With the blessing of the Parish Council, and spearheaded by a cheerful committee that recruited representation from just about every entity in the community (but especially thanks to the trustees of the village hall, the members of the Allendale Lions Club, and the support of the Fawside foundation), the big entry was put together, and the presentation to the regional judges was organised.
Now fifteen years hence, I’m just a bit confused as to whether the regional judges were presented with various facets of the community, on a kind of grand tour (for which Stephanie Atkinson provided a wonderful map), and then by virtue of that visit, when the village won its regional heat, whether that was the point when the national judges came to chat with all of the organisations, businesses, religious groups, and individual writers. It was one way or another, but the thing everyone remembers was that amazing day in the hall when so many groups could scarcely fit in, and everyone was eager to chat with the friendly judging panel.
As I recall, the judges were greeted by a lovely wheelbarrow full of flowers, a Fire-Fighting motorcycle, a brightly decorated automobile (thanks to one of the Youth Projects), and they entered the hall to the strains of the Northumbrian pipes, courtesy of Dorothy Lawrenson.
And then the chat, and we had to whirl the panel around so quickly, so that everyone could have a word. We managed to present every group, but the individual writers, who also contributed so much to their community, were only appreciated by their presence in the foyer. But sometimes good-natured presence is sufficient, and the judges were sent off in a timely manner. All done and dusted, and we could do no more.
The waiting was the hard part, but at some point in September, the word came through that Allendale had won the regional heats, and would the organisers and guests please attend the awards ceremony in London? But by the way, the message read, this information is embarged: do not breathe a word to anyone about this! So a train journey was scheduled, and a bunch of us travelled to London. I think it was John Dobson, Margaret Stonehouse, Carrie and Larry Winger, four of us.
Just before we went, BBC Look North sent a camera crew around to interview the organisers in the village hall. They asked Margaret Stonehouse to pretend, as I recall, that Allendale had actually won the national accolade: how would you feel, the presenter said. Of course, this all seemed highly suspicious, but nobody wanted to presume that these questions might mean what we suspected they meant.
In the event, however, a lovely awards luncheon spread was put on, with a guest speaker in the guise of a celebrity chef, and through the pre-lunch chatter the tinkling notes of the Northumbrian pipes (a duet of Dorothy and Lizzie Lawrenson) rippled around the room. It was all feeling incredibly auspicious.
When the time came for the final award, however, it was still an amazing surprise and we felt so shocked and incredibly honoured. Then it was time to celebrate, and one of the best moments of the week following the ceremony was the gathering of everyone in the square for the photo opportunity. Jonny Baynes formed the fifth member of the Lions Club contingent at the front of the photograph.
I’m so glad that Nigel Baynes stored this front page clipping in his unique archive, and it’s a real delight to present this entry, some fifteen years later, as part of this social history blog.