At the same time as The Wellesley Cinema is screening the sensational film version of the soft porn novel, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, a local group of respectable Women’s Institute members are raising eyebrows and causing a sensation of their own with the publication of a sexually explicit story, ‘The Conquering Gibraltarian Adonis’ in their recently published collection of short stories.
The story is only one of many in the 75 page book (featuring on just two and a half pages), the rest being crime, horror, autobiographical and poetic contributions from members of Monumental Writers’ Ink – but it’s the one raising eyebrows both in the town and more widely. It has reached as far as the national press whose reporters have been taking soundings from WI members and the general public to judge their response to the inclusion of a story that carries an 18+ warning. Paul Harris, writing for The Daily Mail, said: “50 shades of grey hair: Ladies of a rural WI publish their own (decidedly raunchy) alternative to best-seller… and it’s ruffled quite a few feathers.”
Asked for her response to the furore, Group Leader Bridget Hodges said, “Little did we realise that our little book would raise such a storm of interest! Off of the back of one very short, tongue-in-cheek story, written during a workshop on erotic writing, we seem to have become an overnight sensation! In one week we have gone from a small article in the local press to being in most of the national dailies and on television and radio. On Thursday my house was invaded by camera crews from the BBC and reporters from The Telegraph. My phone rang practically non-stop all day with various radio stations wanting interviews.”
“The response has taken us all by surprise but book sales are rocketing and we are now on our third print run. We have had very little negative reaction, just some surprise that WI members would write erotic fiction! I think that we are showing that, in its centenary year, the WI is moving with the times!”
The identity of the author of the story is being kept secret. Unlike the star of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, Jamie Dornan, she is unlikely to have to flee the country to escape publicity.
The differing views that the publication has attracted are similar to those caused by the Rylstone Women’s Institute’s famous ‘nude calendar’ in 1999 which challenged the image of the WI as outdated, fusty and focussed only on jam-making and knitting. Produced to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma research, the calendar sold 88,000 copies in 9 months in the UK with the US version selling 202,000 copies. It raised over £3 million and the story of the women’s courageous but controversial decision then became the subject of the stage play, ‘Calendar Girls’, which was later made into an award-winning film.
Monumental Writers’ Ink are donating all the proceeds of their book to Musgrove Park’s Beacon Centre which specialises in cancer treatment. Bridget Hodges said, “The inflated sales, the result of all the publicity, mean that we are on track to raise a fantastic amount of money for The Beacon Centre. We are all proud of our achievement.”
Books can be purchased from Nurtured By Nature in South Street, Wellington or through our Monumental Women’s Ink Facebook page. They cost £4.00.