The Women’s Institute revisit Diamond artwork: Designs for Life

Group celebrates centenary with a trip to the UK synchrotron

In celebration of 100 years of the Women’s Institute, local branches of the WI this week visited the UK’s synchrotron, Diamond Light Source. As part of their centenary celebrations, the WI is transporting a special baton across the country to different branches nationwide. During its stopover in Didcot, the baton came, along with 70 WI branch members, to Diamond Light Source: a site of special significance to the group.
Back in 2006, the WI participated in a Wellcome Trust-funded project, to create textile art representing the health related research that takes place at Diamond. In collaboration with The Oxford Trust and Diamond, the WI created 30 panels that depict diseases such as HIV, Alzheimer’s, and breast cancer, as well as iconic scientific images such as diffraction patterns, a DNA fingerprint, and even a synchrotron.
Under the guidance of leading textile artist, Anne Griffiths, over 1000 scientists and members of the WI contributed to the art project, making Designs for Life one of the largest science and art fusion projects ever to have taken place in the UK. Almost a decade later, in April 2015, the WI returned to Diamond to revisit the panels and celebrate the beauty of their creations. The group enjoyed tea and biscuits, a short talk on the Designs for Life project, and a presentation on the scientific achievements of the facility since its opening in 2007.
Judie Goodall is Treasurer of Chilton WI; she took part in the Designs for Life project back in 2006, and now comments: “It was wonderful to be involved in Designs for Life as a group project. We had sessions at Diamond to understand the images that we were making, and we worked alongside the scientists on the panels. To be able to take part in this project with Diamond and to support something that is so vital was a real pleasure. “
Reflecting on the day’s events, Judie added: “Today has been really interesting. We still have strong links with Diamond, helping out at some of the open days. It’s so inspiring to find out all of the things they’ve been doing since starting up. If they can find cures for some of these terrible diseases, it can only be a good thing.”
The Women’s Institute were supported in their creation of the artwork by Diamond’s own scientists. Rohanah Hussain is Senior Beamline Scientist on B23, Diamond’s laboratory for Circular Dichroism: a technique which is used to study a variety of biological materials and is particularly useful for drug design. Rohanah took part in the 2007 Designs for Life project, providing scientific input on the works.
Rohanah commented at the recent WI event: “Design for Life has been fantastic for bringing different communities together. It’s really looking at science from a different angle, portraying the beauty of it, and drawing people in to the research and work that is behind those images.”
After its visit to Diamond, the WI centenary baton will continue around the UK to other spots that are significant to the history of the Institute. The Designs for Life textile panels remain on exhibition at Diamond, and will be available to view at the large Harwell Campus open days in July. Find out more here.
The WI sing Jerusalem during their visit to Diamond