Our very first unsung hero

Show notes (summary)

There are many unsung heroes in villages across the UK and for this episode we celebrate with one of them, Joan Maxfield, our very first Unsung Hero Award winner. We also hear from Daphne Gwilliam, who nominated Joan for her award, and Simon Bland who led the judging…

Transcript: Season 3 / Episode 4

Johnny Thomson 00:01
There are many unsung heroes in villages across the UK and today we’re celebrating with one of them. Hi everyone, I’m Johnny Thomson and welcome to The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK’s largest specialist provider of village hall insurance and the home of VillageGuard. Now, I’m always amazed by how many people across the country give up so much of themselves for their local villages. It’s something I’ve come across repeatedly through presenting this show and when we invited you all to nominate your unsung heroes for our Wonderful Villages Awards last year, it really came as no surprise that this was the category we received by far the most entries for. This, of course, made it very difficult to judge, but Simon Bland, Chairman of Rauceby Village Hall in Lincolnshire, who joins us today, did a sterling job and kindly helped us with that. Thank you very much Simon and welcome to the show.

Simon Bland 01:01
Thanks, I was utterly delighted to have this opportunity and really excited about today’s podcast.

Johnny Thomson 01:10
And Simon and I are delighted to be joined today by our fantastic winner John Maxfield and the wonderful Daphne Gwilliam, who nominated Joan on behalf of the committee at English Bicknor Village Hall. Hi Joan and Daphne, and welcome to you both.

Joan Maxfield 01:28
Hi Johnny.

Daphne Gwilliam 01:29
Hi Johnny, Simon.

Simon Bland 01:30

Johnny Thomson 01:32
Now Joan, let’s get straight to it and let me ask you how it feels to be our unsung hero?

Joan Maxfield 01:40
Well, of course a total shock to be nominated, but yes very, very thrilled with the result and just not aware of that I was in for anything like this. I just get on with it and do my whatever I do to help. And don’t expect rewards, but it was very nice, yeah.

Johnny Thomson 02:11
And so Daphne, when you nominated Joan, did you kind of keep it a little bit of a secret at that stage?

Daphne Gwilliam 02:17
Oh, definitely. I didn’t tell anyone. Only my husband knew. I didn’t tell any of the committee because I never expected really to get anywhere, because I’m not really very good at writing stuff.

Johnny Thomson 02:33
Well, you did a very good job with your nomination, obviously.

Daphne Gwilliam 02:36
I just wrote the truth and left it at that.

Johnny Thomson 02:41
And before we talk a bit more about Joan and why you nominated her. Tell me a little bit, Daphne, about your village and the village hall there.

Daphne Gwilliam 02:51
Well, it’s obviously yes, a village hall. We’re fortunate, we’ve got a separate bar area. So we get, you know, a lot of functions. We also, we’ve got the committee and then we’ve got what we call our function,s offshoot functions committee, which you know, we do fundraising events.

Johnny Thomson 03:14
And I’m fascinated by the the name of the village, perhaps one of you can kind of clear that up. I’m guessing it arises from the geographical location having looked at the map.

Joan Maxfield 03:28
Well, yes because there’s also Welsh Bicknor isn’t there?

Johnny Thomson 03:33
Because it’s very close to the border, isn’t it with Wales?

Daphne Gwilliam 03:37
Yes, but then Welsh Bicknor is in Herefordshire, which is just over the road.

Johnny Thomson 03:44
Right. Now I’m even more confused. Yeah, so there’s a Welsh Bicknor as well, but that’s in England as well?

Daphne Gwilliam 03:59
No, well yes. Yes it is, in Herefordshire.

Johnny Thomson 04:02
Okay. Right. When I saw that it was English Bicknor, I thought maybe it was a kind of little bit of emphasis, you know that this is English not Welsh, because you’re so close to the border but…

Joan Maxfield 04:19
It’s probably because there’s two different ones.

Daphne Gwilliam 04:22
Yes, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that one. It used to be, years ago it was Bickenofery, so think the emphasis is on the Bicknor, rather than the English

Johnny Thomson 04:38
Got you. Fantastic. Well, that’s what you get for asking a question. I tried to clear that one open and as I said, I’m just more confused than I was before! Now Simon, as lead judge for our Unsung Hero Award, what stood out for you about Joan?

Simon Bland 04:59
Well, I think every panel Johnny will say they had the most difficult category, but I truly think the Unsung Hero was lifting the lid on some amazing people doing some amazing things. And we had a large number of entries we had people who’d undertaken major fundraising campaigns, who’d done some crazy sponsored stunts for their hall. There was a whole raft of headline grabbing activity that I’m pretty sure the podcast will revisit in the future. So why was Joan chosen as the winner? I think the judges were blown away by her four decades of behind the scenes work. I have to say having just retired after 18 years on my committee, I’m but a youngster to Joan’s length of service. And it was the nature of support that Joan provided, and I’m pretty sure Daphne only gave us a small glimpse of the work Joan’s done. And I remember distinctly that line of being the first to arrive in the kitchen and the last to leave, and it just spoke of such a quiet commitment and the fact that many activities Joan has initiated in the opening, reopening post COVID. I just know from my own experience, it’s those people who turn their hand to anything and everything who you can rely on to turn up. And do it in a way that inspires others. They’re, they’re the real foundations of our village halls and so we were delighted to have the chance to recognise Joan.

Johnny Thomson 06:52
Absolutely. And Daphne add to that by telling me a little bit, or telling us a little bit about the kind of activities that John gets involved in?

Daphne Gwilliam 07:01
Well she’s involved in, there’s a fortnightly Tuesday club, meal for the elderly. Obviously Joan’s in the kitchen. She was until COVID for about 30 years wasn’t it, run whist in the village hall, but sadly with COVID you know a lot of them were elderly and are no more or don’t want to come out anymore. Yes it’s just and if you want something done you know Joan’s always there turns up. Even weeding you know, we were getting up weeds in the village hall and didn’t expect Joan to turn up year before last, but oh yes she did.

Joan Maxfield 07:49
There’s always something to be done at a village hall.

Johnny Thomson 07:52
Yeah, I was going to say Joan, why do you you know like so many others that I mentioned at the beginning, give up so much of your time and energy for your local community?

Joan Maxfield 08:03
Well, I’m just able to give up my time at the moment, well over the years with family suppor they’ve never got in the way, you know they’ve always welcomed anything that I take on and there’s a good team around, I don’t do it on my own.

Johnny Thomson 08:22
I love the way you’re underplaying this already, because I’ve got a bit of time you know, you’ve done it for 40 years!

Joan Maxfield 08:36
Before that it was school activities, school Governor etc

Johnny Thomson 08:43
Is it kind of a sense of duty or is it?

Joan Maxfield 08:48
No, I don’t know just, I enjoy doing it obviously yes, I mean, I probably wouldn’t do it. Yes always a pleasure to do anything for for good organisation like we are here and a lovely the village.

Johnny Thomson 09:03
Give me a memory Joan, tell me something you know that you’ve helped out at that sticks in your mind?

Joan Maxfield 09:11
We always have a laugh with some things that happened, but I mean you know when you when you go to cook a meal there and then suddenly you find somethings the matter with the electric or in recent years we had a problem that the oven shelf collapsed with a weight of meat that I put in. But no, it’s it’s very good. And support from outside, which of course is what it’s all about isn’t it because if people work there and then nobody turns up then. Yeah, but we’ve got a good name and especially for food, When there’s any event and there’s food with it, English Bicknor is the place to go.

Johnny Thomson 10:00
And a little bird tells me that you had a significant landmark, but it fell during the time of COVID.

Joan Maxfield 10:07
Yes. And it fell just in total lockdown. But who arrived, members of the committee out on the main road singing Happy Birthday. What more could you want than that?

Johnny Thomson 10:24
Now do you mind if I tell the listeners how old that birthday was? It was you eightieth, I understand yes?

Joan Maxfield 10:35
In lockdown, yes.

Johnny Thomson 10:37
Yeah. So shame that you couldn’t celebrate, but I guess we’ve got something to celebrate now haven’t we?

Joan Maxfield 10:43
We have indeed yes. We had it on Saturday night.

Johnny Thomson 10:50
Tell me a bit more about that.

Joan Maxfield 10:53
Well, it was just a presentation evening where I received my lovely framed certificate. And also some flowers from the village hall, and members of village that well, I mean people from the village came in, and we again, we did our theme was food. And I think everybody enjoyed it. It was a very nice social evening and ended with a game of Skittles.

Johnny Thomson 11:23
Brilliant. Tremendous, fantastic. It’s a feature of village halls this isn’t it Simon, the kind of selfless volunteering that Joan embarks on?

Simon Bland 11:41
It really is fundamental to hosting community activity. And I don’t think it’s fully appreciated. We’re recording this on the day of the local elections and village halls across the country will be playing a part in a major element of our governance and the running of the country. And its volunteers who will have been up at six in the morning, opening their hall. And will be closing it down late tonight. So yeah, without Joan and the band of many merry people like her, we really would be missing such a fundamental part of our community life.

Johnny Thomson 12:34
Absolutely. And Daphne, Joan winning this award meant your hall received £1,000 from Allied Westminster of course.

Joan Maxfield 12:42
Yes, of course, it was excellent. Wonderful.

Daphne Gwilliam 12:46
Yes. Yes. Thank you very much. I’ve got to say we have stressed that it doesn’t go to pay electricity or whatever. It’s got to be there and then when Joan finds something we need in the kitchen, or wherever, it’s earmarked to be spent on something particular, something to remember.

Johnny Thomson 13:12
And that’s all we’re going to say for now yeah?

Daphne Gwilliam 13:16
Well, because we just, you know, it’s something will crop up. And we will say, oh, Joan will say, oh that would be, you know.

Joan Maxfield 13:26
We can have a specific thing we spend the money on.

Johnny Thomson 13:31
Yeah, no, that’s nice. Yeah, that’s lovely. And, you know, it’s always good to have that sense of backup isn’t it, these days in particular? You know, to know that you’ve got something sitting there because having been through what we all went through with COVID and so on, we know things are not always as we expect?

Daphne Gwilliam 13:53
No, this is why I think we sort of put a lot of effort, more effort probably into raising money to, you know, to keep it going.

Johnny Thomson 14:03
And Simon it’s great that people like Joan receive some recognition like this, isn’t it?

Simon Bland 14:09
It’s just such a small thing that I’m pleased Allied Westminster and The Village Hall Podcast could play a role in, because as I say, this is the underground movement that is keeping village life going. These are the people that make the real difference. And without them, a sort of portfolio of buildings worth many millions would just be idle and empty. And yet, they really are now coming back into their own and I think post COVID we’re beginning to see how important it is to have an opportunity, a reason, even just an excuse to get back together. And so the work that Daphne and Joan are doing is fantastic.

Johnny Thomson 15:05
And now what’s next Joan and Daphne? What activities are you getting involved in next? Tell me what’s coming up.

Joan Maxfield 15:13
The summer fayte?

Daphne Gwilliam 15:15
Yeah, yeah, it’s in June. Oh, we’ve got the spring lunch next Saturday. Which is is a three course buffet lunch.

Joan Maxfield 15:29
We do that in spring and autumn.

Johnny Thomson 15:32
And what’s on the menu Joan?

Joan Maxfield 15:33
Yeah, yes. Well, the spring one is is a cold buffet that we. We serve soup first. And then there’s a buffet with all your coronation chicken and dishes and ham and potatoes and all that, salads and, and then we’re always noted for our wonderful array of puddings.

Daphne Gwilliam 16:05
Homemade puddings.

Joan Maxfield 16:08
It’s all homemade. And then the summer fayte is held on the field and the premises of English Bicknor Village Hall.

Daphne Gwilliam 16:17
That’s the end of June.

Johnny Thomson 16:21
Okay let’s hope for some good weather.

Simon Bland 16:23
With that menu, I’m very tempted to fire up the old SatNav.

Joan Maxfield 16:33
We serve a three course lunch for our older people every other Tuesday that come. And like you say, I mean we were shut down for COVID and it’s took a little time to get them, you know, willing to come back and to mix again. But we’re now you know, running full steam ahead now, they all seem to be back and…

Johnny Thomson 16:56
Well a three course meal is a great way of doing that.

Joan Maxfield 17:01
Yeah, and the social side of it, as well as the food.

Johnny Thomson 17:04
Yeah, absolutely. Brilliant. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s just people bringing people together. And yeah, thanks Joan, for you know 40 years of service to your community is a fantastic achievement. And thanks again, Daphne as well for bringing Joan to our attention, you know, well done, well done both of you.

Daphne Gwilliam 17:30
We’re just so pleased, and thank you very much Simon for choosing Joan, is it was a real surprise and a lovely, lovely surprise.

Johnny Thomson 17:41
Unsung no more Joan.

Joan Maxfield 17:42
Well thank you very much all of you. And Daphne for thinking I was worthy of it.

Johnny Thomson 17:53
Absolute pleasure. And like I say, I know you’ve played a lot of this down, I know from Daphne just how much you’ve brought to the village and the community there. So, so brilliant. Well done. Excellent. And thanks Simon as well for coming on. It’s always great to hear from you.

Simon Bland 18:12
Fantastic and thanks Johnny for the opportunity. And thank you, Joan and Daphne again.

Daphne Gwilliam 18:18
Thank you.

Joan Maxfield 18:19
Thank you.

Johnny Thomson 18:20
And that’s pretty much all we have time for, for this episode. For our next one we’ll be talking about how we’re going to be organising this year’s Wonderful Villages Awards and we’ll be inviting more of last year’s winners onto the show, and other guests as the year progresses. Many thanks to our headline sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible, and whose services you can discover more about at villageguard.com, and to online booking system provider Hallmaster, who also sponsor our podcast, and can be found at hallmaster.co.uk. You’ve been listening to The Village Halls Podcast, a unique listening community for Britain’s village church and community halls and anyone interested in the vital community services they provide. We’ll be back again soon with another episode. For more information, please visit the villagehalls podcast.com where you’ll also find links to our social media pages. Thanks again for listening in. And until the next time, goodbye for now.