Thursday, 30 September 2010

Adur Voluntary Action

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again and I hope you've had a great fortnight.

I had hoped to write, "a great week," but I've foolishly spent the last 7 days trying to maintain order during our kitchen re-fit. Pointless, totally pointless. So I'm back in the study and the broom's backed into a corner.

Before the house became a campsite, I had a thought-provoking meeting with Keri Hamblin, Centre Manager for Adur Voluntary Action, (AVA). Up until then I was unaware that Adur is poorer than much of West Sussex; in 2007, 14% of the area was ranked in the lowest 20% in England for deprivation; the proportion of residents whose qualifications are below NVQ level 2 is well below national average; there is a highish suicide rate amongst older men and many of our older residents find independent living a challenge for practical reasons such as transport, shopping, house and garden maintenance and isolation. (source: Adur Voluntary Action Development Plan 2010-13.)

On the upside, there is a strong sense of local community with over 400 registered voluntary organisations in Adur, some of which respond to the needs underlying those statistics.

Whilst AVA does not have them all on its' register, it does help hundreds of small voluntary organisations with very limited resources.

AVA is a registered charity and limited company which succeeded Adur Council for Voluntary Service. It is funded by West Sussex County Council, Adur District Council and covers Shoreham, Lancing, Fishergate, Southwick, Sompting and Kingston-on-Sea.

Margaret Riddell, Keri Hamblin (second from left), Karen Lewis, and Peter Upton (Homefront).

Its' primary function is to act as an information point for voluntary organisations and volunteers saving organisations the costs of recruiting, and volunteers the time to find something suitable.

AVA's services are generally free and it has a broad reach. It has an internet presence; can be contacted or visited in person; attends outreach projects and gets into the community. Indeed Keith Phelps, Head Launcher and Lifeboat Visits Officer at Shoreham Lifeboat, used them for the first time recently because, "People don't necessarily look at the website or drop into the station to ask if they could help." With the help of a poster campaign and AVA, they now have a compliment of guides waiting to start when the new Station opens. Pat Marshall, a Senior Contact Officer from 4SIGHT is a regular client and says "some of the best and most consistent volunteers have come through AVA."

That's exactly what Keri wants yet she will never turn people away, and does not discriminate against anyone, be they professionals, unemployed, retired, disabled, or mentally ill.

There is no upper age limit, but increased regulation has reduced the number of opportunities available for those under 16. She finds this frustrating as, during the summer holidays, they are often approached by school children offering to help.

That aside, Keri cannot imagine someone coming in and not being able to find something suitable. That's understandable considering the variety of opportunities they have on their books. Here are just a few advertised this summer:

AB625 Companion to help ease isolation and provide friendship and support to an elderly person

AB630 Allotment volunteer needed one or two days a week to head and co-ordinate allotment and some gardening with a small group of adults with mental illnesses

AB377 Box Collector to spare 3-4 hours every 4-6 months to empty charity collection boxes in shops, pubs and local businesses

AB43 Befriender to a disadvantaged child (4-16) for at least 2 hours per week over 2 years to help build their self-esteem, confidence and introduce them to new interests and opportunities. Weekend visits preferred.

AB631 Dog Walker for Cinnamon Trust a charity for the elderly, terminally ill and their pets.

AB651 Big Yellow Bus Driver

AB239 Qualified electrician needed to test electrical equipment sold through Adur Furniture Network

AB328 Prince's Trust Mentor to keep young people motivated after completion of their training programme.

AB388 Guides for Historic House Tours needed from 1st April to mid-October

AB624 Helping disabled people enjoy sailing by rigging, launching, recovering, washing, putting away boats and assisting disabled people in and out of boats

AB301 Visit and befriend a visually impaired person in their home, to assist with reading, accompanying on journeys and most importantly simply having a cup of tea and a chat. Time commitment 1 hour

AB57 Home visitor for Home Start to offer regular support, friendship and practical help to young families under stress in their own home helping to prevent family crisis and breakdown.

AB18 Answering helpline calls from women sexually abused in childhood, giving support and information.

AB502 Readers needed to read local news for audio tapes on an occasional basis.

If this inspires you to volunteer then please contact AVA and have a chat. One word of caution though, due to the nature of some of the vacancies, it can take up to 6 months to complete all the checks so please be patient. Alternatively, one could always volunteer for something else in the meantime as, "your time and effort will matter to someone, whatever you choose."

Next week I'll be changing gear with a series of "a life in the day of" blogs featuring some prominent beach residents. First will be Cllr Liza McKinney, one of our most long-standing Ward Councillors.

Ta-ra for now and have a great week.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Old Fort Charity

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's wonderful to see you again on this bright, dewy autumn morning. I'm reminded of Ode to Autumn which is a mixed blessing as I can only remember,"mists and mellow fruitfulness" and it's driving me bananas.

Apart from enjoying this lovely weather, this week I've been meeting people who'll be contributing to forthcoming issues of my blog. First I met Elizabeth Mienert, one of the Old Fort Trustees, who'll feature today. Then I spoke to Keri Hamblin from Adur Voluntary Action who explained how they bring voluntary organisations and volunteers together, and finally I visited the Old Fort with Martin Taylor, a director with MDA Consulting Ltd, who raised some thought-provoking ideas about the beach.

Elizabeth Mienert is an Artist, Community Development Worker, and Trustee/Director of the Old Fort Trust. She was born in Shoreham and apart from a brief spell at university reading Art and Film, has spent all her life in the town. She knows it well and is extremely proud of it. So proud, in fact, that for the last three years she has been one of a team energetically seeking to celebrate all aspects of the towns' past and present.

This energy has been focused on the derelict coastguard tower which the owners, Shoreham Port Authority, planned to demolish in 2007. Elizabeth was one of those who originally objected to the demolition arguing that the position of the tower on top of a scheduled ancient monument was "an interesting juxtaposition between old and new" and that the building could provide an ideal focal point for a diverse range of projects. Three years on, the tower is still standing and Elizabeth is now one of five trustees of the Old Fort Charity which has a clear vision of why it should be renovated.

Old Fort Charity Trustees, Fozia Khaliq, Elizabeth Mienert (second from left), Gabby Allen, Meg Booth and Ole Mienert.

"Our vision is for Shoreham Fort to be a vibrant, inspiring, diverse and cultural educational place where everyone has the opportunity to get involved. We need the renovation of the coastguard tower in order to use it as a base from which we can organise events and activities to take place in the Shoreham Fort parade ground. We envisage music theatre and arts events, history projects and natural history activities taking place on the Shoreham Fort site. We wish to make it easier for these events to take place by allowing the coastguard tower to be used as office/studio/workshop/education space and for storage of equipment etc, and exhibition space in the lower magazine part of the tower and a kitchen area with a hatch to serve light refreshments to the outdoor space." (Old Fort Vision summary)

It has gathered over 400 signatures in support and has attracted enthusiasts from the world of arts and entertainment, (Nick Cave, Demuth Photography and Revolutionary Arts Group), education and conservation. Indeed, Richard McFahn, Humanities Adviser for West Sussex County Council said, "I fully endorse the concept you have for developing Shoreham Fort. Local history is vital in helping school pupils understand their sense of place, sense of time and sense of self...Promoting local arts is also vital in helping create well rounded people to live and thrive in the 21st century."

The charity has just published the results of its' options appraisal which lists 10 possible options for the site and seeks responses from all interested groups and residents.

Some already feel strongly that the coastguard tower is an eyesore and should just be demolished. Yet what does and does not have architectural merit is subjective, so it's unlikely that those with strong views will ever agree. Furthermore, is there an underlying problem of perception which should be tackled first?

Shoreham Fort and the site it occupies have become synonymous. To even describe the area as "the Shoreham Fort site" takes a leap of the imagination. If the site and fort cannot be distinguished because it's too deeply embedded in one's consciousness, then to encourage more visitors onto a scheduled ancient monument which is already "in slow decay," is verging on the reckless. But what if you can distinguish between the site and the fort, what would you find?

At it's most basic level, the site marks the end of the Beach and the place where Friends of Shoreham Beach meet for rock-pooling. It also marks the point at which, in 1760, Shoreham's merchants took effective action to stop the longshore drift further damaging the harbours' business. The resultant act of Parliament created a Port Trust (the 250th anniversary of which was celebrated this year), and piers were erected to protect a new harbour entrance. From that point on the Old Fort site became significant for it was there that the eastward movement of the river mouth was halted.

With the creation of the piers, Shoreham, at last, had a stable harbour entrance and the port was thrown a life line. Surely it is no coincidence that Shoreham Fort, a WW2 searchlight tower (now the NCI Watchstation), and the coastguard tower were all built behind the western harbour arm, it being an ideal position from which to protect and assist shipping and defend the harbour against the threat of invasion. So when the Fort was built in 1857, the site was already important. So, arguably the location of Shoreham Fort is far more important to Shoreham's history than the Fort itself for it represents man's successful attempt to control his environment and protect the town's future.

Thus it is only when Shoreham Fort is separated from the location, and the location itself is placed in its' historical and geographical context, that we can really judge whether the Old Fort site is the best location at which to celebrate Shoreham past and present. Then we can decide whether the coastguard tower is the best building in which to honour our town.

I'll see you next week, but in the meantime, I'll let Keats can have the final word.

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Courtesy of

Friday, 10 September 2010

So how was it for you?

Hello and welcome back. It's lovely to see you again.

So how was your summer? Just like the Camerons, we stayed in England but rather than have a baby, we went on family days out. I have to say, I was stunned by the beauty of parts of East Sussex and ashamed of my ignorance.

Camber Sands came top of my list of the child friendly locations, but next time we'll eat our picnic in the car park, sand and ham sandwiches being an acquired taste. Also if you go, beware of the Weaver Fish and if you step on one, don't be brave and hobble back to your towel. Stand still and holler for help otherwise the sting will be dismissed as a mere shrimp nip. Shrimp nip my @*!! I could've died.

There were no Weaver Fish at Pevensey Castle, just our lively 5 year old to contend with. We expected him to clamber over the ruins and dismiss efforts to educate with an imperious, "I already know that," but once he'd seen the dungeon, he was captivated. We walked hand in hand around the castle listening intently to the audio tape. As I tried to work out which way next, Tom was off, leaving me to wonder whether our off-spring was a genius or was I behind the curve, again.

The answer came when we visited the Long Man of Wilmington. It was with some trepidation that we laced up our walking boots because our little one is not known for his stamina and is often too tired to walk 10 feet from the car to the house. Thus as we gently ascended the hill, I anxiously checked whether he was OK. I shouldn't have bothered. The moment we got to the steep part, I slowed down and he shinned up, as sure-footed as a mountain goat. He paused occasionally to shout back, "Come on Mummy," as I contended with the joint problems of exhaustion and vertigo. To add insult to injury, when we reached the top he still had enough energy to dance round singing, "This is brilliant!" He's since made mince-meat of the Fulking Escarpment and I've stopped carrying him from the car to the house. Nevertheless the writing is on the wall, I have to shape up to keep up.

Talking of keeping up, I recently spoke to Elizabeth Mienert, one of the Old Fort Charity trustees, about the Options Appraisal for the Old Fort site. It has been completed and tomorrow there will be a picnic from 1.00-5.00p.m on the old parade ground to demonstrate its' potential as a community venue. Everyone is invited and next week I'll report back on what they're proposing.

In the meantime, have a great week and see you next Friday.