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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Speaking about acting and theatre at Lutterworth WI


The Women’s Institute, Lutterworth
                   Speaker Madalyn Morgan

In September the secretary of the Lutterworth Women’s Institute asked me if I would give a talk to the members about being a writer.  I was surprised, and honoured, and said yes immediately.  Because the WI starts organising its diary for the coming year six months in advance, I was booked for February 2013.  However, the following week, the secretary asked if I could bring my talk forward to October 11th, as the speaker they had booked for that night had to pull out.  

 I was delighted and again said yes.  But, instead of giving a talk about being a writer, I suggested I took some theatre posters, photographs and costumes along, and spoke about being an actress, which I have been for more than thirty years.  That way I could still speak about writing in February.  And hopefully by then my novel will be published.

Margot Lester, Vanessa Redgrave, Madalyn Morgan in Antony and Cleopatra at The Theatre Royal, The Haymarket, London.

The women of Lutterworth’s WI were a great audience.  I’ve spoken about the acting profession and my career as an actress several times before, and found that if I don’t take myself seriously, which I don’t do anyway, I have fun and the audience has fun too.  
I was introduced as Madalyn Smith, my birth name, which most people in my hometown know me by.  It was a great introduction because it took me straight into how I got my stage name.  There was already an actress called Madeleine Smith in Equity, when I joined, so I chose Morgan from a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum in my dad’s pub.  There was already a Madalyn Bell (Bell’s whiskey) and I didn’t think Smirnoff (vodka) had the same tasteful ring to it.  So, in 1976 I became, Madalyn Morgan.

I laughed as I talked about the fun things, strange things, and good things that had happened since 1976 – and the ladies of Lutterworth’s WI laughed with me.  Sadly, I didn’t take a photograph of them.

The poster on the left is of an adaptation of, George Orwell’s book, Down And Out In Paris and London, which I did at The Latchmere Theatre, in London.  I took over the female lead with thirty-six hours’ notice. 

How the WI began

In 1897 Adelaide Hunter Hoodless (1858-1910), a Canadian from St. George in Ontario founded the Women’s Institute.  She also introduced domestic science programmes into the school curricula, was a co-founder of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), and the National Council of Women.
The Women's Institute Movement in Britain was formed during the First World War.  It started in 1915 to encourage women in rural areas to grow and preserve food, in order to “increase food production for a war-torn nation.”
                                                                                                          ADELAIDE HUNTER HOODLESS

The WI contributed enormously to the Home Front.  From the outbreak of war in 1939 they co-operated by caring for evacuees.  But, as in the First World War, the main contribution was in growing and preserving food.  Between 1940 and 1945 over 5,300 tons of fruit was preserved.  Almost twelve million pounds of fruit that, without the WI, would have been wasted.  It was for this work in the war that the WI members became renowned – and the 'jam' image has stuck ever since.
I read recently that EU legislation states, all food for sale must be packaged in safe materials.  Nothing wrong with that!  However, as glass is permeable, the EU said jars should not be recycled and used for jam, if the jam is going to be sold, not even for charity. 

(What a load of rubbish.  My words not the words of the WI.)
 Since the end of the war, the organisation’s aims have increased.  They play a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities, giving them the chance to learn new skills, take part in a wide variety of activities, and campaign on issues important to them and their communities.

Currently, with over 210,000 members in around 6,600 WI Groups, the WI is the largest voluntary women’s organisation in the UK.  In 2015, it will be celebrating its Centenary.  


  1. Go you Maddie! :)

    Have you joined now then? ;)


    1. Ha ha ha... Not yet. I've offered to do any typing or computer work for them. I said I'd put them on twitter and set up a Lutterworth Women's Institute Facebook page, if they want one. And, I've promised to go back in February next year and talk to them about being a writer. So fingers crossed I have a book to show them by then. We really did have fun. They were a really warm and friendly bunch of women.