On Tuesday 30 August, 'The Friends' was formally launched by our Patron, Lord Hall of Birkenhead (Tony Hall) with a talk on his life and work. He drew interesting parallels between his life at the BBC and at the Royal Opera House, giving the memorable example of the need for both a news correspondent in a war zone and a soloist on stage in front of several thousand people to get it right under pressure! He talked about the importance of the outreach work undertaken by Covent Garden seeking to bring opera to millions of people who would not otherwise have the experience and of his determination as Chair of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad to ensure that Britain delivered its promise to add a rich cultural dimension to the celebration of next year's Games in London. After the talk, we all adjourned for tea in the garden at Candida House. It was just about warm enough!
Over tea, Nick Mayhew Smith, author of 'Britain's Holiest Places' (in which our church is given 11 stars!) sold copies of his book and donated £10 for each one sold. It was most generous of him to come down from London to attend our inaugural event.
Many thanks to all those people who have already joined the Friends. At the time of writing we have 60 members and we hope to welcome many more. It is important to stress that the aim of the Friends is not solely to raise funds. Of course it is important that in our turn, as many generations who have lived in the village and the Marshwood Vale have done in the past, we should look after the fabric of a wonderful and iconic building. The church means so much to so many in the community, some churchgoers and many who are not. Many projects lie ahead. The
bells, much loved and rung unfailingly by our team of bell ringers, are about to be taken down and will undergo a major refurbishment, the first since 1926. The medieval 6th bell will be heard no more as it is honeycombed and is to be replaced, although it will remain here. The floor, the organ, the electrics and our antiquated and temperamental heating system all require radical attention. So we do face some substantial fundraising.
But it is equally important that the church should be a meeting place for the whole community. In addition to the weekly services, the weddings, christenings and funerals and the recently revived healing services, we want to encourage further and wider use through the Friends. Already the free exchange cafe, our excellent annual Flower Festival and the concert series are drawing more people in. The Friends plan to put on 3 or 4 interesting and attractive events, home or away, each year. On October 22nd, the Whitchurch Purcellians will welcome Friends to to join them for their Gala Concert. She'koyokh, who were such a hit when they played in the village hall some years ago, will be returning to play their Jewish-gypsy-Balkan-Turkish folk music (www.shekoyokh.co.uk). It is an occasion not to be missed. More details elsewhere in the magazine.
A final word of thanks to Tony Hall. We are grateful to him for agreeing to become our Patron, especially at such a busy time with the 2012 Olympics looming. His lively and stimulating talk has given the Friends a resounding start.