Monday, 26 June 2017

Wombles and a way back? Thringstone Miners Welfare - my Community Voice column

At my mother’s house, tucked away somewhere at the back of a drawer, there is an old black and white photograph of another age.

The picture, protected by a cheap plastic frame and decades of being shut away, shows no signs of fading. It’s an image which will stay with me forever.

Even in monochrome you can see the photograph is of a scorching summer day and there I am, just four or five years of age, stood proudly with cherubic cheeks glowing dressed as a Pearly King. Next to me stands a small girl just a year or two younger dressed as a gypsy, the 1970’s were undoubtedly far less culturally sensitive than they are now.

And alongside us? A giant Womble. Even after all of these years I can still vividly remember the day that I met Orinoco, I think, that slothful protagonist amongst the litter picking residents of Wimbledon Common.

Things didn’t get much more exciting for an infant schoolboy growing up in the East Midlands in those days; and to make things even better a week later the photograph appeared in The Coalville Times, I was famous too!

That photograph was taken when I won first prize in the fancy dress competition at Thringstone Miners Welfare Gala. In those days the annual Gala always, in my mind at least, held at the peak of a seemingly endless summer was a big deal.

Gala day would see a parade throughout the village; brass and marching bands, decorated floats and, of course, the ubiquitous Gala Queen and her princesses aboard a horse-drawn carriage (or much more likely a pony and trap).

The Gala itself would be held on the Homestead Road football pitch at the Miners Welfare. Teams of burly young men, most now pensioners, would display their machismo in the Tug of War whilst their wives and girlfriends would enjoy a Cinzano and Babycham in the sunshine as children enjoyed the stalls and sideshows.

We don’t have events like the Gala anymore, isn’t that a shame?

The Thringstone Miners Welfare Centre has for many years been a part of village life, I even had my ‘surprise’ 18th birthday party there, but like most of us over the years it started to deteriorate.

In 2011, in a partnership with Riverside Housing Association and the North West Leicestershire District Council, a brand new centre was opened to serve the village and its residents.

These days the centre is the home of a playgroup and mother and toddler group as well as being home of Thringstone Miners Welfare Football Club, historically a Leicestershire Senior League team that has had mixed fortunes on the pitch in recent years.

Earlier this year I was asked if I would like to help the centre out by becoming the Chairman of their Trustees. I jumped at the chance, this place was a part of my growing up, a hugely important part of our village.

A few years ago as a Councillor I asked for the Miners Welfare to become a polling station at election time, it was an ideal facility with disabled access and a private car park. I’m sure many of you reading this will have cast your vote there very recently. If you have you will know what a great community asset the centre is.

Over the coming years I would love to see the centre used far more by members of our community. There’s even plans to develop training facilities that will allow more young people to get involved in the sport and maybe help return the club to a higher level on the field.

Keep an eye out for developments and opportunities at Thringstone Miners Welfare, wouldn’t it be great to see it once more as the fulcrum of our community? I can’t promise any Wombles though. 

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