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How the Olympics reinforced the volunteering spirit – one volunteer’s view

Practising what she preaches, Rose Seagrief took two weeks leave from her day job to join the Olympic Gamesmakers, the army of volunteers that helped out during London 2012. Rose is the manager of Wiltshire Community Land Trust, which assists volunteer-run groups in Wiltshire and Swindon to set up community land trusts to own and manage their own assets and facilities.

Now, as the Paralympics approach, she looks back on her Olympic experience.

Rose, who lives in Chippenham, was made a team leader at the Greenwich Park venue.  She was in charge of between five and twelve volunteers, usually different people every day.  “We did whatever needed doing.  We welcomed people at the gates, scanned their tickets, saw them to their seats in the 20,500-seater stadium, managed queues at the food stalls, made sure all the toilets functioned, answered questions about anything and everything, and high-fived happy punters as they headed home.”

Her team members ranged in age from eighteen to well into their seventies: “They were amazing. Whatever they were asked to do, they did it. It made no difference how early it was, how late lunch was, how many stairs had to be climbed, or which portion of the anatomy ached that day, off they went, willingly and with humour. And somehow, at the end of every day, we had always enjoyed ourselves.”

The volunteers in her team were amused by the names given to certain things: “We didn’t have exits we had ‘vomitaries’, which I think we can blame on the Romans. Best of all, the horses that took part in the equestrian events were called ‘Equine Athletes’, while those the modern pentathletes drew lots for were termed ‘Sports Equipment’. How rude! I don’t blame one or two of the latter for throwing their riders.”

Rose and her team enjoyed the spectators too: “Kids and adults alike were wide-eyed and brimming with excitement. Seasoned equestrian experts spurred us on to make sure no-one moved a muscle while the finely-tuned dressage horses went through their paces. But young and old, in the know or otherwise, each and every one erupted with whoops of delight when Team GB made the medal podium.”

She won’t forget in a hurry the ear-splitting roar that went round the stadium when Samantha Murray won the final silver medal of the Games. Or how, as they left, the spectators thanked the Gamesmakers:  “How good that felt!”

Rose Seagrief Rose Seagrief Wiltshire Community Land Trust is an umbrella body that works with volunteer-led community groups in Wiltshire and Swindon who want to take on ownership and management of local assets such as affordable housing, workspaces, land for growing food and for recreation, wildlife reserves, pubs, shops and a range of community facilities and local services. So it is no great surprise that Rose takes a lesson in volunteering from her time among the horses, riders, spectators and fellow volunteers at Greenwich:

“There is no question that we can all be as proud of our volunteering tradition as we can of our sporting prowess, both celebrated so loudly over the past few weeks. That celebration will no doubt continue on to the Paralympics, but when those are done and dusted, quietly and mostly unsung all those Gamesmakers and many more besides will be back in their own communities continuing to give generously of their skills and energy, making life a little better for everyone.”

And if you are interested in the work of the Wiltshire Community Land Trust you can phone her (01380 850916) or email her: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Mustn’t grumble... Wiltshire folk among the happiest in UK

People in Wiltshire are the fourth happiest in the country according to the results of a recent national survey.

With a happiness score of 77.1 percent, Wiltshire was beaten only by Anglesey (77.3), Rutland (80.8) and Eilean Siar, Orkney & Shetland (82.8).

The unhappiest people lived in the local authoprities of Swansea (65.8), County Durham (65.3) and Blackpool (63.5), which had the dubious honour of being named the unhappiest place in Britain. 

The first national well-being survey showed that, nationally, those who are married, have jobs and own their own homes are the most likely to be satisfied with their lives.

As a general trend, people were the most satisfied with life in their teenage years and when they reached retirement age, with happiness levels dipping during middle age.

Those aged 16 to 19 and 65 to 79 reported satisfaction levels considerably higher than the UK average of 7.4 out of 10.

People living in built-up or former industrial areas, such as South Wales, the West Midlands or London, tended to be less happy, while rural areas, such as Orkney and Shetland, and Wiltshire were the happiest.

The results were obtained after researchers asked adults aged 16 and over to rank themselves between 0 and 10 to a number of questions, including:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

The scheme aims to provide a better understanding of how society is doing, and could help form future government policy. Prime Minister David Cameron described the survey as crucial to finding out what the government can do to "really improve lives", but Labour ridiculed the survey as a "statement of the bleeding obvious".

Welcoming the findings of the survey, Wiltshire Council leader, Jane Scott, said: “This doesn’t surprise me as the enthusiasm and the happiness I saw from our communities celebrating the Jubilee and the Torch relay was fantastic.

“More than 50 percent of people in the county came out and I think it shows what a strong community spirit we have in Wiltshire.

“We live in a beautiful county which is one of the safest and healthiest places to live, with low unemployment.

“However we must not rest on our laurels and, although the survey suggests older people and teenagers are the happiest groups, we must continue to work hard with our partners to support them.”

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Would you walk over hot coals for charity?

Picture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netPicture courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netWould you walk over hot coals for charity?

That’s the question being asked by Prospect Hospice, who are inviting the public to take part in their Firewalk event at Alexandria House Hotel, Wroughton on 28 October this year to raise money for the hospice.

The event sees participants being sponsored to walk barefoot over burning embers, at temperatures that can reach almost 800 degrees centigrade. The event also includes a Halloween Party for family and friends with traditional festive activities including apple-bobbing and a pumpkin carving competition.

Last year’s event at the Check Inn, Wroughton, raised nearly £8,000 towards the costs of the Hospice, which looks after 1800 patients and their families in the local area every year.

One of the participants was Marc Blackwell, who decided to take on the challenge after friend Louisa Francis spent her final days in the care of the Hospice. Marc, who raised over £1,000 in sponsorship at the event, said:

“I really enjoyed it, and I’d recommend anyone to give it a go. I was really nervous beforehand when we were queuing and watching the others take part, but actually when it was my turn I just concentrated on what I had to do and the nerves left me. It was a bit like walking over very hot sand – painful, but not unbearable. The important thing was that I was doing it for Prospect.”

This year, the organisers are hoping that more people will take on the ultimate challenge and walk over hot coals for Prospect Hospice. The charity is looking for brave people to put mind over matter for the event and for their friends and family to come along to the spooky Halloween party and to watch them walk over red-hot coals in aid of Prospect Hospice.

Sheryl Crouch, head of fundraising, said: “A lot of our events are physical challenges of one kind or another, but not everyone wants to take on a physically demanding challenge. The great thing about the Firewalk is that it’s extreme, and demanding without being too physically challenging.

“We are hoping that groups from businesses might like to take part. We’re also hoping that people will bring their friends and family to buy a ticket to our Halloween Party to see how brave they are!

Registration for the Firewalk costs just £25, and organisers hope firewalkers can raise a suggested sponsorship amount of £150. To register, visit

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Voting opens in £6,000 Community Giveaway

CommunityGiveawayCommunityGiveawayVoting has opened in the preliminary round of the Frasers Budgens of Marlborough Community Giveaway.

The Community Giveaway is being staged by Oxfordshire-based retail group Fraser’s, who are opening a petrol station, Budgens convenience store and Subway outlet at Marlborough Business Park in the autumn.

From now until 1 September, local good causes are invited to nominate themselves for a community grant.

And until 7 September, a public poll will select nine finalists from three categories – Health, Wellbeing and Social; Communities and the Arts; Education and Young People.

The finalists will be invited to pitch their projects to a live voting audience at Theatre on the Hill in Marlborough on Thursday 27 September, when representatives from each community group are invited to pitch their ideas from the theatre stage to a voting public.

While there's a lot of money at stake, the emphasis will be on fun, with organisers insisting the event will be more like Britain's Got Talent than Dragon's Den.

The three community projects that receive the most votes on the night will walk away with cheques for £1,000. And all of the nine finalists will get a share of another £1,000 over the first three months of the new forecourt opening.

Readers wishing to cast a vote, or to apply for a grant on behalf of their community organisation, should go to Visitors are able to vote for one organisation in each category  so are urged to use their vote wisely.

The applicants vying for the public's vote include:

Community and the Arts

Marlborough Communities Market

To support the ongoing success of the monthly Marlborough Communities Market, a not-for-profit enterprise working in collaboration with Transition Marlborough and Marlborough Town Council and incorporating a farmers' market and local crafts and produce.

Kennet Accordion Orchestra

To develop younger/beginners to the interest of music generally and to fund new instruments for the youth orchestra.

Phoenix Brass Band

To purchase 2 Tenor Horns to enlarge the Horn section of the Training Section, which exists to introduce any person, young or old, to the joys of music and brass banding.

Kennet Valley Arts Trust

Support for the showing of films in the Town Hall for adults coming under the heading of Marlborough Downs Movies.

We Love Marlborough

To bring Christmas cheer to Marlborough families, We Love Marlborough would like Father Christmas to be free to visit in the town hall this year, and have an free top-quality artist-led Christmas crafts-making session culminating in a procession at the lights switch on at 7pm. The Christmas Lights Switch On Activities would take place on 29 November 2012

Health, Wellbeing and Social

National Childbirth Trust

To support the ongoing success of NCT Marlborough and District, which offers local parents and parents-to-be invaluable support, services and NCT events including: ‘bumps and babies’ cafés’, monthly newsletter, nearly new sales, antenatal classes, baby first aid, walking club and local events.

Carer Support Wiltshire

To support the work of the Wiltshire-wide charity that gives free and confidential emotional support, information, advice and breaks to unpaid carers living in the county.

Wiltshire Air Ambulance

To support the running costs of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, the only emergency helicopter in the UK to fly with a pilot, paramedic and police observer at all times. Each day the Wiltshire Air Ambulance is called out an average of three times. Since 2009 the Wiltshire Air Ambulance has attended 41 emergency incidents in Marlborough and Pewsey alone. It costs almost £2,000 per day to keep the Wiltshire Air Ambulance flying and saving lives.

Splitz - KidzPace

Working with children aged 11-17 who have witnessed or been exposed to domestic abuse in Marlborough and Pewsey. Splitz provides a mix of one to one support and group work to build children's confidence and self-esteem.

SWIFT Medics

SWIFT Medics provides specialised medical care at the roadside and in people's homes to people who are critically ill or injured. The grant will go towards blue light driver training and specialised medical equipment for a new emergency responder.

Education and Young People

Marlborough Brandt Group

To enable six students studying for the international baccalaureate from St John's School in Marlborough to travel on a study visit to The Gambia with a teacher and an education worker from MBG, to enhance their learning about development in an African community.

The new All-Weather Pitch at St John's School

Having completed the new school building without the help of any national government funding, and moved in late 2009, the school is now working hard to raise the money needed to complete the external sports facilities at the new school. The All-Weather Pitch will not only benefit the students, but will also be available for evening, weekend and school holiday use by the wider local community.

Savernake Forest Scout Group

Savernake Forest Scout Group requires new lightweight tents so that the 60 young members of the scout troop can go on camping adventures and develop key life skills through adventurous physical activity.

The Merchant's House Education Programme

The programme gives the children a real insight into what life was like in the 17th century for the middle class as well as servants. A grant would be used to make some 17th century children's outfits that the school children could try them on to experience how different the clothes were to the modern day clothes.

Savernake ExplorerScout Unit

To explore the seven local White Horses in a two day hike. The unit needs camping equipment and a trailer to do this without having to hire. This will enable them to explore other parts of Wiltshire and beyond.

Voting for the nine finalists in our Community Giveaway has now opened. You can only vote once in each category – so use your vote wisely! For more details about the applicants and their projects, go to

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Boateng calls for Africa’s potential to be recognised for future development goals

 Lord BoatengLord BoatengLord Boateng has told an audience in Marlborough that Africa’s future needs a ‘Strategy for Success’ to build on recent progress.  Giving the thirtieth annual Marlborough Brandt lecture, the former labour cabinet minister and former High Commissioner to South Africa, referred back to Willy Brandt’s report North-South: a Programme for Survival.

It was Brandt’s 1980 report on the needs for innovative development policies which prompted the formation of the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG).  Lord Boateng  gave his lecture the title: Africa – from Poverty to Prosperity – beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

Over 350 people came to the College’s memorial Hall on Thursday (May 3) to hear Lord Boateng.  Among them were students from Swaziland on an exchange at the College, members of Bristol’s Gambian community and students from the College and from St John’s  - some of whom are preparing to go on MBG’s summer visit to Gunjur in the Gambia which has a long-standing link with Marlborough.

Lord Boateng was introduced to the audience by Lord Joffe who in 1963 was part of Nelson Mandela’s defence team at the Rivonia trial.  Mandela and ten other opponents of the Apartheid regime were tried on sabotage and conspiracy charges and received life sentences.

Lord Boeteng with Lord JoffeLord Boeteng with Lord JoffePaul Boateng was looking beyond 2015 when the current Millennium Development Goals run out of time and to the coming negotiations on how the next set of goals for Africa’s development should be decided and what they ought to include: “The last set of Millennium Development Goals emerged from an opaque top-down process generated out of the UN Secretary General’s office – through the UN machinery.”

This time, he declared, it must be a bottom up process. The action the new goals will demand “needs to be rooted in the experience of those whose lives are still circumscribed by poverty and/or environmental depredation that continue to haunt our world.”

As an example of what should not happen, he cited the case of the recent appointment of a new head of the World Bank.  He had been Addis Ababa at a meeting of African finance ministers when the Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announced her candidacy – and it was well received there.

But in what Lord Boateng called the “carve up” that followed, she was ignored by the dominant western nations and yet another American was installed at the World Bank. “Made in Washington, London or Paris simply isn’t good enough anymore…the balance of power is shifting – unreversably and rightly so.”

Anna Quarendon, Chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group, proposing a vote of thanks to Lord BoatengAnna Quarendon, Chair of the Marlborough Brandt Group, proposing a vote of thanks to Lord BoatengPaul Boateng illustrated his analysis of Africa’s future needs with evidence provided by his grandfather, a cocoa farmer in Ghana.  He had benefitted from a rail line to the port and, right on his doorstep, from the West African Cocoa Research Institute.  Now the railway had gone and the Institute had become a Ghanaian rather than a West African concern.

Africa he said needed investment in infrastructure and, through stronger tertiary education,  in research and development.  It also needed co-operation between its states.

Lord Boateng based his optimistic forecast for Africa’s future on the strides it has been making: Africa’s GDP is growing by about six per cent a year and over the past decade six of the world’s fastest growing economies have been in Africa.

Africa has a huge workforce available and a huge area of land ripe for arable use – it should, said Lord Boateng, shrug off the ‘basket case’ label, and become the world’s bread basket.

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Mermaid's tail wows audience

Triton, Ariel and MermaidsTriton, Ariel and MermaidsCreating the illusion of the seabed in the theatre is simple – hang some strands of shiny material from the top of your set, scatter seashell props around the stage, bathe the lot in blue and green light and bingo, Neptune's Kingdom.

Or, if you have the vision and ambition of Curious Company's director Louise Rennie, you start looking for a venue with thousands of gallons of water and a dry performance space, then add synchronised swimmers and persuade your leading man to take a tumble – fully clothed – into The Drink.

That's how children and adults alike were captivated when East Kennet-based Curious Company brought their own unique take of a classic fairytale to the pool at Marlborough Leisure Centre.Ariel and the PrinceAriel and the Prince

Inspired by the ethos of the Cultural Olympiad – a place where the arts and sport mix to celebrate each other – and recalling the Busby Berkeley aqua shows of the early 20th century, actors and synchronised swimmers from the Calne Four Aqua Swim Team brought an aquarian fairytale to life over three sell-out performances in The Little Mermaid Aqua Show.

Based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale  of a young mermaid who gives up her life under the sea to gain a human soul and win the love of a handsome prince, The Little Mermaid Aqua Show featured  a talented cast including Paul Bradley as Triton, the owner of a booming opera voice and a revolving throne that would turn the judges of The Voice sea-green with envy; Russel Boodie as the Prince, who delivered a physical performance that was at times acrobatic and at times slapstick, while still managing to maintain the dignity of a romantic lead; and Jazz Mutch as Ariel, whose mesmerising presence in the pool was matched by her acting ability on dry land.

In a brave move, company director Louise Rennie chose to follow the Dane's original dark plot, rather than the saccharine version offered by Disney in 1989, and more familiar to the majority of the younger members of the audience, many of whom had come dressed as Disney princesses.

Synchronised mermaids Synchronised mermaids It was a gamble that paid off though – testament to which was the number of Disney princesses queuing after the show to have their photographs taken with Ariel, Triton, the Prince and even the evil Sea Witch Ursula (Emily Campbell).

The Little Mermaid Aqua Show, which also played to capacity audiences in Devizes, may well be going on the road again soon, if further funding can be secured. Flippers crossed, eh?

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Lord Boateng’s lecture on Africa’s future is based on his own experiences

Lord BoatengLord BoatengLord Boateng’s title for the thirtieth annual Marlborough Brandt Lecture (in the College’s Memorial Hall on Thursday, May 3) tells us a great deal about his connections with Africa,  both past and present: Africa – from Poverty to Prosperity – beyond the Millennium Development Goals.

Paul Boateng spent his early years in Ghana.  When his father was caught up in a coup against President Nkrumah and jailed, the family fled to London. He became a lawyer and was elected as the Labour MP for Brent South in 1987.  In 2002 he became Britain’s first black cabinet minister.

In 2005 he left government to be High Commissioner to South Africa.  Now he’s an active member of the House of Lords and works as a lawyer in emerging markets – such as Africa.  He was also the Prime Minister’s special representative for the Africa Commission.

LLord Boateng with Dr Nick Maurice discussing plans for the lectureLLord Boateng with Dr Nick Maurice discussing plans for the lectureBut his present links with Africa go much further.  When Marlborough News Online met Lord Boateng in London he was leaving the next day for Somalia.

There he has a “serious engagement” in helping the formerly British part of the country establish its legislature – part of an EU funded programme.  He is advising them how they might form their upper chamber – how their clan chiefs can be involved.  As an active member of the British upper chamber, he knows about the role ‘clan chiefs’ can find for themselves.

Advice is one thing, but he is convinced that when it comes to the debate about further development goals, the South must be allowed to lead. “The old notion was that we or the international banks could deliver.”

At a recent meeting of African Finance Ministers, Lord Boateng was told very clearly all that had changed and now Africa and the other nations of the poorer South must call the tune.  Anyway, as he says, “Africa increasingly looks to the east – and we in the west have to establish our own relevance – we now have to write our own relationship with the South.”

Lord Boateng works for several different companies involved in development in Africa.  Foremost is Aegis the private security and risk management company. He’s a non-executive director and advisor.

He sees this company as a major aid to investment in “difficult markets”, with boots on the ground to “Advise on how not to fall foul of local anti-bribery legislation, on personal and plant protection and how to relate to the local community and make friends of the local community.”

He is also an advisor to Gilead Sciences a huge United States based drug company which was foremost in providing low cost generic drugs for HIV-Aids.  He also works with the Swiss company 4G Africa which is providing broadband wireless and mobile networks in sub-Saharan Africa.

Oh, and he’s just become a Governor of the London School of Economics.

However strongly Lord Boateng feels that the nations of the South should design the next phase of development goals, he does, unsurprisingly, have ideas of his own.

He believes that sound agriculture and strong science and technology are essential to economic growth.  And he is critical of the obsession in some development policies with primary education: “No economy can flourish on primary education alone.”

And he warns South Africa that they cannot go on with policies that have led to there being less land under cultivation than in the Apartheid years and fewer people in education, especially learning maths, than under Apartheid.

And then we got round to the Jubilee and the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth.  Lord Boateng is a “great believer” in the Commonwealth as a forum for business development.  And he lauds the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as being very influential in improving the standards of governance.

He’s a realist who remains an optimist – and the next round of development goals can be decisive in spreading that optimism far and wide across the South and be another programme for survival”, just like Willy Brandt’s 1980 report North-South: a Programme for Survival.
Lord Boateng’s lecture will start at 8.00 pm in Marlborough College’s Memorial Hall.  He is being introduced by Lord Joffe, onetime human rights lawyer and a member of Nelson Mandela’s defence team at the 1953 Rivonia trial.  Joel Joffe will be signing copies of his book about the trial The State vs Nelson Mandela – the trial that changed South Africa immediately after the lecture.
Admission is free. There will be a gift aided retirement collection for the Marlborough Brandt Group.


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