After living in Skipton for 10 years, they moved into a small village of Cracoe in the Yorkshire dales. On arrival in Cracoe, a neighbour, Angela Baker invited her to join the WI, telling her that the locals would think she was funny if she didn’t join.
So Tricia joined Rylstone & District WI in 1985 and became great friends with Angela. She was an active member, entering WI competitions (sometimes gaining high marks) and serving as Treasurer for 2 years.
In 1997 Tricia and Ian together set up a company, TKI Medical, selling medical educational software to Universities and hospitals. In February 1998 John Baker, Angela’s husband, was diagnosed with non Hodgkins Lymphoma. A couple of years previously Tricia had joked about an Alternative WI Calendar featuring the crafts of WI, but the girls would be nude.
The traditional WI calendar features pictures of hills, sheep and village greens and Tricia thought it would be really amusing to do an alternative version. It was a joke for all that time, until touched by the serious illness of a friend; they wanted to raise money for research into blood related cancers. John knew about the calendar and thought it was a very amusing idea, but said they would never do it. When John died in July 1998, Tricia determined to go ahead with the calendar in memory of John and to raise funds for Leukaemia research. Eleven women aged between 45 and 65 were involved in the calendar. There were no difficulties in recruiting models, because they were all friends of John and Angela’s.
The Alternative WI Calendar was launched in April 1999. Tricia’s name and number went out with the press releases and she was on three phones for weeks! For Tricia, the calendar was like running another business; using the skills she had learnt form running the office of TKI Medical.
The media coverage was huge. The story was in the nationals every day for 3 weeks. They modelled at the Savoy in London fashion week, were voted Women of the Year, baked a spotted dick on Thames TV and took calendars to the palace for the Queen and the Queen Mother. Oldie magazine awarded them “The Oldie Exposure of the Year”.
In 1999, the calendar sold 88,000 copies in the U.K. The calendar proved inspirational and touched people’s hearts. It changed the image of the WI forever, the perception of the older woman and sold thousands of copies. People admired their courage.
A year later the calendar was published in America, selling a further 240.000 copies, promoted by two tours of the US and in 2001 Tricia’s book ‘Calendar Girl’ was published by Pan Macmillan.
The aim had been to raise £5,000 for LRF and to have a calendar dedicated to John’s memory. The effect of the calendar was expected to last 3 weeks, but 10 years on it has raised nearly £3million for LRF.
In September 2003, the blockbusting film ‘Calendar Girls’ based on the story of the Alternative WI Calendar, was premiered at the Odeon, Leicester Square. In the film, Tricia’s character is played by Helen Mirren. June 2003 saw the launch of a second calendar featuring the 6 actresses from the film and the six original ladies who are involved with the film.
In 2004 her book ‘The Calendar Girl’s Story’ was published and has been reprinted many times and translated into different languages including Japanese.
The stage version of ‘Calendar Girls’ has been playing at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End since April 2009 to a full house every night. Actress Anita Dobson is playing Tricia, having recently taken over from Lynda Bellingham
The 2010 Calendar was launched in May 2009 and, once again, took the world by storm. There was also a 2011 calendar sold alongside the theatre production and the ladies will be doing a 2012 because the show is booked in theatres all year in the UK. At this time it is being played in Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Israel, Brazil, Greece and played in Canada in Spring 2011.
Tricia is an incredibly inspirational, motivating and amusing speaker and is constantly being booked by audiences keen to hear her story. She undertakes in excess of 100 speaking engagements each year to clients as diverse as South Wales Police, Institute of Health Management, Derby & District Law Society, P&O. North West Practice Nurse Association, Rotary International, Chambers of Commerce, Business Links as well as numerous Ladies Luncheon Clubs and WI Federations.
Follow Tricia on Twitter @wicalendargirl
“Tricia received a standing ovation at our luncheon today - the first time I have ever known a speaker get that sort of applause.”
Glenda Caley, Events Assistant Manager
“I just wanted to let you know that Tricia's after dinner speech at out annual conference was excellent. It was actually the highlight of the conference. This is the second time I've heard Tricia's speak and I could listen again and again. It was just so inspirational and a wonderful story. Everyone has been talking about it since. It will be a hard act to follow next year.”
Gail Gourlay, Head of Housing Services: Trust Housing Association
“Tricia Stewart recently gave a talk at our Awards Evening and she was absolutely outstanding.”
Lorraine Hopkins, Acting PA/Corporate Business Administrator: Bournemouth Teaching Primary Care Trust
“Your long awaited visit to Hampden Spring has been the highlight of our year and we very much appreciate you coming to tell us how the alternative calendar really evolved. Your talk was very entertaining and we greatly admire your spirit and inspiration to encourage 11 other ladies to do the unthinkable in order to raise money for such a good cause. You must be so proud of such a wonderful achievement.”
Juliet, Hampden Spring Group WI
“Thank you so very much for giving us all such a wonderful time with your talk.”
Diana Moran, Northamptonshire County Federation of WI’s
“Your speech was so inspiring about how you and your friends took a brilliant and original idea and went on to make over £1 million for charity.”
April Hall, Head of Finance and Fundraising: Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice
“Judging by all the favourable comments we have received everyone enjoyed hearing about your Calendar Girl experiences. Your speech was illuminating and inspiration and it was a joy to see the delighted faces and hear the genuine laughter in response.”
Mary Prince, Chariman: Wigtown Local Rural Partnership