Getting involved in anniversary celebrations in Buckinghamshire

Milton Keynes celebrated its 50th birthday on 23 January and there was quite a lot of national coverage.  The Friends of St Lawrence in Broughton, a small village adjacent to the old village of Milton Keynes, from which the city takes its name, decided to put on an event to link with the year-long ‘MK50’ celebrations.  As they already had three summer events lined up, they decided to take the plunge and put on an open church event on Sunday 22 January, as part of a four-day birthday event across the city.

Keeping it short and sweet seemed sensible, given the time of year, so they called it a 'Winter Warmer' and planned to be open from 11am to 1pm, with hot chocolate or mulled punch, bakes and hot chestnuts to tempt people out into the cold.  They created an appealing image (using a Friend's daughter as model!) and set to work to publicise the event as widely as possible, using press releases to local publications, social media, flyers, posters and events listings and tapping in to the wider MK50 publicity. 

With the temperatures only just above freezing, it was fortunate that it was bright and sunny that weekend as it made the cold bearable.  Julia Campion, Co-ordinator for the Friends of St Lawrence, says "We encouraged people to wrap up warm and come and visit and, in the end, we had nearly 250 visitors in the two-hour period.  Our informal Friends group did what it always does: everyone pitched in to do a different job - tours of the medieval wall paintings, meeting and greeting, dishing out hot chestnuts, making hot chocolate and serving mulled punch, taking photographs of the event and generally running around keeping the catering flowing!".

The church looked lovely after the cleaning session the day before and was decorated with a red theme, although avoiding anything too Christmassy.

"The day dawned frosty but bright and, with no idea how many visitors would come, we optimistically started warming drinks and roasting chestnuts.  Our first visitors arrived just before the church bells chimed 11am and then a group of nearly twenty walkers filed in - after that, it didn't stop until after 1pm!  We were absolutely flat out, but there was such a buzz and it was so good to see such a full church.  We had feedback forms for visitors to sign and comment and they were all so enthusiastic - everyone loved the church and the warm welcome."  Some visitors were interested in a particular subject, such as the tools depicted in one of the wall paintings; some used to live in Broughton many years ago; walking groups and cycling clubs planned the event into their morning route; families with all age groups and even some people from the area who admitted they hadn't known there was a church in Broughton!  Donations were invited and were significant, with half going to the CCT general fund and half specifically to St Lawrence.

The Friends of St Lawrence are always very happy to share ideas with other volunteers and friends groups so, if anyone would like to know more about the planning, promotion and running of this event, please contact southeast@thecct.org.uk and we’ll put you in touch with Friends’ Co-ordinator Julia Campion.

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