Red Hat ladies bring riot of colour to Cambridge
Hundreds of mature ladies descended on Cambridge dressed in red and purple to celebrate the fifth European Hoot.
The ladies, led by the sparkling Vivian Bewley, aka Queen Bee Vivvy V, were part of the Red Hat Society – a worldwide organisation with more than 70,000 supporting members.
They are a friendship group for ladies based on a poem called Warning by Jenny Joseph.
Mrs Bewley’s chapter is a known as the ‘Red Hat Bees of Bardwell’ and she began the organisation in 2014.
But more than 200 ladies from seven different countries attended the Hoot, which has previously been held in Luxembourg, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. Mrs Bewley’s group is thriving with more than 40 members.
She said: “All the ladies stayed in the superb accommodation of Downing College. A trickle of red and purple started to arrive, the first chapter from The Netherlands, and the next day 10 ladies from Sweden arrived and so it went on.
“The host chapter had forewarned many of the city’s retailers what to expect and many of them dressed their windows accordingly – which proved extremely profitable for them.
“One store on Regent Street recorded record sales this week, thanks to the invasion of Red Hatters and the ladies undoubtedly boosted the Cambridge economy at the same time as bringing smiles to many faces.
“On Saturday morning, mayor George Pippas formally welcomed the visitors to Cambridge saying how delighted he was to see such a colourful group. He was extremely interested in their philosophy of fun and friendship.
“After the morning meet and greet, where each guest was presented with a goodie bag containing, among other things, handmade badges from the host Red Hat Bees and an invitation to a cruise the host chapter are organising in conjunction with Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.
“‘Hoot on the High Seas’ will be a four-day cruise from Dover to Dover stopping in Amsterdam and Antwerp to fill up on chocolates and diamonds in February 2019.
“Once the Mayor had said his goodbye, the ladies headed off to The Grand Arcade where the centre management had kindly agreed to allow us to have a photo shoot.
“That created quite a stir especially when the ladies burst into the song Que Sera Sera followed by The Young Ones, from there a number of them went off in different directions for guided tours of the city sites, charity shops and, of course, the colleges.
“The ladies returned to Downing to change into elegant evening wear for pre-dinner drinks with a Red Hat Cocktail designed especially by the bar staff for the European Hoot.
“The cocktail, ‘Purple Rain’ went down a storm. The gong was sounded for dinner and guests went in procession into the hall which looked stunning bathed in candlelight for a delightful meal.
“In the hall guests were delighted to hear the haunting sounds of local guitarist Woody playing everything from Bach to the Beatles.
“The weekend was rounded off with many Hatters heading down to the river, a visit to Cambridge would not be complete without a chauffeured punt along the backs. The goodie bags included a punting voucher kindly donated by Scudamores.
“The city really pulled out all the stops to make our guests feel truly welcomed.”
The Red Hat Society was formed in America in the late 1990s by a pair of ladies who were hitting 50 and had seen the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph and thought it would be fun to give each other a red hat for their respective birthdays. Their friends picked up on this and, in 1998, the first Red Hat Society chapter was formed in Florida.
The mission statement that the society would endeavour to promote, support and encourage women in pursuit of Fun, Friendship, Freedom, Fulfilment and Fitness soon struck a chord with women everywhere as the society is now a global entity.
The Red Hat Bees of Bardwell came into existence on February 27, 2014, as a spin off of the Bardwell Batty Bees.
It was started by the Founding Queen, Vivien Bewley, known as Queen Bee Vivvy V.