Meet the high flyers in Cheadle, Bramhall and Handforth


From cheerleaders to composers, community champions to civic societies, they are a busy bunch in Cheadle, Bramhall and Handforth. WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

They are accustomed to hitting the heights in Cheadle, Bramhall and Handforth. These suburban areas are filled with people who have created the thriving, bustling and popular communities that exist today.

But there is one talented group who are flying higher than many - literally. The Rising Stars cheerleading troupe was first founded in 1996 by Pat Hawkins, who went on to become President of the UK Cheerleading Association. It is now led by Audrey and David Taylor, whose daughter Alexandra was once a member but is now one of the coaches.

If you thought all they do all day is shake pom-poms, you would be wrong. The men, women and children involved are talented acrobats who dedicate a lot of their time to perfecting their skills. Visit a practice session in Cheadle or Bramhall and you’ll see some of the 11 teams flying elegantly through the air performing jaw-dropping stunts and tricks.

Between them the various troupes, who have an age range of four to 60 plus, have won hundreds of trophies and awards including four Grand Championship trophies. They won 38 accolades last year alone. In 2013 some of the cheerleaders will be competing for a bid for the World Cheerleading Championships being held in Florida in April.

Audrey, 68, said: ‘The Rising Stars has just grown and grown, we have around 130 people in the teams and we get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Everyone puts in a lot of hard work but it pays off. It’s become a much more popular sport in England.

‘There will be a lot of competition for the championships. America always put on a very strong show and there are other countries that are also very good. But we will do our best and also have a very good time.’

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Back down at ground level there is a dedicated 750-strong group of people who are working to make Cheadle a better community. Cheadle Civic Society has been involved in many local projects designed to preserve and promote the village.

It was first set up in 1964 by Harry Dyckholl and Michael Rains to protect Cheadle from the effects of a building boom in the 60s. Today, its members still work to preserve their home village’s heritage liaising with the local council on planning issues and ensuring high standards of architecture.

Some of the projects they have been involved in have included improving the look of the pavements on the main shopping streets with new street furniture and helping to organise community events including last year’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations that attracted over 10,000 people. They have organised archaeological digs on Cheadle Green and worked alongside the local community to transform former wasteland behind St Mary’s Church, known as Hall Street Green, into a community park. One member Philip Gould-Bourn, who is also treasurer, archives photographs that are either donated to the society or he finds himself.

Andrew Taylor, chairman of the society who has been a member since 1978, said: ‘We are very lucky to have people who take an interest in their community and want to help. We have a lot of members and we all want to protect Cheadle’s future.

‘We support and organise different events and causes because we think it is important.’

A group in Bramhall is also making a contribution to the local community. Members of North East Cheshire Decorative and Fine Arts Society, who hold monthly lectures at the Brookdale Centre in Bramhall, work on several projects including the Heritage Volunteers group. They have cleaned and polished books at Chetham’s Library for several decades as well as conserving items in the collections of historic properties including Tabley House, near Knutsford.

The Church Recorders visit different churches recording their contents and important artefacts including at Prestbury Parish Church, Siddington Church and at St James the Great in Gawsworth. The group, founded in 1973 with a 300-strong membership, also sponsors school projects through their Young Arts programme and will celebrate its 40th anniversary with an event at Capesthorne Hall in April.

Trixie Wardle, chairman, said: ‘We have a lot of members from the immediate area but also from around the county. It is something we all get a lot of pleasure out of.’

Just down the road, musician David Ellis is also flying the flag for the arts. The retired composer’s work has been performed all over the world. The 79-year-old, originally from Liverpool but now living in Bramhall, worked for the BBC as a music producer and was responsible for programme planning for the BBC Philharmonic. He served as head of music for BBC North as well as artistic director and composer-in-residence to the Northern Chamber Orchestra. He was also asked to help establish the Orquestra Sinfonica Portugesa in Lisbon, Portugal, has won several awards for his compositions and has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including renowned conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.

He said: ‘I remember meeting Simon as a young boy. He was mesmerised at a concert and has since said it was that occasion that made him want to be a conductor.

‘I have been very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time when opportunities have come along. I had an enormously enjoyable time during my career.’

But David is not the only star in the area. Bramall Hall, an historic black and white-timbered property owned by Stockport Council, has featured in several television shows. Two production crews descended upon the Tudor manor house last year to film scenes for the BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax drama, starring Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid. Their characters were trapped in the building overnight. It also served as a backdrop in The Making of a Lady, starring Joanna Lumley.

Caroline Egan, house manager, said: ‘Filming at the hall takes a lot of hard work and organisation but it was certainly worth it.

‘We were delighted that two big programmes like this chose us as a location and we would love to have more film crews use us for filming opportunities.’

A short drive away, The Friends of Handforth Station group took responsibility for the upkeep of the station in 1996 when its future looked bleak. Since then, they have transformed the former eyesore and it has since been awarded Cheshire’s Best Kept Station several times. Pretty garden areas have been created – the 1st Dean Row Guides are creating another this year – and sculptures from local artist Paul Noon are dotted around.

Mike Bishop, chairman, said: ‘The station was dilapidated and it really did not look good. We wanted to be able to do something about it. Now we feel it is a fantastic place that many people have put a lot of time and effort into.

‘We also work with local schools to encourage rail travel. Some children have never been on a train and if we can introduce them to it, it will hopefully sustain stations like this. Handforth Station is an integral part of the community and we want it to stay that way.’

The Friends of Meriton Road Park, based in Handforth, are also working hard at keeping this facility up and running. The park is owned by Cheshire East Council but these dedicated volunteers help develop recreational and education facilities at the site.

A community orchard was planted last year with the help of the Transition Wilmslow Group, an orienteering course has been set up and plans are also underway to create even more facilities, including better wheelchair access. The park is also home to a miniature railway, run by Handforth Model Engineering Society.

Sheila Rovira, chairman, said: ‘We want people to use the park so the more things we have here the better. The railway has attracted a lot of people, particularly in the summer. We also held a gala last September which was a huge success and we hope to do that again this year.

‘Handforth is very lucky to have a park like this and we want to make sure we help to keep it doing well. We also want to get lots of young people involved so they take on ownership of the park.’

Dan’s new adventure

Cheadle author Dan Whitehead has published a new book. Atlanta Meets the Cotton Slaves, has been 12 months in the writing. It tells the tale of a young time-traveller, Atlanta Tully, who journeys back to the 19th century where she encounters two runaway girls known to have served as child apprentices at Styal Mill, processing cotton during the industrial revolution.

Inspiration for Dan’s book came from avid Wilmslow reader, Ben Dempsey. It’s a first-time novel for the author but he is already an accomplished writer of comics and children’s annuals.

Atlanta Meets the Cotton Slaves, produced by Stockport’s Seven Arches Publishing, is available for £5.99 at local bookshops.