The sky is the limit

PUBLISHED: 10:32 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:30 20 February 2013

Ingatestone High Street

Ingatestone High Street

When Ingatestone's community hall needed refurbishment, residents were quick to act. Elaine Syvier explains why this committed group of folk are now jumping for joy

IF THE community hall is the heart of Ingatestone then its heartbeat is The Ingatestone and Fryerning Community Club.

This hub of activity is supported by a host of dedicated residents and the hall is home to an array of clubs and societies - from angling to line dancing and from bridge to ballroom. There are even adjacent grounds that include three tennis courts, one large, well-kept bowling green and a pavilion.

Lilian Hunter is chair of the Community Club as well as the Ingatestone Musical and Operetta Group. The musical group stages two main productions each year, one in April and one in October, and this month it will be performing The Music Man from Tuesday, October 21 to Saturday, October 25.

Lilian is passionate about bringing cultural life to the village and this passion is shared by a number of local residents who have gone to great lengths to improve the hall's condition over recent times and also ensure it will continue to be enjoyed for many years to come. All ages have got involved with extensive fundraising activities. Young Expressions (a youth theatre group) raised £3,000 to re-surface the stage. The popular club nurtures showbiz talent from the ages of eight to 14 and encourages young people to get involved with dramatics and music. It is run by a group of volunteers who employ a professional musical director, putting on a pantomime every year.

Other groups that use the hall have also pitched in to raise a further £9,000 with events including quiz nights, raffles and table-top sales. The proceeds went towards a new wall and stage curtains, replacing their shabby and faded predecessors to reinvigorate the performing area. Some locals are even prepared to go to extreme lengths for the cause. Four hardy souls took part in a sponsored skydive to raise funds for hall refurbishments. Liz Gibson tells us more.


Liz Gibson Skydiving fundraiser

How did you find the skydive?
I'd never done anything like it before, so of course I was nervous, but I was also really excited. It took 20 minutes for the plane to reach 12,000 feet, which is 2.5 miles high. Then the plane door opened and before I knew it we were doing a 360 degree spin in the air and freefalling above the clouds. We each jumped with an instructor and I felt very safe with mine. I had no fears about the parachute not opening - he'd done 70,000 jumps before so I knew I was in safe hands.

As we came through the clouds the parachute opened and my stomach lurched up into my mouth. Then it was quiet again without the wind rushing in my ears and I saw the beautiful countryside laid out beneath me. I was even allowed to take the controls and steer us. It was a truly amazing experience and something I'll never forget. We also raised £1,850 and it's very rewarding every time we see the new curtains at the community hall go up to know we were able to contribute.

Tell us more about the Ingatestone Musical and Operetta Group
Everyone in the group contributes in one way or another and as the cast covers a range of ages we've even been able to include some of the children from Young Expressions. The operetta society itself has a huge spread of people, from the age of 14 up to those in their eighties. Some of our members have been involved right from the start, 35 years ago.

We also have a very strong drama group that performs to an excellent standard.

What are your upcoming projects?
There's a real buzz at the moment as we're putting on Meredith Wilson's The Music Man this month, with a large cast of around 50. It's a wonderful story with some great music about a conman who finds love.

What do these performances bring to Ingatestone?
I think the shows add tremendously to village life and our audiences are always quite large. Everyone seems to really enjoy themselves and I think it's particularly important for our more elderly residents who aren't able to travel to London or further afield. It also gives us the opportunity to introduce live theatre to children - whether they just watch or want to join in. We always look to have a range of productions so there's something for everyone.

And what about the community club in general?
Having something like this on our doorstep is very valuable and really helps create a sense of community. There are simply more occasions for residents to meet and talk and it's great for people to be involved in raising money for a cause, then coming together to see what they have worked for being put to such good use.

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