Forget Jam and Jerusalem, it’s bats and corsets for Highgate’s gothic Women’s Insitute

Think of the Women’s Institute and jam-making and Jerusalem immediately spring to mind.

But preserves have been passed over for black corsets and bat-shaped cupcakes at one goth-themed WI in Highgate, where cemetery tours and talks on medieval weapon crafting might be on the agenda.

Dubbed the Gothic Valley WI, the group meets once a month at Lauderdale House in Waterlow Park after recently moving from its former base in Holloway.

Traditional pursuits like baking and sewing might seem worlds away from goth subculture, but these homely activities play a central part at meetings – albeit often with a gothic twist.

Treasurer Ruth Chapple, 34, said: “We don’t necessarily feel that the skills traditionally associated with the WI are at odds with goths.

“There is quite a strong arts and craft element in the goth scene. We tend to be quite creative with a lot of baking and crafts going on.”

Fellow committee member Madeleine Pearce, 33, of Archway Road, Highgate, added: “Lots of artists and academics tend to be goths.”

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The organisation, which was the country’s first WI for goths, was born two years ago out of a group of friends who shared a passion for all things gothic.

In the minds of its founding members, the fictional “gothic valley” the group is named after stretches from Highbury along Holloway Road up to Highgate and Crouch End.

While many at its meetings sport dyed hair and wear all-black, dressing like a goth is not compulsory.

Current members are in their mid-20s to mid-40s – a far younger crowd than the stereotypical age bracket at institute meetings.

The group is one of several in London which finance director Miss Chapple believes is attracting a more varied pool of women to the WI than ever before in the institute’s 97-year history.

“We are trying to fight the revolution from inside!” Miss Chapple, of Park Road, Crouch End, said. “The group is definitely open to anyone at all.”

Following the group’s move to Highgate last month, the Gothic Valley women will be drawing on the its spooky history at future meetings and have already heard a talk on the infamous Highgate vampire myth.

Among activities planned for future meetings is a private tour of nearby Highgate Cemetery.

“We like it here,” Miss Chapple said. “Highgate has a lot of Victorian architecture and a real gothic heritage.”

n The group’s next meeting will be a Halloween party on October 25 in Holloway and Archway. Visit for more information.