Putting Lee-on-the-Solent on the map!

Like many of us, I was disappointed when the local celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day planned for May 2020 were cancelled. So much work had gone into the planning that I was delighted to discover that the Lee Victory Festival would be taking place 24th – 26th September 2021. St Faith’s being involved in the event, it gave me a good opportunity to find out more about the man determined to make it happen.

Jonathan Moore’s vision is to make Lee-on-the-Solent a destination town, and he is bursting with ideas for how to achieve this. Having lived most of his life in Hampshire he moved to our town in 2009 and like so many, fell in love with it – and wants other people to share it. With his successful career as a networker in the field of marketing, he brings the expertise, contacts and drive to make it happen.

Jonathan first became involved with the Lee Residents Association and helped them move forward with brand, identity and membership, as well the introduction of the glossy magazine they distribute every 6 months. Join! It’s worth it for the wealth of information they share.

During this time, Jonathan got to know many people with businesses in the High Street and realised it was a key to boosting the town, and a different focus and endeavour from the Residents Association. In conjunction with his committee members, he has worked hard to build alliances with all business in Lee within a more formal organisation – Lee Business Association (LBA) – working together to make the High Street more prosperous. Together with Gosport BC and support from local councillors LBA have already successfully bid for funding for the flag poles and Christmas trees. Look out for the new signposts along Marine Parade coming in the future!

Now that LBA has been set up as a formal entity, with Jonathan as its Chair, they are using this as platform to promote a range of exciting events in the town. This summer sees the launch of Summer in Lee, hopefully the first of annual events in August for locals and visitors to enjoy during the week of 13-22 August. By the time you read this its success should be evident.

During our conversation, Jonathan had shared so many fantastic ideas that it was impossible not to share his enthusiasm, especially about the Lee Victory Festival. This is set to be a wonderful community event, packed with entertainment including a Victory Parade through the High Street, from the Hovercraft Museum to beyond the community Library, aerial and sea displays as well as a wide range of entertainment, music and fun on the recreation field. Local businesses, voluntary organisations, local military and the schools will all be involved. Jonathan was keen to record the committee’s grateful thanks to sponsors, particularly NA Griffiths, our Butcher. St Faith’s will be involved by hosting a service for the community, followed by refreshments and performance by the choir, remembering and giving thanks and concluding a successful weekend.

It was clear from everything Jonathan said that he has a tremendous heart and passion for Lee-on-the-Solent. Not only does he have grand plans and dreams for our town; he is on a mission to deliver them! Jonathan really is a force of nature. Thank you Jonathan, and may your plans become our reality.

 

 

Thank you and Farewell!

Rev Dr Mary Kells

It seems like no time at all since Mary Kells, Curate at St Faith’s, was interviewed for this page when she arrived.  Sadly for us, the time has come to bid her farewell and reflect on her time with us in Lee-on-the-Solent.

Mary joined St Faith’s 3½ years ago having recently completed her ordination training. Having felt called to become ordained in her 20s, she explained that it was only a few years ago that she felt that the timing was right. Having been born in Northern Ireland, she struggled with the sectarianism she was brought up with and was delighted to eventually find a home in the Anglican church. After her degree in Social Anthropology, Mary rediscovered her faith whilst researching her doctorate at the London School of Economics. Mary remembers the Chaplains there with appreciation, and valued the opportunity to ask challenging questions about faith and what it all meant.

As an academic and during her significant work for mental health charities for many years – she was a local director for Mind before starting a family – she has challenged the status quo. She is passionate about inclusivity and is proud of her achievements at St Faith’s in highlighting issues around gender equality. During her time with us she has helped us modernise our approach, particularly the language we use in songs and liturgy as well as in our outreach.

One of the projects she has initiated and is most proud of is the Women4Women for Lee group (https://www.stfaithslee.org/women4women/). The idea germinated in March 2019 when she invited some of the women of St Faiths to put together a visual display of women of faith who had influence on a national or local scale for International Women’s Day. Mary suggested these women formed a group to create a support network, and the idea blossomed. Women4Women in Lee launched in March 2020, just before lockdown. Since then, the growing numbers in the group have run virtual and in-person monthly coffee mornings, a virtual tea-&-cake event with inspirational women as guest speakers attended by 50+ people, a Community Thank You Award, and a variety of pop-up events as ideas have occurred as well as raising money for the women’s refuge. Thanks to a grant from Wates Group Construction Company, the group have invested in 3 tablet devices available for short-term loan to people in the community to join virtual events, or connect with family and friends. Seeing as this has all happened during lockdown, it is a testament to Mary’s drive and passion that this group has already been so successful in reaching out to the wider community and will continue to build on these foundations.

Mary’s commitment to including and involving everyone extended to organising the Live Nativity in 2019 – over 250 people came to see a retelling of the nativity story and pat the real animals! – and the video version in 2020. ‘Your King Has Come’ has been viewed by hundreds of people on Youtube (it’s still there!) and people attending Christmas services. Both were written and performed by congregation members and were extremely well received.

So now it is time for Mary to move on, and she will be greatly missed as she takes her wisdom, bubbling enthusiasm and cracks of laughter to Kings College, Cambridge, to her new post as Chaplain. We wish you well!

 

Keeping our community Vari-fit

 

Sallyanne Foster

Now that St Faith’s Parish Centre has opened up for bookings, it’s great to see people making use of these spacious, airy and well-equipped rooms. One of our regulars is Sallyanne Foster who has been using the Parish Centre for 10 years. Having joined one of her vibrant Zumba sessions – and snapping some action shots! – I wanted to know more about her, and her passion to make fitness fun in Lee-on-the-Solent.

Sallyanne hails from Lee-on-the-Solent and attended Lee Junior School. When she was 18 she joined the RAF and trained as an aircraft engineer; a profession she has made her career and which has taken her around the local area and to Canada. As a child she was been passionate about horses as her regular hobby and main exercise, even competing for the RAF. Neither of these indicated a love of dance, so why Zumba?

Having played tennis regularly at the local club, one rainy day a friend dragged her (reluctantly) to a Zumba class and she loved it. A short while later she was disappointed to hear that the instructor was leaving. Instead of giving up, she decided she would take it on! In 2012 she qualified as a Zumba instructor and over the years added qualifications in fitness training for gym and group sessions.

Taking the plunge to branch out on her own, Sallyanne turned to St Faith’s and booked the Bulson Hall for a 3-week trial. The first class was a hit, packed with supportive friends which gave her a huge boost! Given Sallyanne’s vibrant and engaging personality, all her friends came – for her sake, unfortunately not for Zumba. Let’s just say that the second week gave her an opportunity to brush up her routines in private. Nothing daunted, she persevered and over the years the classes have grown in number and popularity.

This period has held its challenges, though. Sallyanne was diagnosed with bowel cancer a few years ago and it is a testament to her positive approach to life that she focussed on her treatment and recovery. Sallyanne shines with vitality and she is passionate about encouraging everyone to get the most out of their own life, health and fitness. Her classes are open to anyone, whatever their level of fitness, which makes them particularly suitable to those of us heading into our mature years.

More recently and due to the pandemic, Sallyanne moved her classes online. When made redundant in the summer, she grasped the opportunity ‘retire’ and focus her considerable energy on her range fitness programmes. She has now created Vari-fit as a platform for all her classes and business growth in the future. Her online classes were much enjoyed during the various lockdowns, so she now delivers a combination of virtual and in-person classes, both dance and exercise based. As well as Zumba, she runs upper body strength and sit-down classes, in-person or at home, for all ages and all abilities, contributing to good physical and mental health.

Sallyanne clearly has her sights set on a fit and healthy future for herself and her 250+ Varifit family. I am sure that she will continue to go from strength to strength – quite literally.

Find out more about Varifit classes and what else is back on in the Parish Centre visit the  website www.stfaithsparishcentre.org.uk/regular-events/

Thank you Brian!

Having worked alongside Brian Mansbridge on the Parochial Church Council (PCC) for a few years, I already knew him as a man who likes to get things done.  I also knew that the church building had been deteriorating for many years; the inside looks very tired but the building needed to be made water tight before anything decorative can be done. By the time you read this, you will probably have noticed that St Faith’s Church is now swathed in scaffolding and hoarding. So what is going on?  I asked Brian, the man with the plan.

Brian explained that the main problem was that the architect of this listed building had placed the gutters on top of the walls. Over the years since it was built in 1933, cracks and leaks had occurred and water had seeped into the woodwork and walls. This had been patched in the past, but the steel and woodwork had now deteriorated to the point that it needed to be repaired or replaced. At the same time, the dormer windows needed to be removed and re-coated, then put back with new woodwork and lead flashing to seal them properly. In some of the particularly bad areas, stone work has been damaged and this needs to be replaced along with any slipped tiles.

This all sounded like a huge task, but Brian seemed to take it all in his stride. Having spent 30 years in the Navy travelling the world as a mine clearance diver, he had spent the next 15 years overseeing projects as a non-executive director of the local NHS trusts. Added to this, Brian had been involved in building projects when he was a member and Treasurer of his previous church in Portsdown, as well as part of the Planning Committee for the Gosport Society. No wonder then, that he described this project as straightforward!

Brian went on to explain that the church will remain open and accessible during the works, which should be completed by 13th July in time for the Church Fete and Lee Choral Society concert planned for Saturday 17th July. Similarly, the Parish Centre will be available as lockdown arrangements ease so that regular users and people looking to hire halls and use the car park can do so. At times, small areas inside the church may be cordoned off as the windows are repaired.

This led me to ask about the next stage – what about improving how the church looks inside? Brian told me that the external works would cost around £140,000.The PCC had made the decision to spend every penny St Faith’s had saved up over decades on the works to the outside, and the insides would cost more than twice that amount. As a listed building, St Faith’s requires careful restoration of plaster works before sprucing up, keep the look and improve acoustics; this will be a whole new major project – and funding challenge – for the future.

When Brian moved to Lee-on-the-Solent 9 years ago with his wife of 50 years, Wendy, I’m not sure he had expected to invest so much of his time on behalf of our church and community. We are certainly fortunate to have this highly experienced project manager on our team. Thank you, Brian!

You can find out more about the church building, planned works and community via http://stfaithslee.org/ or just pop in.

 

On governing our schools…

I knew that Paul Chamberlain, Vicar of St Faiths, was a school governor for both the Infant and Junior schools. David Hill is also on both Governing Bodies so I thought they were ideally placed to tell me more about their roles in our schools. I arranged to meet them for a virtual chat, and ask them about what being a school governor entailed, and why they did it.

Firstly, I wanted to find out what they did. Having been a school governor in Lee-on-Solent Infant & Nursery for 6 years, Paul started by explaining that the team of 12-15 governors helped develop and steer the strategic direction, vision and culture of the school. David, who has been on both governing bodies for just over a year elaborated, telling me that through supporting the Heads by reviewing things like budgets, policies and staffing they could ensure that the pupils received the best education possible.

 

David went on to say that all the governors brought their own skills and expertise to the governing body, so they made different contributions. As it happens, David has significant knowledge of the education sector and Paul was quick to explain that this was not necessary for all governors. Paul was a scientist before he became a vicar, and both governing bodies had people with a range of background, skills and experience.

As governors in both schools, I wondered how different the roles were.  Paul said he held more responsibility in the Infants as Acting Chair while David had found that it depended on what each team needed. He was Training Governor at the Juniors, so he helped governors get the best out of the excellent training provided by the Local Authority. A lot of support was available for governors to on the role and all aspects of school management.

They went on to tell me that the two schools worked closely together; although the needs of each school were different, they were all working to achieve the very best education for our children in Lee-on-the-Solent. The Junior school had been through a difficult period recently and the governors played an important part in helping the school to enter a new chapter. Having joined the schools more recently, David had supported the schools through appointing Lucy Faulkner as Headteacher at the Junior’s, and through the changing needs of both schools during the pandemic.

Given that they were volunteers, I was intrigued to know why they had become governors. As the vicar, Paul said he wanted to play an active role in our local community and having strong schools for local children was integral to that.  David agreed; he has a personal passion for education having been a teacher and his children now attend the school, so he has much to contribute and gain.

It was clear that both Paul and David were enthusiastic about their roles and when I asked for any closing comments they agreed that although it was a commitment that took time, they felt like they were making a real difference. They brought their experience to the table, and in return they learned new skills, honed experience and worked with great teams. As we come out of the restrictions of the pandemic, they both look forward to getting back into the schools to see them in action.

If David and Paul have inspired you, find out more about becoming a governor here: https://www.hants.gov.uk/educationandlearning/governors/volunteer

 

Living a Dream – Claire Andrews

All of us in Lee-on-the-Solent are delighted when new shops open in our High Street. When Claire opened Sewberry in August 2020, she was fulfilling the dream she had as an 8 years old.  As I know Claire as a member of St Faith’s, I had prayed with her as her plans to open Sewberry came to fruition and was very keen to find out more to share with you.

Brought up in Worcester, having moved from Liverpool as a child, Claire always had a passion for sewing but took a more traditional approach to her career by studying Medical Ethics & Public Health at University before working for the NHS in South Wales. Although she had continued to sew and enjoy creative arts, it was not until her first daughter was born that she had the opportunity to develop and share her talents. Her friend bought her a voucher to spend on craft materials, and her ideas grew from there.

The business began in 2015 when Claire developed a make-your-own purse template kit and sold the kits and completed hand-made items on Etsy.  As any sewer or crafter (or the partner of one) will tell you, it is very easy to end up with far too much stock! Claire looked around at the amount of fabric she had accumulated and remembered the childhood dream of her owning her own shop.  In January 2020 she took the leap and started Sewberry online. When the world went into Lockdown 2 months later, she was ready to supply crafters throughout the world with unique and vintage fabric. The market in America was particularly buoyant with a demand for her designer and character fabrics, and the impetus this gave her meant she could afford to stock a physical shop. Her dream became reality.

Having used the time in the first lockdown to prepare her shop, opening day was a great success, with local sewers and crafters queuing to get in. The shop remained busy until forced to shut for the lockdown, but Claire has been working hard behind the scenes. As well as running the online business, she has expanded the space available and extended her product range to include craft packs suited to anyone over the age of 4. Having 2 children herself, Claire can be sure that her products are appealing. In fact, it was her daughters who came up with the shop’s name.

Claire moved to Lee-on-the-Solent when her daughters were small. Having grown up in a Christian home, when one of her friends suggested she came along to St Faith’s she did and was warmly welcomed into the congregation.  In finding a closer relationship with God, Claire also made good friends and feels more connected to God, her faith and the community as her shop-owning dream became a reality.

Claire told me she just loves helping and advising her customers and has built up great relationships with them. It doesn’t feel like work, and she has to remind herself she is not still playing shop! She feels so lucky to have created a thriving business, and is grateful for the support of her family, friends and her team – Anna, Pam & Jazz.

By the time this edition lands on your doormat, Claire will be counting down to opening again on 12th April. Why not pop in?

 

Thank you, Alan!

Those of you who are regular readers of this column will, like me, have been disappointed to read that Alan has decided to lay down his pen – at least as far as the Big Voice is concerned.  On taking on the mantle, I wanted to speak to Alan to find out a bit more about the man behind that pen.

Over the 8 years Alan has written this column, small snippets of his life have been shared with us as he empathised with many of the people he had met.  We have found out that he was a teacher, and it was his vocation that brought him to Gosport to be Headteacher of Siskin School before heading up a middle school in Southampton.  Alan came with his family, and his two sons remained integrated into his life in Lee-on-the-Solent when his marriage broke down and his wife moved away. He remembers fondly the many cycling trips he took with the boys around the local area.

Alan was candid about telling me that the breakdown of his marriage as a very low point in his life, however he is thankful for the wonderful things that can happen in a life which may seem bleak in that moment. First, he experienced the joy of discovering the very real and deep love that God had for him. From that moment, Alan has lived out his faith and love for God.  This was somewhat unexpected, for although he had accompanied his wife to church for many years, he confessed that he mainly went to keep her company and for the music.  An accomplished musician himself, Alan was the choir master at Holy Rood for some time.

Soon after, Alan met and fell in love with Isabel, who was his partner for the next 30 years until she died. He counts himself fortunate to be a part of the lives of his own and Isabel’s grown up children, as well as remaining on good terms with his wife. It is a mark of Alan’s gentleness, grace and humility that these relationships are so strong.

Although living in Lee-on-the-Solent, it was Alan’s passion for writing which led him to St Faith’s. He picked up the weekly notes one day and saw that there was a competition to write new words to a hymn tune. It will be no surprise to you to learn that he was a winner! To receive his award, he was invited to Southsea Common for the diocesan centenary gathering of churches with members of his own church. Although not a member at the time, the people in St Faith’s were delighted to share in his success! They welcomed him in and he soon became an integral part of the community of St Faith’s.

Before bringing our conversation to a close, I asked Alan how he would like to be remembered.  Having given the matter due consideration, he remembered what his pupils had said of him when he retired , that ‘He makes us laugh’.  He hastily told me he wasn’t a comedian – presumably he didn’t want to raise expectations – but think I understood. He wants to share the humour he finds in life as it unfurls around us, and invites us to smile with him.

Alan, thank you for the last 86 columns, and we wish you a long and happy retirement.

 

Signing Off: Fare well and fare forward!

How time flies! It was in November 2008 that one of the first editions of Big Voice dropped though the letter box of Peter Sutton, St.Faiths vicar before Paul Chamberlain. After receiving it, Peter cheekily wrote a Christmas Message to the editor to see if it might be a helpful extra. To his absolute surprise it was included in the next issue and followed over the subsequent four years by 45 further articles until his final contribution in November, 2012, before he moved to the Isle of Wight.

Much to my absolute surprise, he caught me after church one Sunday before he left and asked if I would take over writing for Big Voice when he’d gone. I wasn’t sure what I could write about but having been assured that it would only be for a couple of months until the new vicar was appointed, I agreed to fill in the gap. When I mentioned to a friend that I’d been asked to take Peter’s place, the reaction was abrupt and immediate: ‘What! How on earth can you do it?’ I was asked, ‘You’re not a vicar!’

A little alarmed by the response, I called at the Vicarage, more for reassurance than anything else, and suggested to Peter that I might write articles on people who served both within the church and in the wider community. Much to my relief he condoned the idea and in January 2013, my first article appeared. The ‘couple of months’ however stretched into many, many more before the new vicar, Paul, arrived. When he did, he seemed quite happy for me to continue with the articles which I was happy to do. Since that first article in 2013 I’ve written 85 more until this one, my 86thth, over 7 years later. During that time Big Voice has undergone many developments including transforming its format from a relatively small magazine to a much larger, attractively produced one, a change of editors with Coralie handing over the reigns to Gemma and, in the past year, the challenges presented by the Corona virus pandemic during which, apart from one month when it appeared online, it has managed to keep going in its printed form.

The experience of representing St Faith’s church in the monthly magazine, as well as being a privilege, has been really enjoyable and informative. I’ve been able to meet and interview a wide range of wonderful people who have done so much for the church and for the wider community. Over countless cups of coffee, cakes and biscuits in people’s homes, local businesses premises, schools and elsewhere, I’ve met more people in the last 7 years than I ever expected. From talking to young children in our local primary school to a churchgoer who’d just celebrated her 100th birthday, I’ve been able to hear about and report on their different experiences, life stories, present circumstances and hopes for the future. But all good things must come to an end or, at least, to new beginnings.

After much thought and with my 80th birthday less the two years away, I’ve decided the time has come for a new voice and a new direction and that this will be my final contribution. At the time of writing there is no firm decision on who will be taking over but optimistic negotiations are currently in progress. If no decision has been made by next month, Paul Chamberlain our vicar will take my place in the meantime. I’m sure that he will give you lots to think about and, hopefully, a permanent replacement will be writing for you before long. I should like to thank Coralie and Gemma for their help and for giving our church space in Big Voice. Thanks also to everyone I’ve met and interviewed and those of you who’ve been reading my contributions over the last 7 years. Keep reading! I’m sure that whoever takes over from me will have much of interest to say. Meanwhile I shall be joining the readership and looking forward to hearing whoever that new voice will be representing St. Faith’s church and keeping us up to date on all that is happening.

 

Yours to Use

At the start of a New Year someone suggested I could write about the role of St. Faiths as a Parish Church and the services it offers to everyone in the parish whether they are churchgoers or not. St Faith’s is open daily for anyone to visit. You might simply want to walk around or spend time sitting in silence to be with your own thoughts. Just inside the church to the right you can light a candle or write a request in the ‘Prayer request’ book. All requests recorded will be prayed for at the weekday morning and evening services.

In normal times, hopefully soon to return, the church runs activities to support parents with young children and people looking for company and companionship. Rainbow Toddlers is held on Tuesday mornings in the Bulson Hall when parents can meet each over other over refreshments while their young children enjoy themselves with toys and activities under the guidance of friendly, welcoming helpers. From time to time there are parenting courses for the parents of children at different ages On Thursday afternoons also in the Bulson hall (2 pm – 3 pm), Cuppa and Company caters for those seeking companionship with others over a cup of tea whilst Knit and Natter (which I attend though only to natter!) meets in the Lowry Room on Thursdays 2 pm – 4 pm) where a friendly group of people enjoy each others company over cakes and tea whilst knitting for worthy causes.

As well as its normal daily and Sunday services (8 o’clock communion, 9.30 Parish Eucharist, Sundays@11 and 6 pm Evening Prayer), the church is also there for Weddings, Christenings and Funerals. By request, ashes can be laid to rest in the Remembrance Garden and names of loved ones recorded in the Remembrance Book (on display in the Lady Chapel). Annual services are held on or around All Hallows Day for those wishing to remember loved ones. Anyone in the parish who wants to know more about these services can contact the church office.

Activities organised by outside agencies include Dancing, Fun and Fitness, Pilates, Yoga or Zumba for those wanting to keep trim, Jiggly Wrigglers for pre-school children, Choir for those who enjoy singing together and Art classes for aspiring artists. The Parish Centre is also available for celebrations, receptions, meetings etc. in the Bulson Hall for larger gatherings or the Lowry room for smaller groups. In addition to having well-equipped kitchens and toilets there are plans to provide a bar and to update other facilities in keeping with modern requirements. Bookings can be made through the church office when activities restart.

Information on all activities and who to contact can be found in the leaflet rack just inside the church porch along with information on other events. The church website at www.stfaithslee.org.uk also offers up-to-date information all that’s happening.

If you, or anyone you know, wan to take advantage of anything we offer, please do and spread the news. Hopefully there will soon be something for everyone, young or old, whatever their circumstances, needs or interests. The Church and Parish Centre is there for the whole community and eager to be used. So when and if things return to normal, we hope to see more people making use of their Parish Church.

Meanwhile, on behalf of everyone at St. Faiths, I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year or perhaps I should say, ‘New-Normal’ Year!