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Tricia Stewart was born in Sunderland on 11th February 1949. She trained as a diagnostic radiographer, moving to Skipton in Yorkshire in February 1973, with her husband Ian, who worked for Ilford in the x-ray division. Tricia worked at Airedale General Hospital, leaving in 1976 to have daughter Lizzi. Her son, Micky was born in 1978.

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 18 years on it has raised over £4million 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’ was published and has been reprinted many times and translated into different languages including Japanese.

In 2009 The stage version of ‘Calendar Girls’ had a massively successful run at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End in April 2009 and Lynda Bellingham, Elaine C Smith and Anita Dobson are but a few of the incredible actresses who have played Tricia.

There have been over 1000 performances of the amateur production of 'Calendar Girls' raising hundreds of thousands for LLR .

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.

The musical ‘The Girls’ opened at the West End’s Pheonix Theatre on January 28th 2017. Gary Barlow has been heavily involved with the production and composed all the music for it.

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. WI Federations and fundraising events.
The originator and driving force behind the Alternative WI Calendar and portrayed by Dame Helen Mirren in the film of the same name, Tricia has an amazing and inspirational story to tell. The movie, stage production and musical, ‘Calendar Girls’ is based on her story.
Tricia Stewart at Womenspeakers.co.uk

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