The Front Page
Sedgefield News - June Edition
Sedgefield Day 2016
Walter Howell is Sedgefield’s Citizen of the Year 2016
Walter Howell has never been one to sit back and wait for things to happen. As a
youngster in Fishburn he, and his friends, would spend their weekends cycling. Trips
to York and back on a Saturday, followed by The Lake District and back on a Sunday
were not unusual occurrences. Walter’s love of cycling led to him and his friends
undertaking a two week cycling tour of France, Belgium and Luxembourg – the boys
were fifteen years old! Looking back, Walter is still amazed at the memory of his
parents waving him off to Europe for two weeks with no means of contacting him
during that time. However, he also believes that being given that freedom to explore
both himself and the world was very valuable to him as a young man.
It should come as no shock then that one organisation that attracted Walter’s
admiration was The Boy Scout movement. Aged only eighteen, Walter founded a Boy
Scout Troop in Fishburn. For their first trip Walter, accompanied 24 boys in the back
of a furniture removal van to the Lake District! The founding of this troop had a
welcome knock on effect for Sedgefield as Geoff Hopper, one of the original scouts,
went on to set up Sedgefield Scouts. Currently, Walter retains an interest in scouting
in his position as Group Chairman of Sedgefield Scouts.
With such an interest in working with young people, it is not surprising that Walter
chose teaching as his profession. Walter began his working life as a Teacher of Art at
Wheatley Hill Boys’ School before moving to Wingate Secondary Modern and seeing
out his career at Wellfield Comprehensive School.
Walter’s art skills were to come in useful in one of his first community involvements
in Sedgefield. In the very early days of Sedgefield Community Association money was
a major issue. It was suggested that a fund raising jumble sale should be held in the
Parish Hall. Walter suggested that perhaps they could jazz it up, give it a theme or
something - just to make it a little more interesting. Walter used his Art skills to
create medieval banners and persuaded stallholders and helpers to attend in
medieval costume. It was so well received someone suggested that it should be held
outdoors the following year. And so, The Medieval Fayre was born.
Walter’s Art skills would often come in useful during his 45 years as Productions
Director with Sedgefield Players. The role was primarily a managerial one, overseeing
productions ranging from Drama to Pantomime and Comedy to Reviews. However,
Walter could often be seen making scenery, sleeves rolled and up to the elbows in
paint. Looking back, Walter recalls with particular fondness the outdoor
performances The Players staged in the grounds of Ceddesfeld Hall. These included
Camelot and The Tempest but Walter’s highlight was the Performance of ‘A
Midsummer Night’s Dream’ which was scheduled for September. As the date
approached doubts began to surface over the wisdom of choosing to perform outside
on a date so late in the summer. Fortunately, the weather gods were kind, providing
a lovely night from early evening right through to the midnight finish. “Magical,”
Walter was also the prime mover in the formation of the Junior Players section.
Needing some children for one of his first pantomime productions, Walter persuaded adult members to donate their children to this worthy cause. It occurred to him that a junior section would help to “grow our own talent”. At the moment the youth section is 60 strong and goes from strength to strength. Recently, they competed at Port Sunlight against a number of well established adult groups. Although they went with no thought of victory against such strong opponents one of the young players was nominated as best actress and the group was awarded the adjudicator’s prize for outstanding teamwork.
The common thread running through
Walter’s story is that he has been a truly
positive force in bringing people
together in common interests. He, and
his wife Mildred, continue to enjoy
meeting new people by opening their
garden for public viewing each year.
“It’s not really about the flowers,”
Walter told me,” it’s about meeting
kindred spirits and the community
involvement in a village I love.”
Sedgefield Village Games
In an increasingly inactive society, Sedgefield can be proud of the huge variety of
active pastimes available within the community. Sedgefield Village Games aims to
ensure that generation after generation is inspired to lead healthy lifestyles and
this month’s 2016 festival can play an important role in that. It should also be great
fun for children and parents alike, so please get involved!
For More Information Click Here