Experiencing true community spirit


A multi-faith service with the Pope, an action-packed day in Hampshire, the first of the national DC conferences, a wedding reception, three renditions of Happy Birthday and far too much cake!

After four days in Guernsey finally catching up, the weekend got underway with coffee on Friday with Hamish, County Commissioner of Berkshire. This offered a chance to catch up with life at the sharp end and in particular issues with our IT and Membership system – something Hamish has a professional as well as practical interest in.

A quick lunch with Rob, Regional Commissioner for the East of England got me up to speed on what is happening in those Counties as well as discussing a few specific issues on the go.

Reflection and inspiration

A meeting with Alan, Chairman of the Board, in the afternoon (even the UKCC needs a review and chance to offload) then we join up with 18 fellow Scouts from across the UK to attend a multi-faith service with Pope Benedict and the Archbishop of Canterbury. One of those privileges that Scouting brings is to participate in such a moving and inspiring occasion.

A sprightly stroll to Waterloo station from the Abbey to catch a late train to Southampton where I met up with Julie for the rest of the weekend. I shared most of the journey with Sheridan, UK Adviser for Diversity, so we took the opportunity to discuss our work to ensure that Scouting is more inclusive and to share some new ideas.

Hampshire activity

Saturday saw an early start to an action-packed day with six visits across Hampshire and just a small taster of what was happening across the UK over the weekend I’m sure.

The day started with breakfast with the team organising Hampshire Scouts Emlyn Patrol camping competition. A crisp and bright morning in the New Forest made it an idyllic day for the event.

After chatting to the organisers it was time to visit each of the Patrols – I felt a little guilty as they were finishing their washing up, making gadgets and preparing for their first kit inspection. Eighteen Patrols were participating, all of whom had won their way through District eliminators and were eagerly looking forward to a day of activities, as well as being marked for their camping skills.

I spoke a few words at flag break (it was another journey down memory lane for me as I recalled my own participation in the competition as a Scout and the fact that we were the first Sea Scouts to win the much coveted challenge trophy).

Survival skills

Back into the car and a drive to Winchester where we joined over 100 Scouts from across the County who were participating in a 24-hour survival skills weekend. This gave them an opportunity to learn a wide variety of Scout crafts and survival techniques and to gain their Survival Skills badge.

We joined them just following their briefing and to help them (well at least I think that is what we were doing) as they were building their shelter for the night and preparing the area for their open fires. It was quickly apparent that the most popular activity of the day was going to be the preparation of the rabbit for cooking. I quickly exited in case I was again mistaken for Bear and expected to prepare the rabbit myself!

Many of Hampshire’s 99 members participating in the World Scout Jamboree had arranged to meet us at lunch time for a Swedish lunch and opportunity to learn of their experiences, preparations for the Jamboree and hopes and expectations for taking part in such a fantastic opportunity.

Next stop was Lyons Copse, a campsite shared by five Districts and a perfect location to hold a Scouting Skills training course where more than 70 leaders had come together for the weekend to learn a number of outdoor skills from Scoutcraft to pioneering and survival skills.

As always it was a pleasure to be able to chat to a wide variety of leaders, some of whom had joined just a couple of weeks earlier and others who were topping up their skills after a few years or just changing sections. The instructors also had their own stories to tell and it was clear that the strength of our Movement lies as much in the camaraderie and social interaction of these events as it does the learning of new skills

Inter-net 2011 (www.inter-net.org.uk) is an exciting event being organised by a small team of volunteers aiming to provide over 1,000 members aged 17-25 with an exciting week of activities next July, including a 48-hour mystery tour for which participants will require a passport!

I was also interested to learn of some of the challenges organisers of large events have to overcome such as the fact that young adults in this age range prefer to book at the last minute – not easy when you have an infrastructure and activities to build and book etc.

Last stop of the day was to open a rebuilt headquarters for the 1st Clanfield, near Petersfield. The Group Scout Leader, Jane, had received a telephone call from the police early one morning 4½ years ago to ask if she was a key holder for the Scout Headquarters and if she could attend the building urgently. 

On doing so she realised that the key would not be necessary as the door and the rest of the building had burnt down. What followed was 4½ years of hard work and tremendous community spirit as the population of Clanfield rallied around and supported the group, especially Doris and Brian who set about project managing and raising over £400,000 to provide the Group and village with a fully sustainable modern community centre and Scout Headquarters.

The success was clear to all on Saturday when the community packed the building and their adjacent field to celebrate the re-opening. The tremendous efforts of Brian, Doris and Jane to name just three of a strong group executive and leadership team was best summed up by Doris who, when I was congratulating her on the success, said that the real joy would be 'on Monday evening when the first section meeting will be held back in the hall'. I'd be delighted to do something similar in your Region/County/Area - just suggest it to your Commissioner.

Cake, cake and more cake

No rest for the wicked (as I keep being told) and we dash up the A3 and around the M25 to get to Heathrow in time for a late evening flight to Edinburgh and the Scottish DCs Conference being held there.

We arrived at Tulliallan Police Centre at around 10.00pm to be met by my third rendition of Happy Birthday of the day and yet more cake. (Very many thanks to each of the other events who had similarly helped me celebrate my birthday and provided me some great birthday cakes).

Sunday saw the first of our national DC/GSL workshops in Vision Towards 2018 where we are sharing with key line managers the work to date on the vision and discussing how they can engage with all members of their District and Groups to bring the vision and supporting actions to life. 

More of this another day.  The DCs had been together since Saturday morning for a variety of discussions, workshops on key challenges and discussing a variety of actions that can be undertaken to better support section leaders – the focus of all of the work of those of us responsible for management within our Movement.

Back to Heathrow late afternoon and an opportunity to let our hair down for a few hours as we joined Gail, Director of Marketing and Communications to help celebrate her marriage to Bruce – clearly one benefit of having your party after the honeymoon is that you get to show off your great suntans and make every one else very envious. And then home to Guernsey on Monday morning for the start of another week.

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