FRIENDS OF THAXTED CHURCH - 2017-2018

2017 has been the first year of the newly-formed Friends of Thaxted Church. Our aim is two-fold:

  • *  To preserve and restore the fabric, furnishing and facilities of the church

  • *  To support and promote the use of the church by the wider community.

As a Charitable Trust, we must have serious charitable objectives, but that doesn’t mean that raising money to preserve this beautiful building and encourage its use as the centre of community activity in Thaxted can’t be fun. The Clergy and congregation support the Friends’ initiatives wholeheartedly. Thaxted Church is a place of worship and has been a symbol of the Christian faith for 600 years - it is also a welcoming venue for all who want to visit whether they be tourists, architectural enthusiasts, children doing a school project or people who simply want a few moments of peaceful reflection.

Our aim, in time, is that the majority of people in Thaxted will become Friends - it is their church whether they are Baptist, United Reform or Roman Catholic - or of another faith or of no faith. But we also want to involve a wider group of people who love this church or medieval architecture or are conservationists - or anyone who wants to join in; they could be anywhere in the world, and we aim to reach them too.

 

So, this is what we did in our first year:

JANUARY, 2017 - we had a BeeGees concert in the church. It was a tribute band as Barry Gibbs was busy, but they were terrific. And the concert was a sell-out with people dancing in the aisles - literally! There are two particularly talented dancers who come to all the Thaxted gigs. We won’t embarrass them by naming them but they are well worth watching out for if you want to see some real Travolta moves. Almost everyone had a dance or a sway, whatever their age or station in life, and it was a hugely enjoyable evening. 

FEBRUARY, 2017 - we started work on some Friends’ brochures to try and co-ordinate and up- date the confusing array of pamphlets and flyers that had grown up in the Church over the years. We are fortunate to have some outstanding photographers in the group and someone who can edit pictures and meld them with text so that the design work is all done when we go to the printers. This saves us money while giving visitors information in an attractive and engaging way. So far, we have produced a Friend’s brochure, a walk-round guide, which will soon be joined by a children’s walk-round guide. These are free to the public. 

MARCH, 2017 - the Friends hosted the Saffron Walden Music School Spring concert. It was good to see (and hear) so many talented local youngsters playing in the Church. This is Jason Meyrick’s group and we hope he continues to use the Church for student performances - the acoustics are rather good. 

MAY, 2017 - we had a busy time preparing for the Jupiter Project. This was a Friend’s idea to celebrate the centenary of Holst’s completion of the ‘Planets’ in Thaxted. It grew from an amateur video of the singing of ‘I vow to thee my country’ (the hymn called ‘Thaxted’ which echoes the theme of ‘Jupiter’ from the Planet suite) to a full-blown professional production, thanks to local BBC outside broadcast producer, Stuart Macdonald. His enthusiasm for the project and his contacts in the business led to a new setting of Holst’s music by the composer Paul Hart, the hiring of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra to perform it and professional cameras filming in and around Thaxted. It now encompasses a good deal more now than just the singing of the hymn! 

JUNE, 2017 - this was our busiest month. On Morris week-end, which always draws big crowds to Thaxted, we organised the Big Sing of ‘I vow the thee my country’, under Stuart’s guidance. The traffic had been stopped for the dancing so we used the opportunity to film the crowd singing the hymn in Town Street - there were just two ‘takes’. The Morris dancing was also filmed, as was a group of dogs (with proud owners) ) running round the windmill; it will be fascinating to see how all this is blended together in the film, which will soon be available.

The Friends also served cream teas in the Church during Morris week-end. These were very well- received, and we must pay tribute to all those who baked delicious scones and cakes for the occasion and helped with the serving and washing-up. Thaxted people are very generous in giving their time and energy to all our events. We couldn’t manage without them. 

JUNE - JULY, 2017 - we ran a Friends’ Bar for concert-goers during the four week-ends of the Thaxted Festival. The bar is outside the Church, and when the weather is sunny, it is idyllic. The audience, in their bright summer clothes, make a very English scene chatting on the grass in the interval, wine glasses in hand - our very own Glyndbourne! It isn’t so much fun when it rains or when it’s windy so we can’t put up the gazebo for fear of it being torn from its moorings, but people are so pleased to see us that the pain is soon wiped out. And, again, we have a wonderful team to help us.

This was also the time of our Open Gardens event. Every year, some brave folk in Thaxted open their beautifully tended gardens to the public, who, for a small fee can wander round at will and, inevitably, be plied with tea and cake. They can also pick up a few gardening tips or a bit of Thaxted’s history from their hosts. It really is the most rewarding way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 

AUGUST, 2017 - saw a summer lunch party at Sharpe’s Farm on what must have been one of the best days of the summer. We ate home-cooked food - we do have some amazing cooks among our number - in the beautiful garden to the strains of tunes from the 40s and 50s. This evoked fond memories in some, and some bemusement from our student waitresses, who thought it was “a bit Agatha Christie” - but without the murder! 

SEPTEMBER, 2017 - the local art group organised the ‘Great Thaxted Paint-off’, which enabled would-be artists to spend the day painting in and around Thaxted Church under the guidance of local artist, Helen Wiseman. Many thanks to Dr Michael Taylor and Helen for donating the proceeds of this event to the Friends of Thaxted Church.

DECEMBER, 2017 - it is part of the Thaxted tradition that, in early December, a huge Christmas pudding mix is prepared by the Friends, and people come with their basins to fill them and boil the puddings at home. It is very popular, as you can imagine, and many a Thaxted host can say in all honesty on Christmas Day that the pudding is home made. 

We finished the year with what we hope will become another Thaxted tradition - the first Friends’ Carol Service for the town to take place in the Church before Christmas. In the past, the importance of Advent, as the period leading up to the birth of Christ, has been marked by a beautifully sung Advent service, followed by a celebration with carols after Christmas. We thought that there was also a place for a Service where all would be welcome to come and sing traditional carols before Christmas, and hoped that the people of Thaxted would agree. They did! About 200 people attended the Carol Service in the Church, which looked stunning with the magnificent stellar lit to cast a glow over all the decorated trees from the Christmas tree festival. We had a ‘Pop-up Choir’ who came together just for that one occasion under the leadership of Felicity Hamilton, with organ accompaniment from Christopher Bayston and readings from members of all the Thaxted churches and other members of the community. Afterwards there was mulled wine (our own secret recipe) and mince pies. The collection went to Crisis at Christmas. The spirit of Christmas was palpable. 

All our efforts raised £4989 towards the projects of the Friends of Thaxted Church. At the moment, we are supporting an exciting new lighting scheme for the Church. You will hear more of this. We are planning more events for 2018 - do join us!