Yorkshire based Pilates teacher, Tricia Stewart is better known as the woman responsible for creating the world famous Alternative WI Calendar which has raised over 2 million pounds for Leukaemia Research. As Miss October, Tricia was shown pressing apples to make cider so I wondered could she have grown them too?
“I’m an average gardener always been interested in gardening but never very good at it,” she says modestly. “We used to have a lovely country cottage style garden which was perfect for the kids and dogs but recently downsized to a barn conversion with a small yard which is just gravelled with pots of plants. There’s still a sandpit for the grandchildren though,” she laughs, “my garden will always be a place for kids rather than a horticultural experience.”
The Alternative WI Calendar celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and Tricia still sounds shocked by its success. “Knowing it was going to be made into a film was surreal. I was played by Dame Helen Mirren before she went on to play The Queen; I always say ‘she cut her teeth on me first!’”
“I have been in the WI for 26 years,” she continues, “and I have noticed a return to our astringent and careful ways during the current economic climate. The WI has always promoted sustainability, living simply and ‘thrift’. We are still sometimes seen as a bit old fashioned and fuddy duddy but we just believe in good economic sense and true family values. I remember when a carpet was for life,” she laughs “and I still use the back of envelopes to write notes on. That’s the type of recycling that makes a difference, common sense recycling.”
“The WI go into schools to teach kids to cook and we have run schemes to teach people about running an allotment. It’s harder work than people think although the rewards include fresh air and fresh food. Gardening is a great way to keep fit,” adds Tricia who now claims to be ‘keeping the Dales flexible’. “And being amongst flowers is good for lifting your spirits.”
“Sunflowers feature strongly in the film Calendar Girls as Angela’s husband John was diagnosed with Leukaemia whilst we were planning to create a calendar. His favourite flowers were sunflowers so when he sadly passed away we decided to donate all the money raised to www.beatingbloodcancers.org and adopted the sunflower as our ‘trademark’, along with our pearls of course. He even had sunflowers at his funeral which is a little unusual and we raised and sold seedlings in his memory; sunflowers make everyone smile.”
Tricia continues, “We are thrilled because Calendar Girls opens at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff on the 27th July and an extra week has had to be added due to popular demand. I’ll will be there, in the audience watching my character being played Elaine C Smith. I love Cardiff and am hoping to fit in a bit of retail therapy whilst I’m there.”