Thatcham Civic Reception 2024: 120 events, two charities and four awards

Penny Post was delighted to have been invited to the Thatcham Mayor’s Civic reception at Thatcham Town FC on 19 April 2024. The outgoing Mayor, Mark Lillycrop, thanked all those who had made the evening a success as well as some of those, including the Town Council’s office staff, who have helped Thatcham TC’s work over the previous twelve months.

He then gave a summary of his busy mayoral year. This included attending over 120 events and being involved in a number of initiatives ranging from the town’s plastic-free charter to supporting the VIAN refugee group’s environmental work during their stay in Thatcham.

He also spoke of the various efforts made to bring people back into the town, “with special markets, new events for children, a smarter, greener, more colourful town centre, travelling theatre in the pipeline and much more. Plus, of course, our new 10K run, the brainchild of Councillor Ben Schiffer Harte and his organising committee, which has contributed so much to the Mayor’s charities.”

There were two of these in 2023-24:

Sport in Mind

“Using physical activity to support mental health is a subject close to my heart. I first came across Sport in Mind in Reading a year or so back, and  it’s been good to help raise this excellent charity’s profile in Thatcham, where it runs some regular events but are hoping to do more. They also joined us at the Fun Day and Carol Service and are also here this evening.”

PALS West Berks

“PALS is well known in Thatcham and does amazing work for young people with physical disabilities. Helen and Jane and the team support all our events but Jenny and I have been delighted to be able to go along to their junior and senior groups and also to attend the recent awards dinner. They are a very special group of people and I’m so happy to be able to help them.”

Finally, he gave four awards to local groups, his personal choice for those which he felt demanded special recognition (these were, he stressed, distinct from the Community Awards which were decided by local residents). The text in italics below is the Mayor’s citation on the night: the text that follows was provided by the organisations concerned on being contacted by Penny Post. Congratulations to them all, and the two charities above, and all those who were involved in organising such an enjoyable evening.

Community United

Alice Kunjappy Clifton and Julian Swift-Hook

Visit the website.

Community United is an organisation that has fostered and promoted links between ethnic groups in our area, through sporting event, celebrating religious and cultural events, and supporting people in many ways. Many of these have taken place in Newbury – the annual cricket fixture, for example – and in January I was invited to light the fire to mark the start of the Thai Pongal rice festival.

As Alice has pointed out, though, we have a broader ethnic mix in Thatcham than in other parts of West Berkshire and we’re working through the council events team to include dance and other activities in the Fun Day and Festival this year. This award marks that closer association.

The award was a surprise, however truly honoured. Just to say the accolade should go to the community that supports us at all our events.

Community United has been around over four years, we are about brining communities through common themes and culture, to enhance Belonging. This is done through sport, food and cultural events.

This is also the fourth year of our cricket events which this year will be held at Falkand Cricket Club on 15 September. We have at this moment 16 teams interested in playing, including women and youth team. We raise funds for all our events.

Next project is the Belonging Exhibition, whereby we are showcasing through photography and podcast, the importance of belonging and the impact of heritage. The concept was taken from Belfast.

Jubilee Sensory Garden

Sally Mitchell

Brownsfield Road, Thatcham RG18 3HF

Sally has created a dementia-friendly, reflective area where anyone can enjoy peace and nature.

Sally has made it her own and cultivates vegetables and flowers for people to take away. She’s also a wonderful source of advice on gardening issues. She runs an amazing community asset with Hayley’s help where you can enjoy craft activities and a chat. Sally has created a truly unique space.

The garden opened just over a year ago. It was designed, and is maintained, by Sally Mitchell (ex-estate gardener). The brief was to create a dementia-friendly garden and calm space for all the community,

The garden contains different elements which include Sensory planting, a woodland walk and a fruit and vegetable garden, where people can help themselves to produce. The space is fully accessible to all with smooth even pathways and raised beds in the vegetable garden for ease of access. The garden is maintained using Sustainable  and biodiverse principles, anyone interested in learning can express their interest by contacting the council on 01635 863592 and ask to speak to Hayley.

There is also a coffee morning on the last Thursday of the month with The Jubilee Garden community between 10.30 -12.30 with a garden crafting activity or gardening outside in the vegetable garden depending on the weather! more details can be found on Thatcham council Facebook, or call Hayley. Public parking is adjacent to the garden and free at weekends.

Surface Water Management Plan Funding Committee (Flood Forum)

Brian Woodham

In 2007 – like thousands of others – we were flooded out of our home by freak weather conditions. 12 years later (2019) I joined Thatcham Town Council and became the rep on the Flood Forum and Surface Water Management Plan Funding Committee. Until then I had little idea of the scale and achievement of the work that the SWMP and the bodies it coordinates have done on our behalf in Thatcham – creating a network of flood alleviation schemes around the north side of the town.

Despite current – quite significant – challenges at the Memorial Field and Brownsfield, the bigger picture is that we’re a small town at the bottom of a big hill with a lot of surface run-off and we now have unprecedented protection in a time of very unpredictable weather events.

The achievement of the SWMP is quite remarkable – possibly the only scheme of its kind nationwide to have reached this stage in protecting so many houses – much of it down to individual WB officers such as the late Stuart Clark and the team at Ardent Consulting, and the support of the EA. But it’s also down to the tenacity and attention to detail of one man and the group he has chaired. So as the SWMP nears the end of its brief, I’d like to mark the occasion with this award to Brian Woodham.

I was on the Thatcham Flood Forum as an interested party when the computer modelling of the devastating 2007 floods was being created. This led to the actual site waste management plan (SWMP) being designed and adopted by the Environment Agency and WBC in 2010, one of only six in England. It was assumed that the whole scheme of nine reservoirs or attenuation basins would be funded.

In the summer of 2011, we heard the EA had rejected funding as the total scheme did not apparently meet their cost/benefit criteria.

I stepped in and called a meeting with the then CEO, WBC Nick Carter and our then MP Richard Benyon. It was decided that we would tackle this one scheme element at a time and justify each part on its merits. I volunteered to set up a Funding Committee: never thinking that it would take 12 years and 70 meetings,h eld every two months, to get the job to completion!

All sorts of obstacles had to be overcome working hand in hand with the WBC Principal Engineer, Stuart Clark, now sadly deceased. The most dramatic was in late 2014 when the EA announced that all future flood defence scheme  bids would have to be supported by independently raised local financial contributions, despite, in our case, over 3000 residents having been made homeless for up to two years. So, we set the challenge to raise £100,000 in 100 days starting in March 2015. Thanks to a matched funding grant for half of this by the Greenham Trust we pulled this off and this ensured that WBC could demonstrate local financial support for all the seven then remaining schemes. Throughout we had super support from all levels of civic leaders, our MPs, elected members of WBC and Thatcham TC including financial support for the bids from the Town Council.

When the last element is built this year on part of the Memorial Field, the defences built in total will hold back around 160 million gallons of stormwater and protect around 1,200 properties between the hills to the north of the town and the river. Hopefully it will be a legacy that future generations of residents in the town will appreciate in a time of climate change.

Newbury Pride in Thatcham

Andrea Brookes and Graham Reese

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Jenny and I have been invited this year to take part in the magnificent Pride Procession in Reading, and for two years have supported our local Pride group in Newbury, with their joyous parade in the summer.

This amazing group is key to encouraging tolerance, inclusion, and respect for personal freedom across our area and I’m really pleased that Newbury Pride in Thatcham (as we’re calling it) has brought the community closer to home here in our town – through Pride Brunches, Drag Bingo and, increasingly, participation in the Thatcham Fun Day agenda and Festival. I’m very pleased to be able to present a Mayor’s Award to Andrea Brookes and Graham Reese.

Newbury Pride includes all of West Berkshire and North Hampshire, and now in our third year we have moved beyond the limits of Newbury and have been working closely with Thatcham Town Council to help to expand the levels of inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance within the town.  Spearheaded by our two co-vice chairs, Megan Brewer and Andrea Brookes and with the full support of the rest of the team we have enthusiastically taken part in many of the town activities and events including the Thatcham Festival and the Thatcham Family Fun Day and we look forward to continuing this relationship for many years to come.

We have also introduced Sunday brunches commencing in Thatcham at the Gardeners Retreat Café at the Garden Centre, but we will be alternating these with venues in Newbury going forward.  Immensely popular have been the Drag Bingos which we have started in conjunction with the town council and held at the Rugby Club bi-monthly. We have also held an occasional social evening in one of the town pubs. Keep an eye on our socials and website () for details of these events.

All these have been an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ Thatcham people to meet with others in a socially safe environment and, of course, these are open to everyone to come to with an open mind and support their local community, come along and enjoy! if you have any questions to ask, we are always there to support you.

We have very much enjoyed working with the Town Council and the town and have appreciated the support provided to us from solemn events like Transgender Day of Remembrance to fun events like Family Fun Day.  And we must extend our gratitude to the mayor and councillors for the honour provided to us at the Christmas Lights Switch On last year and most recently for the Mayor’s Award last Friday.

We hope to see as many people as possible at the Newbury Pride main event in Victoria Park on 13 July this year, it will be the biggest and best to date.

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