Queen honours Marlborough resident

Written by Sue Round on .

Chris Loveday with his MBE award letterChris Loveday with his MBE award letterChristopher Loveday has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours for services to children, to people with mental health issues and the community of Swindon.

Chris received the news on 21 November but had to keep it under wraps until the official announcement at the end of last week on 29 December.  He told marlborough.news:  “To be honest when I received the letter I thought it was a scam.”

However, those who know Chris will not be surprised and will know the honour is well deserved.  Chris has worked unstintingly to raise money, initially for the NSPCC, then for Mindfully Employed and finally for TWIGS (Therapeutic Work in Gardening in Swindon).

Through the organisation of many fund-raising events he has been responsible for raising several million pounds for these charities.  A keen runner, he has also personally raised over a million pounds through participating in various marathons including the London and New York Marathons.

Chris, who is a chartered surveyor and auctioneer by profession and also a qualified pyrotechnician said:  “I gain far more satisfaction out of raising money to help people recover than I do raising money for myself.  I have always felt we are on this planet not to take but to give and to help people less fortunate than ourselves.  People get so caught up in materialistic things and ignore what’s important.”

Chris has been involved in voluntary work all his life.  As a Queen’s Scout he was very involved with Second Marlborough Scouts, running the cubs on a Thursday evening.  His work for the NSPCC led to the creation, in 1992, of the Swindon Business Carers for Children which raised money for a child protection centre in Swindon which still exists today.

The recession in the late ‘80s hit Chris’s firm, Loveday and Loveday hard and by 1991 he became very ill, suffering a breakdown.  This stimulated his interest in mental health.  He changed direction completely, took up running again, lost weight and decided to put more energy into charity work.

“I wanted to do something for mental health.  Having been to hell and back, I wanted to put something back into the system.  Mental health charities are the poor relations in the charity list.  However, thanks to Prince William, Kate and Prince Harry, who have been raising the profile of mental health, this is beginning to change.”

In 1996 Chris was instrumental in setting up a Marlborough mental health charity - 'Mindfully Employed' - which offered craft workshops in Wagon Yard and therapeutic gardening on the allotments behind the old London Road Post Office.

“There is a huge gap in provision in the NHS to help people with mental health issues.  All GPs can do is give out pills, there is no back up whatsoever.  I know from my own experience that relying on anti-depressants is only part of recovery,” says Chris.

Mindfully Employed was taken over by the Richmond Fellowship and has since closed.  Since 2008 Chris has been involved with TWIGS and he has set up Friends of TWIGS as a fundraising arm of the charity.

Now in its twenty-first year, TWIGS is a community garden project and café in Cheney Manor, Swindon.  The project helps support people with mental health, drug and alcohol related problems.  It teaches sufferers confidence, self-esteem and new skills.  Set in a three and half acre site, there are nine different gardens, including a wildlife garden, a Japanese garden and a cottage garden.  Both the gardens and café are open to the general public.

“Swindon Borough Council are the main funders of TWIGS but since the cutbacks the £140,000 per year has been reduced to £60,000.  It is up to people like myself to attempt to make up the difference.  It’s very tough,” commented Chris.

Chris will be presented with his MBE at Buckingham Palace, within the next seven months.  “I really hope it will be Prince William or Prince Harry who presents it to me as I want to invite them down to TWIGS.  I will be involved in TWIGS for the rest of my days, I absolutely love it, “he said.

To find out more about TWIGS vist:  http://twigscommunitygardens.org.uk

To find out more about fundraising for TWIGS  visit:  https://www.friendsoftwigs.org.uk