Women’s Institute, BBC4

by | Jun 25, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

We’d better say ‘yes, it was fabulous’ else we run the risk of the WI’s Amy Willcock battering down our cyber-drawbridge with the same thundering ruthlessness that has transformed the once quaint parochial town of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight into a hotbed of WI fundamentalism with a fanatical zeal not seen since Mao Zedong initiated revolution in China.

What was good about it?

• Observing Amy Willcock was an exemplar in how revolts are fuelled, how the chief devotee to the revolt can manoeuvre herself into a position of absolute power within a year and how to smile with less sincerity than Piers Morgan.

• Amy’s devout quest to transform the whole of the WI from something that old women gaze at in order to distract their eyes from their reserved plot in the local graveyard into a phalanx of younger women who only make jam “ironically”, who wear thongs beneath their flowing skirts to shock established WI members (who can’t actually see the thong anyway), and who lasso passing experts on divorce law and vaginal weights to deliver their wisdom to the assembled throng, as she created the biggest WI group in the country just one year after foundation.

• At the WI AGM in Cardiff, the crowd rose from their seats and waddled to the exits like a decrepit wave about to limply break on a wrinkled beach.

• Amy’s collection of mordant aphorisms of how to achieve bloodless dominion over an established institute will one day be as symbolic as Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book.

Here are a few excerpts:

“Nobody wanted to be president did they?” Glare at your audience with the ferocity of a tiger cornering a goat to quell dissent before adding, “So I stood up and said I wanted to be president.”

Include testimony from loyal subjects of how you are as irresistible as a chocolate sundae smeared on Brad Pitt’s throbbing buttocks: “I’d never thought about joining the WI. But Amy asked us and the next thing we knew we were members.”

Use even the most innocuous of perceived slights to demand a full scale renovation of the status quo. If your flower in jam jar entry is scorned by judges locked in a whirlpool of irretrievable conservatism, bellow like the damned of Hades: “Get rid of the judges! Get rid of the judging system and start again!”

If ever your faithful acolytes should lose faith then you must, brazenly without any regard for historical veracity, evoke memories of troubled times to galvanize them into enduring blind fealty. When performing a task as mild as making strawberry jam, remark: “Can you imagine during the war that this is what they did?

If any in your flock commit the heresy of questioning your methods exile them to the wastelands to contemplate their deviancy. Noreen was exiled to the street outside and she was forced to acknowledge her impotence and her dubious worth to the greater glories of Yarmouth WI when she struggled to convince anyone to attend coffee morning/plant sale. Still, she is 81 and her usefulness is almost at an end.

Deceive your enraptured audience with corrupted truths purloined from elsewhere. “Happiness is a thing, it’s a state of mind.”

In moments of contemplation when you have no heathen philosophy to vilify, practice souring your expression so that it will curdle the minds of your followers to the same steadfast prejudice. After derisively noting that rival WIs have a talk entitled ‘My life as a chauffeur for Willie Whitelaw’ rehearse screwing up your face into a tight ball imagining it as the universe returning to its primordial state of being as a quantum speck in an eternal void.

Justify your belligerence with hopeless lies, which if you repeat enough times to enough people will eventually come to pass to be true, remembering to append your thoughts with a glimmer of vulnerability to rinse away the impression of thoughtless dogma: “If you don’t upset people you’re never going to get anywhere, I’m afraid.”

Always be sure to compliment your fiercest foe with a remark that offers comradeship like glistening wine in cupped hands raised to their lips parched of approval, but ensure that most of the crimson refreshment slips through your fingers by remembering to inflect in your voice bilious condescension. “I think you’ve done very well!”

When communicating sneering disapproval of rivals to your allies always ensure that each barb starts off with a false-start tribute. “It’s a wonderful organisation, but…” “I thought they were extremely nice, and I liked Iris. But if you had walked in to that WI, would you have stayed?”

Never, ever forget that though your disciples may breath oxygen, they may amble in gardens with the aid of a replaced hip, and that they may purchase overpriced skin care products from unprincipled chemist mail order firms just like you, they are little better than the swine scrambling at a trough and must be treated with such bestial disdain. “Edwina – you’re directing people through to the lawn; can you do that?” Edwina: “I know I’m doing that.” “You know you’re doing that? You’re OK with that?” “And you?” “I know I mustn’t talk to anyone.” “You can say the odd ‘hello’. I’m also putting you in charge of the jug of water.”

When victory is in sight dispense with the abstruse allusions to supremacy and instead nakedly proclaim your lust for rightful power. “Sometimes you need to shake up the whole situation and make people stop, look around and say, ‘maybe we do need a few changes’.”

When your numerical advantage over your rivals has been accomplished – once you have made, for instance, the Yarmouth branch of the WI the most populous in the whole country – it is judicious to finally bear those fangs that curve at the angle of the sharpest scimitar which you have been concealing behind that glaring white polished toothed smile. “We were so hacked off at that stupid Christmas fare. It was crap. We had members saying ‘we don’t want to be associated with this’. It doesn’t matter if they say to us ‘you run it’, because we could.”

But on such matters always prepare a statement that soothes your previous venom in order that you appear to be burdened with conciliatory reason than feral impetuosity. “We’ve made our feelings known about the Christmas fare, but not in a negative way.”

What was bad about it?

• It wasn’t perfect, but we’re fearful that should anything be written that could be seen as a slur on Amy she’ll get her loyal devotees knitting away on a series of voodoo dolls of internet TV critics which she’ll then spend the next six months sporadically stabbing.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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