Park, itself visited by over 700,000 people annually.

“This year will see significant restoration works to Duthie Park and its iconic Winter Gardens, thanks to the grant awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The ponds and mound will be completely revamped, as will several other areas, to benefit the people of Aberdeen and tourists from all over the world, allowing the Park once again to be an attraction we can truly be proud to have in our city.

“A substantial amount of work has gone into the £5m HLF-funded project. For this, Aberdeen City Council, and the dedicated officials involved, deserve great credit especially in these cash-strapped times.

“It was the largest HLF project in the UK for 2011 and this year will see the regeneration of large parts of this great Park.

“The Friends wish every success to the Hazlehead Park Action Group and are more than happy to support them wherever necessary. But why stop there? What about Victoria , Westburn and Seaton Parks as well as Johnston Gardens? Let’s get support organisations set up from those parks’ users. It’s amazing how far a bit of enthusiasm and commitment can go and we cannot depend on the City Council to do it all. Such successful projects can go a long way towards restoring civic pride in our great city.”

The Friends of Duthie Park AGM will take place on Tuesday 6 March at 1900 in the Winter Gardens and is open to all. To add to a successful year for the group, Tony is appealing for additional expertise in specific areas.

“We have a wonderful committee but everyone is a volunteer and we could certainly do with some help in fundraising, IT and last, but definitely not least, in finding more people who would be willing to help by being the voice of Spike, the Talking Cactus!”

Anyone who is interested in assisting the FODP can attend the AGM or contact: .

Dec 152011

By Mike Shepherd. 

On Wednesday, Councillors approved to proceed with a referendum on the fate of Union Terrace Gardens.
After the heated negotiations over the referendum question, as reported in last week’s Aberdeen Voice, the question suggested by the Friends of UTG was eventually considered as appropriate.

The poll is to be completed by March 1st 2012, and the result is expected on March 2nd. 

The question to be asked is as follows:

“You are being asked to choose between retaining Union Terrace Gardens or replacing them with the proposed City Garden Project design. (Please read the voter information pack before you vote to make sure that you understand what is meant by “retaining Union Terrace Gardens” and “the proposed City Garden Project design”.)

Which option do you support?  (Please mark a cross in the box beside your choice.)

Retaining Union Terrace Gardens.

The City Garden Project design.

The referendum will involve a postal ballot, although the possibility of internet voting is being looked at. Voting packs will be issued around Thursday 16th February 2012 and ballot papers must be returned not later than 5.00 pm on Thursday 1st March 2012.

Those entitled to vote at this referendum will be those listed in the Electoral Register as local government electors at a qualifying address within the Aberdeen area, and who will have attained the age of 18 on or before 30th November 2012.

This means that those currently under the age of 18 but who are entitled to be included in the register in force until November 2012 with a qualifying date against their names will be entitled to vote in the referendum.

Qualified voters who are not yet on the register and who wish to vote in the referendum must apply to the Electoral Registration Officer at Woodhill House, Westburn Road,Aberdeen AB16 5GE.  Applications must arrive not later than 5.00 pm on Tuesday 10th January 2012.

The poll will be organised by an independent administrator, Crawford Langley.  Crawford comes highly recommended by those who have worked with him before. He will be responsible for the content of the voting packs to be sent to the electors, including the ballot paper, the counting officer’s statement relating to the referendum, the voter identifier, and statements from any campaigning organisations.

Councillors discussed whether the referendum should be binding or not. There are legal issues that mean the referendum strictly can’t be binding. However, in practice it will be effectively binding, as Sir Ian Wood has stated that he will withdraw funding for the project if the public reject it. The Scottish Government have also stated that they will not lend money to the Council if the public do not support it.

On March 2nd 2012 the fate of Union Terrace Gardens will be known. The people will at last be allowed to decide what they want their city centre to look like.