Local Life in Billingshurst

An honour for Billingshurst

A skate park and community shop are just two of the initiatives new to the Wealden village this year. Ongoing projects include a dedicated youth building and Youth Council. All this is thanks to the Billingshurst Community Partnership, who won a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year.

The completion of Billingshurst bypass in 1999 changed the character of the village forever. Once the site of a notorious bottleneck, Billingshurst now welcomed many new inhabitants and far less traffic. To meet the community’s changing needs the Parish Council collaborated with other local groups to form Billingshurst Community Partnership.  

The Partnership won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year and six of its members were invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. Founder Patrick Perks went with his wife June and four colleagues: Ken Johnson, Sandy and Tony Duck and Denise Campbell. Patrick believes that they are the first Community Partnership to win the award, which will be presented by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, at a special ceremony on 30 September.

The members of the Partnership learned that they had been recommended for the award last year, and were asked to submit details of their work. Before founder Patrick stepped down as Chairman, he was interviewed by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Brenda Large.

“We weren’t awarded in 2010 but we were shortlisted for 2011,” says Patrick. “In the autumn Brenda Large came again and we submitted details of projects that had started since we last spoke to her. It was quite a detailed process. Finally, we were told that we had been granted an award but were asked not to publicize it until it had gone into The London Gazette on 2 June.

“The invites came through and off we went to Buckingham Palace. We had a meeting with John Williams, the Lord-Lieutenant’s PA, who briefed us on what we needed to do on the day. He had told us not to go to the main entrance because the queue would be enormous. If you go round to the Marble Arch entrance – to the back door, as it were – there is a much shorter queue.”

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On the day, the formalities started at 3 o’clock when the Yeoman of the Guard held post. The gentleman ushers formed lines within the crowds and then the Queen and other Royals in the party came along and mixed with the guests. “There were two military bands playing,” says Patrick’s wife, June. “But the best part from our point of view was that we could see the Queen very easily when she came along to her special marquee.

We met some very interesting people and it was a very colourful day, not to be missed in one’s life. It was really quite an experience and something we won’t ever forget.”

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