ONCE awarded “The Oldie Exposure of the Year” award along with her fellow WI women, Tricia Stewart, otherwise known as Miss October will be coming to Hexham to discuss the real story of the Calendar Girls.

Invited to speak by the Rotary Club of Hexham, Tricia will tell the story of how she and 11 other members aged between 45 and 60 of Rylstone Women’s Institute, were propelled to fame 20 years ago, when they posed in nothing but a pair of pearls for a calender in aid of charity.

Although the idea of making a nude calendar had been a private joke between Tricia and her fellow WI members for years, it was only when her close friend and fellow member Angela Baker’s husband John Baker died from leukaemia in 1998 at age 54 that the women became determined to take their kit off to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research in John’s memory.

“Nobody believed that we would actually pose for the alternative calender,” Tricia said. “Especially not John, who always laughed along and supported the idea, but never imagined we’d have the guts to see it through.”

Once full of traditionally British images of the Yorkshire Dales, red post boxes and chocolate-box villages, the WI calendar then contained cheeky snaps of Miss March doing a spot of flower arranging, Miss September hosting a tea party and Miss October working an apple press – all whilst in the nude.

“We had a lot of trust in our photographer Terry Logan. We knew that the photographs would be tasteful, and something I could be proud to show to my grandchildren. I wasn’t nervous. I think many of us felt that after the tragedy of John passing, this was absolutely nothing in comparison.”

At first, the WI women set themselves a goal of raising £5,000, believing they would struggle to sell even 1,000 copies. So when the calendars went on to sell 88,000 copies in the UK, and a further 240,000 copies in the US shortly after the first release, the Yorkshire ladies were blown away by what they had achieved. Since then the group has raised more than £5m for their cause.

In 2003 a Hollywood movie starring Helen Mirren as Chris, the character based on Tricia, and Julie Walters as Annie, inspired by Angela, became a instant sensation. It was shortly followed by a West End show in 2009 and most recently a musical production in 2012 called The Girls, which was the brainchild of Gary Barlow and film producer Tim Firth.

Tricia has also published her account of events in her best-selling biography Calendar Girl, and gone on to work as a inspirational speaker, sharing her story across the world.

“We all knew we had to share the story, because it would help to bring attention to John’s cause, and raise more money, which is most definitely did.

“Angela was involved in every step of the film’s journey. We built a bond with the writers, producers, cast and director – and Angela had rights to the script so she could make sure the film could do her and John’s story justice.”

Tricia will be hosting a talk at the Forum cinema on Friday, June 21 at 5.30pm followed by a showing of the film Calendar Girls, after which the floor will be open to questions for Tricia, or for her to sign copies of her book.

Proceed’s from the event will go to the Rotary’s Disaster and Emergency fund and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

For tickets visit www. forumhexham.com