The phenomenal fundraising story of the W.I ladies who posed artfully with teapots, song sheets and sewing is laid bare at a new exhibition opening at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
“Twenty Years Of The Calendar Girls” features the memories and personal collections of the women involved, including photographs, posters and newspaper cuttings.
Running from 6 July to 30 September, the exhibition celebrates the achievements of the women who – after starting with the famous calendar – have gone on to help raise more than £5 million for the charity, Bloodwise.
Angela Baker was Miss February in the original calendar; her husband, John Baker, Assistant National Park Officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, died after a battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on 22 July 1998.
She said: “The Calendar Girl journey has been a roller-coaster ride. After John died I was devastated, but my friends were determined to do the calendar and to raise money in John’s memory for research into the causes and treatments of all types of blood cancers.
“When we set out we had no idea of the success that awaited us. This exhibition shows some of the amazing events in which we have been involved. Out of something that was so tragic a great deal of good has come. I am sure John will be really pleased that we had our photographs taken!”
The original Miss September (teapot and buns), Christine Clancy, said: “I confess that on the evening I was to have my photographs taken, I was absolutely terrified. The thing I was most concerned about at the time was what was my dad going to say. I was 46 years old. Sad or what?
“Over the years we have done some really amazing things. We were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace and we attended the premiere of our film, Calendar Girls. We’ve had a great deal of fun but we never lose sight of the reason why we started it all. It was all in memory of John Baker and to raise money for Bloodwise to hopefully help find a cure for these dreadful blood cancers.”
Miss October, Tricia Stewart, has also shared her memories. She explained how it all began: “Thirty-six years ago I moved to the village of Cracoe in the Yorkshire Dales. Angela knocked on my door and asked if I would like to join the WI. I admitted that I had never really considered joining the WI. She said if I didn’t join ‘they would think I was funny here!’ So I joined.
“Every year the WI produces a calendar, which usually features pictures of sheep, letterboxes, hills and sometimes a snowy scene. Long before John was ill, we were at a meeting and asked if we had a photo to submit which could possibly be chosen for the next year’s calendar. I turned to Ange and suggested we do an alternative WI calendar, featuring the crafts of WI but in the nude. Ange laughed and said ‘as if’. The idea was a joke for a couple of years. After John was diagnosed, the idea of a calendar returned. We told him about it and he thought it was very funny but said we would never do it.
“Terry Logan became our photographer and made the calendar a work of art. We worried we would struggle to sell 1000 calendars, but 88,000 copies were sold by the end of 1999. Another 300,000 were sold in America the following year, and 500,000 copies of the 2004 calendar, featuring the actresses from the movie.”
The Calendar Girls exhibition starts on the 6 July.
The DCM is housed in the former Hawes railway station in Wensleydale, in the north of the National Park.
More information is available at www.dalescountrysidemuseum.org.uk.