On 7th June, WRCC trustees, staff, volunteers and guests celebrated our 80th anniversary event in style at an early evening reception at Compton Verney. Guests enjoyed being transported to the event by Back & 4th’s comfortable community minibuses, before mingling over drinks and canapes in the stunning surroundings of the Adam Hall and Naples Gallery.
“A perfect way to showcase 80 years of supporting rural Warwickshire!” said Chris Cowcher, ACRE Community Manager.
It was a great opportunity to share memories with old friends and welcome new faces, with everyone present sharing a common interest -caring for our rural communities and keeping our villages alive.
And the past was very much present as we opened up our archives to share highlights of our history from the late 1930s to the present day.
Around the Adam Hall, images of tumbledown cottages contrasted with contemporary affordable housing developments. Rural crafts workers such as farriers and farmers featured alongside royalty including the Duke of Kent in 1938 and Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. Volunteers helping to run mobile cinemas in the war showed the same spirit as today’s volunteer drivers helping rural residents, young and old alike, to get out and about.
Warwickshire’s first adult education college, Westham House, set up post-war with the support of Sir Anthony Eden, also featured in our display. No wonder some people said, “We had no idea that WRCC did all this!”
In the adjoining Naples Gallery, there was a treasure trove of original documents from years gone by, as well as screens showing Our Farming Life with interviews and stories from a past way of life.
Guests were also the first to receive a copy of our new publication, “Change, challenge & continuity: highlights of WRCC’s 80 year history.”
During the short speeches, the Rev. Viv Baldwin, WRCC’s Chair, welcomed guests and encouraged them to join with WRCC in our continuing mission to help build resilient and thriving communities.
She also read a message of congratulations from Lord Gardiner, the Minister for Rural Affairs, who was unfortunately kept away by House of Lords business. Lord Gardiner concluded his message to our team by saying:
“You make such a difference on the ground for people living and working in rural Warwickshire, and I want to express my thanks for the work you do”.
Chief Executive, Kim Slater reflected on how different our world was in 1938: “1 in 5 villages didn’t have electricity and two thirds had a blacksmith. And 12 months later, we found ourselves setting up Pig Clubs and a Carrots and Onions Club to help feed Warwickshire in wartime!”
He thanked, in particular, the Leamington Spa Courier for their close partnership and support over many years and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for their archive expertise and support.
He then spoke about the ongoing challenges faced by those living and working in the country and giving examples of the mix of ingredients required for resilient communities – access to services, effective transport, affordable housing, community hubs, access to education, community cohesion, rural enterprise and community wellbeing. His concluding message was:
“We’ve had a fantastic evening and we’re delighted to celebrate our successes with our guests here tonight, not forgetting of course other supporters who were unable to attend this evening. We’re looking ahead to achieving even more for rural communities in the next 80 years! And we now need your help.
We want to speak to businesses, community groups and individuals who’d like to become active partners in two key areas:
● Running a pilot project in a local community to test our new rural resilience model
● Launching a new version of our “Best Kept Villages” competitions”
His comments were echoed by many other guests, who recognised WRCC’s achievement in surviving 80 years of change and challenge, and applauded the charity’s new call for action.
Interested individuals, businesses and community groups who would like to find out more can get in touch with Kim Slater on 01789 842182 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs by Cliff Armstrong