SIX of the original ‘Calendar Girls’ of Rylstone and District Women’s Institute visited the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes with their families to mark the opening of a new exhibition which tells their remarkable - and now long-running - story.

The exhibition ‘Twenty Years Of The Calendar Girls’ features the memories and personal collections of the women involved, including photographs, posters and newspaper cuttings.

Running until September 30, the exhibition celebrates the achievements of the women who – after starting with the famous calendar – have gone on to help raise more than £5 million for the cancer charity Bloodwise.

The story of the Calendar Girls began in 1998 when John Baker, husband of Angela Baker, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

John passed away after just a few months of treatment, but in the months following their loss, Angela and her friends set about creating the calendar as something for her to focus on in such a period of difficulty and grief.

Most of John Baker’s working life was spent with the National Parks Authority, and he was instrumental in bringing in the steam train and carriages to the museum as part of its ‘living history’ features.

When the Rylstone ladies decided to divest themselves of clothing in 1998, the idea was to raise enough money for a sofa for their local hospital. The ‘Alternative WI Calendar’ featured tasteful nudity, with the women photographed arranging flowers, pouring tea and painting watercolours.

The calendar soon sold out, prompting a reprint, and over the following year hundreds of thousands of copies were sold.

Another calendar was produced to mark the 10th anniversary in 2008 and up to today, the ladies have raised more than £5 million for leukaemia research. In 2003 their story was made into a hit film and there followed a highly successful West End stage play,

And the musical version of ‘Calendar Girls,’ co-written by Take That star Gary Barlow, is set to return to the Grand Theatre in Leeds this month.