Brentford Festival Organiser Looks Back on a Tumultuous Year

Linda Massey stresses the importance of valuing volunteers

Linda Massey

January 5, 2023

2022 has been quite a year; I became a widow and an orphan in the space of the first four weeks of the year. Anyone that knows me knows that I rise to a challenge which this year was to keep going and to remain on top of everything that matters in my life. I was grateful for the many kind words that people shared with me – didn’t know that I knew so many people – or rather they knew me – I am never very good with names but good to know you whoever you are and thanks again.

I consider the Blondin Park Community Pavilion my baby, from concept to managing and delivering the project and now ensuring that it works. It is not just about a café or a room to hire but about allowing the community to know that they have a place to come and to socialise without it costing a fortune.

Reminded recently by a visitor that they used to come to Boston Manor Park and buy my home-made soup I officially confirm that HOT SOUP WENDESDAY will start on 11 January 2023 between 12 and 2pm (Bowl of homemade soup with a roll - £3). The Blondin café will be open from 9.a.m until 4 anyway and I encourage anyone wishing to keep warm to come and use our heat in the Pavilion. Hot drinks start at £1 and we don’t mind if you stay all day. I really want to encourage people to socialise.

It was great to at last be able to deliver the Brentford Festival after a few years on hold because of the pandemic. We changed the layout, partly because of the passing of Virginia Fassnidge our stalls coordinator: we didn’t want people to be telling us where they are usually positioned. Early panic was getting messages from the fairground people that they were not going to get anyone visiting them because of their new position. The team checked on them regularly throughout the day and I was relieved when we received thanks at the end that they had a great day. Looking back at photographs it looks like the CAMRA bar had their best day yet. I keep on seeing references to the Brentford Festival on social media and asking why it moved from Boston Manor Park to Blondin Park. I am sure that this is well documented everywhere so will not bring this up now (I am possibly the horse’s mouth mentioned in Cllr Lambert’s recent blog) but I have to agree with many comments seen that “volunteers should not be undervalued”. A former Brentford Councillor Matt Harmer once said at a council meeting, “We (councillors and officers) come and go but the Friends remain”. How right he was – everyone wants a piece of the success that has been created by volunteers, boxes are ticked but very little support given.

The 2022 Brentford Festival

Focus seems to be on the Friends of Boston Manor at the moment and the decision not to run the café. I would like to remind everyone that in my 19 years working in BMP, the café was a small cog in the wheel. We ran gardening and maintenance projects twice a week, the café weekends and school holidays and the tennis on a daily basis. We mentored 15 and 16 year olds including through the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and absolutely nobody got paid or had a hidden agenda. Nobody mentions that. We wish anyone who has the time or inclination to take the café on well; we really couldn’t do the 7 days a week being requested by the council, and if the work had taken the year originally anticipated then maybe we would not have lost a handful of volunteers.

I had said at the beginning of the refurbishment project that we (volunteers) are getting old but wonder now if I should be worried. Three times in December I was asked when I was going to retire. I just say that my mother survived to the age 97 so I have still a long way to go yet even if I am a pensioner!

Thank you for reading.

Linda Massey
Event Manager

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