Gareth Ennis talks war comics

Round & About

Activities & Events

“Quentin Tarantino of comicbooks” gives online interview for the Soldiers Of Oxford Museum

Garth Ennis, the writer behind The Boys and Preacher, is to give online interview and live audience Q&A for Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum. The interview will be streamed on Saturday 9th March from 7pm, followed by a live Q&A session where the audience will be invited to put forward their own questions. Watchable via the museum’s website, the event is the latest in a series of popular online events the museum has been running over the past three years.

The interview ties into one of the museum’s most recent exhibitions, Into Battle! The Art of British War Comics, which runs until the end of April 2024. The exhibition and this accompanying event are a collaboration with Oxford-based publisher Rebellion, best known for 2000AD and Judge Dredd, alongside their recent revival of several classic British war comics.

In the interview, Garth discusses how his childhood enthusiasm for comics led to a career writing for 2000 AD, Marvel and DC Comics.  He will also discuss the landscape of British War comics in the seventies and their decline in the eighties and describe how writers re-invigorate classic characters for contemporary audiences.

This event will offer a chance to hear from one of the leading comic book writers, whose literary achievements have recently been translated into successful television series.

The interview and Q&A will be free to view and participate in, with donations encouraged throughout the stream in support of the museum. Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust aims to preserve the county’s military heritage for future generations in its archives and museum, and a diverse range of stories through its exhibitions and events like these. Shortly after the live event ends, a recording will be made available to watch on-demand, from the same page, for those that wish to catch-up later.

You can watch the interview with Garth here.

The Soldiers of Oxfordshire (SOFO) Museum opened during the summer of 2014. A new take on the classic military museum, SOFO shares stories of heroism, combat and peace from across the globe and throughout time and explores how conflict has affected the county and its people, from soldiers serving on the front lines to ordinary people living on the Home Front.

As well as a range of ever-changing displays and events, the permanent exhibits explore topics that are surprising and moving in equal measure, such as raw accounts of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen from both camp survivors and Oxfordshire soldiers.

Battles of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry puts you on-board a Horsa Glider as it prepares to land in Normandy in the early hours of D-Day 1944, while Secret Agents, Secret Armies explores the world of spies and espionage through the lens of Ian Fleming and his creation, James Bond.

SOFO holds a collection of over 3,500 objects and 7,500 archive items from two county regiments, the Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars (QOOH) and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

Flipping fantastic Launchpad fundraiser

Karen Neville

Activities & Events

Broader smiles than ever on Broad Street at the annual Pancake Day race

Launchpad’s annual Pancake Race which saw 34 teams brave the weather and batter it out on Broad Street celebrating Shrove Tuesday has so far raised £8,500.

The team from RSM UK, dressed in their animal-themed costumes, lifted the coveted frying pan trophy – becoming the 27th champion team. The money raised by all the amazing teams will help fund Launchpad’s vital services across Reading supporting people who are homeless, or at risk of losing their home.

Teams of four representing businesses and other groups from across Reading flipped pancakes as they competed in knock-out stages and a fantastic final. All the races were compered by Tarek Ahmed, from B Radio, much to the delight of hundreds of cheering onlookers, including the Mayor of Reading, Tony Page who presented the prizes. 

Winners RSM UK received a Cocktail Masterclass at The Roseate, and runners up, Nexus Planning were given vouchers for Wine and nibbles for four at Veeno. Third-place team Air IT won Afternoon tea for four from Afternoon Tea Box (Crumbs Food Co).

The team from Take Note Choir were best fundraisers, raising over £865 and won bottomless brunch for two and afternoon tea for two at Revolucion de Cuba. Collard Environmental – who raced as characters from the Wizard of Oz – won best fancy dress and received a £50 voucher for Honest Burger. Field Seymour Parkes were highly commended for their fancy dress and won £40 of vouchers for Shed. Our team spirit award went to Phantom Brewery who won Cocktails for four at Novotel. Winners of the Great Pancake Flip off were The Oracle, winning four tickets to The Biscuit Factory after flipping a pancake 57 times in a minute!

The entire Launchpad team is incredibly grateful for the support from these amazing local businesses and community groups.

Kirsti Wilson, Head of Fundraising and Marketing, said: “It’s brilliant that our Pancake Race has been as wonderful as ever. Every year the race is full of amazing costumes and laughter – and this year was no exception, even with the unfortunate weather. Few will forget the ‘2024 Where’s Wally Wiggle?’!

“We’re also grateful to the hundreds of people who cheered on the runners and made donations at the event – AND to our amazing team of volunteers – the race just wouldn’t be the same without them. Our fun-filled event has a very serious purpose – to raise funds and awareness that we are here for anyone in Reading who has become homeless, or is at risk of losing their home, regardless of circumstances.”

For more information about Launchpad and to donate, visit: launchpadreading.org.uk

The Six Nations is the best!

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The annual rugby tournament is something to look forward to in this grim month

Shortest day of the year, done. Christmas, hecho. All that’s left is to traverse these next couple of drizzly months before we welcome Wimbledon, Glastonbury and ‘might be too hot’ season. For now, though, we need a vehicle to steer us towards those better days. How about the best sporting tournament on Earth? Oh, go on then. Six Nations time.

Nothing brought my family together quite like the Six Nations growing up. We’d all flood over to my grandparents early enough to be fully caught up with each other in time for the build up to start with John Inverdale or Gabby Logan. You can’t fault our dedication to the pre-match interviews.

As a family resonating from Scotland, we’d sit around the telly, fire crackling, daring to ponder whether today maybe, just maybe would be different. Might Scotland pull a performance out of the bag and pick up their seemingly biennial win? Oh, that renewed hope, always a killer. The game would very rarely be different, and Scotland would very rarely win. But that was never the point (thankfully, or we’d crumble); it was just a nice event to be a part of. So why is the Six Nations the best?

For starters, it’s a simple easy-to-follow format that works. Six teams. Five rounds. Every home nation plays each other, and you never really know who’s going to win any of the three games that take place each weekend. Jeopardy also plays a huge part. So few games equals very few (if any) dead rubbers.

It’s tribal, without being tribal. It always amazes me how these players knocking chunks out of each other manage to channel their aggression so skilfully, but the same goes for those watching on. You’d think you’d need segregation, but oh no. Tens of thousands of fans packed into some of the best sporting arenas in the world, all mixing. A healthy attitude, and an element of perspective seems to be a common supporter denominator. Well let’s hope we win but if we don’t then that’ll be a shame, but this is a fun way to spend a Saturday anyway.

It’s also a spectacle, and it’s dangerous. Thirty people doing things you wouldn’t dream of doing. The players on the pitch become fictional, putting their bodies on the line, running and catching under pressure which feels so far removed from anything we do day to day; unless you are reading this and are some form of medical professional.

The tournament that’s a little under a quarter of a century old in its current format has geography to thank for its success too. London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris and Rome. All varied and popular cities, close enough together that a large number of away supporters will make the trip, but just far enough away that you need to make a weekend of it and populate the local pubs for the weekend.

Rugby is still faced with huge challenges. It has to find a way to navigate its way through a sea of safety concerns that need to be taken seriously and fend off the red trousers and brogues stereotype; something Full Contact on Netflix has made a brilliant start in debugging (just watch Finn Russell and Ellis Genge in the first two episodes). Though through the evolving sporting landscape, emerging new tournaments, investors and formats, the Six Nations is something we’re very lucky to live with, and I really hope it never gets taken away from us.

Buy a butterfly to celebrate memories!

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BBOWT wildlife charity launches new commemorative display

To mark Valentine’s Day, a local wildlife charity has opened two new butterfly memory walls to celebrate special occasions, declare your love for nature – or your sweetheart!

The ‘Your Wild Memories’ displays have been installed by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) at two of its visitor centres. They feature specially-designed butterfly plaques which can be personalised with messages to remember precious moments, people or wild times.

The butterflies are made of brushed stainless steel and fly above an eye-catching wildlife border. They have been put up at the Nature Discovery Centre near Thatcham and College Lake visitor centre near Tring.

Laura Pepper, BBOWT’s Head of Philanthropy, said: “If your Valentine sets your heart a-flutter or you’ve just got engaged or married, why not celebrate your love with a specially engraved butterfly? Or you might like to commemorate a special birthday, a retirement, a favourite family walk or perhaps remember a loved one.

“Butterflies hold all sorts of different meanings for people, as well as being beautiful to behold. Our new ‘Your Wild Memories’ wall is a lovely way to celebrate your special memories and help the vital work of BBOWT at the same time.”

The Your Wild Memories walls have got off to a flying start, with butterfly messages added by local MPs, writers and nature champions.

Estelle Bailey, BBOWT’s Chief Executive, wrote: This special place, with nature at its heart. Here for every community.

Laura Farris, MP for Newbury, left this message on her butterfly at the Nature Discovery Centre: Delighted to support the NDC, bringing the wild into the heart of Thatcham.

Buckingham MP Greg Smith’s butterfly at College Lake reads: Thank you BBOWT, our nature champions. Proud to support you and work with you.

Writer and butterfly lover Patrick Barkham left this beautiful message: Breathe in green, Breathe in blue, Soar soul! Thanks, nature.

Priced at £250 (inclusive of VAT), each butterfly can be engraved to order with the wording of your choice. Funds raised from the sale of the commemorative butterfly plaques will go towards BBOWT’s work creating more nature everywhere for everyone, to benefit wildlife, climate and people.

To order your personalised butterfly visit: www.bbowt.org.uk/support-us/your-wild-memories Order forms are also available from College Lake or the Nature Discovery Centre. For more information call 01865 775476 (Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm) and ask to speak to the Membership Team.

Spring Loaded

Round & About

Activities & Events

There are activities and fun for all the family with Petworth House’s Spring Festival

The grounds at Petworth House are a fine way to spend the day, particularly during the Spring. With its large grounds, deer park, and historical rooms, there’s always something to pique the interest.

This year’s Spring Festival runs from Saturday 23rd March to 14th April and include talks, demonstrations, a community art installation, art and craft workshops, and family activities.

The garden team have been busy planting 4000 additional bulbs across the garden and 90 new containers to create an enhanced display that will carpet the gardens with a sea of daffodils. As a symbol of Springtime, the daffodil has been embraced elsewhere on site. The local community and volunteers have been busy hand crafting daffodils to create a spectacular display in the Battery House.

On Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th March there will be a two-day Makers Market, held in partnership with Petworth Pop-Up.

A highlight of the festival will be a series of talks and demonstrations from 23rd – 29th March held at the Garden theatre in the Glade. Join experts and specialists including author Robyn Booth, and Curator of Munstead Wood, Caroline Ikin as they share tips on Spring gardening, and discuss the ‘artist-gardener’ Gertrude Jekyll. These talks are free and there is no booking required.

Throughout the festival, families can pick up a free trail to explore the Pleasure Garden. You can explore the buggy friendly paths to discover six sculptures inspired by nature whilst enjoying fun games and activities along the way.

Between the 3rd and 10th of April, families can enjoy the Easter holidays with Spring themed crafts.  Wreath making runs from the 3rd to the 6th whilst the chance to design your own Cherry Blossom greeting card or bookmark takes place from the 7th to the 10th. These activities take place in the Battery House studio from 10.30-3.30 at a cost of £3 per child.

A host of other events are happening at Petworth over the Spring period, including a foraging walk and willow weaving.

The Spring Festival and Spring Family Trail are free events, however, normal admission to Petworth applies. For further information, including times, dates, and paid events, please visit the website.

Local dig reveals ancient secrets

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Ancient Blacksmiths Unearthed at Wittenham Clumps

Archaeologists have unearthed an exceptionally rare Iron Age blacksmith’s workshop, dating back nearly 2,700 years to the earliest days of ironworking in Britain, right here in South Oxfordshire.

The discoveries were made by archaeologists from DigVentures during excavations at the headquarters of local environmental charity, Earth Trust, near Abingdon. Just downslope from the iconic Wittenham Clumps, the dig revealed a smithy containing artefacts like pieces of hearth lining, hammerscale, iron bar, and the exceptionally rare discovery of an intact tuyere – evidence of a serious ironworking operation.

“At Earth Trust, we’re thrilled whenever discoveries at Wittenham Clumps shine a light on the deep history of human activity in this area,” said Anna Wilson, Head of Experience and Engagement.

“Nearly 10,000 artefacts were recovered during the dig, and as we continue to analyse them the story gets more and more captivating. These new discoveries are literally forging new history before our very eyes and revealing more of the ancient mysteries behind this very special place” she said.

“We can’t wait to share more through our upcoming Festival of Discovery,” adds Wilson.

Festival of Discovery

The key finds will be on display February 17-18, 2024 during a special Festival of Discovery at the Earth Trust Visitor Centre in Abingdon.

The festival includes talks from the archaeologists, hands-on workshops with the archaeologists, and a free pop-up exhibition showcasing artefacts like the tuyere and rare small finds. 

Visitors will have an exclusive chance to see the discoveries up-close and learn more about the skills of these early Oxfordshire craftsmen. Tickets and more information are available here.

Ancient Blacksmiths of the Clumps

Radiocarbon dating reveals the smithy dates from 771-515 BC, soon after ironworking first arrived in Britain around 800 BC. The size of the hearth suggests this was no ordinary village blacksmith, but rather the workshop of an ‘elite’ or ‘master’ ironworker producing swords, tools, wagon wheels, and other high-value objects.

“It’s exceptionally rare to find a complete tuyere, especially one that’s as old as this. Although there are examples from later periods, including Saxon, Viking-age, and medieval pieces, this is one of the only known Iron Age ones in the country, if not Europe. The fact that it dates not just to the Iron Age, but to the first few centuries of ironworking in Britain, is remarkable” said Gerry McDonnell, the archaeometallurgical specialist who examined the finds.

“What’s more, the size of it suggests we’re looking at a hearth that was much larger and more specialised than that of your average village smithy” he continued.

The vast majority of artefacts produced in the Iron Age weren’t very big and could be produced with quite a small hearth, while larger hearths would have taken much more skill and resources to control, said the researchers.

“The only reason a blacksmith would need a bigger hearth would be if they were forging something long like swords or trade bars, or big like cart wheels. And these wouldn’t be done by your average village smithy who would normally take care of everyday objects and repairs” explains McDonnell.

“The fact that this early Iron Age smithy had a specialist tuyere shows us this was much more likely to have been a serious operation by a highly skilled, elite, or master blacksmith” he concluded.

Even though the Iron Age takes its name from the mastery of this metal, sites that provide us with direct evidence of how they did this – especially ones from such an early period – are extremely scarce.

“It’s always exciting to uncover the remains of ancient buildings that were occupied thousands of years ago, but it’s even more special when we find such direct evidence of who lived there and what they were doing inside” said Nat Jackson, DigVentures Site Director, who led the excavation.

“In this case, the range of evidence is remarkable. We’ve got almost every component of the blacksmith’s workshop; the building, internal structures, hearth lining, tuyere, even the tiny bits of metal that fly off when the blacksmith is hammering the metal. The only thing we haven’t found is the tools” he said.

“It’s an incredible thrill to uncover something like this. It basically allows us to peer back in time and see what could have been one of Britain’s earliest master blacksmiths at work” he concluded.

Excavations also revealed an Iron Age settlement including a cluster of roundhouses, an Iron Age pantry, and evidence of ceremonial or ritual activity including animal burials, as well as a later Roman villa where archaeologists found the remains of a tiny Roman pet dog.

Local residents now have an exclusive opportunity to view these finds first-hand and learn more about Oxfordshire’s ancient ironworking heritage at February’s Festival of Discovery.

What’s new pussycat (doll)?

Round & About

Activities & Events

Festival season isn’t far away, and Henley Festival has just announced its line up for 2024

2024 has only just got its feet under the table and we’re already looking forward to basking in the sun, having a few cheeky ones, and having a proper knees-up in a field. That’s right, festival season is looming on the horizon like a glitter-filled, good-time cloud; which is preferable to the rain-filled, dark and pendulous kind that we’re used to. Obviously.

Henley Festival have wasted no time in announcing their headliners for this year’s event, and we have to say, it’s looking impressive already. Opening the festival is Pussycat Doll, Masked Singer panellist and Sunset Boulevard star, Nicole Scherzinger.  

Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart is set to captivate the Floating Stage audience with ‘Dave Stewart’s Eurythmics Songbook’. It’s been a full 41 years since the release of Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), so expect that particular tune to get an airing.

From one icon to another…the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight will be heading to Henley on the Friday night, and sadly, it will be the final show of her UK Farewell Tour. At least we’ll have the chance to say goodbye to a genuine legend who, along with The Pips recorded some of the greatest music of the 20th Century.

As the sun goes down on Henley Festival’s Friday evening Rylan will be DJing and entertaining the crowd with a trademark larger-than-life performance! It doesn’t feel like 10 years since he lit up the ninth series of The X Factor, but apparently it is. He’s now one of the UK’s most loved broadcasters, and we’re always a bit partial to his appearances on Celebrity Goggle Box.

The House Gospel Choir is exactly what it sounds like: an exhilarating mix of Gospel and House. Worshipping at the altar of dance they find the place where spirituality and the euphoria of the dancefloor come together –  amped up further by a full house band and percussion from the one and only Dezy Bongo, creating an effortless live fusion of the biggest house and gospel tunes that never fails to raise the roof.

Keeping the rave going will be no problem on Saturday evening as Ministry of Sound Ibiza Anthems with Ellie Sax take to the Floating Stage presenting the anthems that have sound-tracked everyone’s most iconic Ibiza moments.

Also confirmed for this year are classical music’s most famous Aston Villa fan Nigel Kennedy and the king of lockdown cover versions Sam Ryder. With some top names gracing the comedy stage (Mark Watson, Sara Pascoe, and Dara Ó Briain) Henley Festival is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the summer.

You can get tickets here.

Ring the changes with your wedding

Round & About

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Celebrate your big day, your way, your wedding day should reflect who you are and with these trends for 2024 it shows you can ‘rip up the rule book’ and surprise your guests

Congratulations! You’ve celebrated your engagement and now’s where the fun / hard work starts. Planning a wedding is exciting and sometimes overwhelming. Why not take some inspiration from the trends for 2024 to kick start those plans for your ‘big day’…

Sustainability is a key consideration for many brides and grooms this year with couples becoming increasingly aware of the impact on the environment of ‘throw away’ items. Many will opt for biodegradable, recycled and upcycled decorations with ‘pre-loved’ dresses ticking both the eco and cost boxes. Charity shops are a great source of beautiful bargain dresses and Oxfam has a website dedicated to them, onlineshop.oxfam.org.uk/bridal

Hiring is growing in popularity too for all the reasons above, older readers will remember fondly popping into high street stores for tails and top hats. Searches for ‘wedding dress hire’ have increased with specialist shops offering the opportunity to rent designer or vintage dresses. It’s only worn for one day and if you’re on a budget or are trying not to splash too much cash on one item, it gives you funds to use elsewhere. One of the key dress trends for this year is colour, expect blush or champagne hues, bold brides may even try blue or peach.

Alongside alternative colours and styles are a move towards alternative venues allowing couples to be more creative and often offering a more personal choice – beaches, barns, vineyards and even industrial spaces are becoming increasingly popular as are outdoor options. During the pandemic many couples wishing to continue with their nuptials had no alternative but to say “I do” in the open air and this is continuing especially with brides and grooms wishing to get up close to nature and celebrate in the great outdoors.

Bring the wedding of your dreams to life at Wasing Park and celebrate amid romantic farm buildings, Grade II listed Castle Barn – the ultimate space for your reception, granary and dovecote. Opt for fine dining or rustic and relaxed fare. The outdoor kitchen creates great theatre for your guests watching chefs cook over the fire pit and in the wood fired oven. Personalise your day and decorate the barn in your unique style. Find out more at wasing.co.uk/weddings

Hand in hand with the venue will go the choice of food and again, there is an increasing trend towards less formal fare with couples reflecting their personalities with sharing platters and grazing menus. Both provide a great way for guests to mingle and break the ice, chatting over the charcuterie and cheese, wandering among warm bread and olives. Dessert bars are an original alternative to the traditional cake, choose a variety of mini options that are sure to please even the pickiest of guests, bear in mind you’ll need to cater for different diets but the possibilities are endless. Many couples still favour a traditional religious service, but celebrant-led services are growing in popularity. Currently celebrants cannot legally marry couples, so it’s necessary to visit the registrar for the formalities – some celebrants may attend ceremonies with registrars.

Colette Ashby is a celebrant covering Oxfordshire and Berkshire and has officiated ceremonies in couple’s gardens, tipis and marquees, stately homes, hotels and even a London museum. She has seen couples dance down the aisle, be accompanied by their doggy ring bearer, watched an owl fly over the guests to present the rings to the groom and joined in with a mass singalong during the ceremony. Colette will tell the story of when and how you met, your hopes for the future and has made many a groom cry! coletteashby.com

Pop up books

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 This year’s Henley Literary Festival kicks off with a trio of exciting pop-up events in February.

 The very first event of the year features Michael Rosen on paperback publication day for Getting Better: Life lessons on going under, getting over it, and getting through it.

From We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to The Boris Letters, as poet, broadcaster, Children’s Laureate and author of over 200 books Michael Rosen has been cheering us up for over 50 years. Over the same time he has grieved the loss of a child, lived with debilitating chronic illness and faced death itself when seriously unwell in hospital. Despite this he has survived and has even learned to find joy in life in the aftermath of tragedy.

Michael comes to Henley on 8th February at 6pm to talk to Dr Rachel Clarke, author of Breathtaking and Your Life in My Hands.

On the same day, Telegraph columnist and best-selling author, Bryony Gordon returns for a special pre-publication event around Mad Woman: How to survive a world that thinks you’re the problem. Eight years on from her ground-breaking Mad Girl, this book is an insightful, fearless and brilliantly witty reflection on the eternal quest for a ‘happy life’, where she reassesses everything she thought she knew about mental health. What if our notion of what makes us happy is the very thing that’s making us sad?

 From burnout and binge eating to menopause, OCD and sobriety, Bryony tackles her personal challenges and demons with her trademark blend of compassion, honesty and humour.

Completing the trio of pop-up events in February is none other than national treasure and broadcaster Lorraine Kelly – joining us to discuss her own career and writing on 20th February at 7.30pm in conversation with Steve Jones. After making her Henley Literary Festival debut last year, hosting the Book Club event, she’s back with her poignant debut novel The Island Swimmer.  

Festival director Harriet Reed Ryan said: “Our 2023 Festival was our best-ever, with record ticket sales, a stellar line up and glowing feedback from our audiences, authors, interviewers and sponsors so we’ve got our work cut out for our 2024 programme, however we’re kicking off this year in style with some great names. These first names for 2024 show Henley is an important literary location, attracting big names to the town to promote their books during publication week and we’re really excited to welcome these names to Henley for our wonderful audiences.”

 Tickets are available here and on 01491 575948 (10am-2pm Monday -Thursday). Visit the website for information on becoming a Friend of the Festival for priority booking and other benefits.

 The 2024 Henley Literary Festival runs from 28th September – 6th October.

Big Balloon Build raises over £10,000

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Local charities’ funds inflated by colourful display of more than 125,000 balloons with the help of Surrey’s Peanut Balloons

Surrey balloon artist Amy Brown has raised more than £10,000 for charity with her Big Balloon Build, an incredible festive display of creativity in December.

More than 1,000 people visited the Big Balloon Build created out of 125,000+ balloons and built in just under four days.

“I’ve seen such wonderful achievements from all the artists involved and incredible possibilities of what can be created out of the humble latex balloon on my journey with the Big Balloon Build,” said Amy, who owns and runs Peanut Balloons in Thursley. “Since my first build in 2017, I have wanted to bring this impressive world to the people in my area, so by bringing it home, I have not only been able to do this, but also help local charities within the community too.”

As a certified balloon artist, Amy has more than 15 years of balloon industry experience and loves the new challenges that balloon decorating brings. This was her sixth Big Balloon Build.

Seventy five of the best balloon artists were selected from around the world to come to the UK and transform the Charterhouse Club at Charterhouse School into a unique, walk-through balloon world, filling the 12,500 square foot Sports Hall.

The impressive display was created in just three and a half days although Amy worked for months behind the scenes with designers and organizers from the Big Balloon Build to bring this incredible event to Surrey.

Visitors were taken on a journey from London to the North Pole made entirely out of biodegradable, natural latex balloons and saw Big Ben, shops, enchanting elf villages, a ski slope with a skiing bunny, life-size reindeer ushering Santa’s sleigh across the winter sky and so much more. Paddington was certainly very popular.

One of those which benefitted was Meath Epilepsy Charity., Lucy Miguda, head of fundraising said: “This was incredible, it totally blew my mind!”

A VIP launch party was held with more than 80 guests including The Mayor of Waverley Cllr Penny Rivers, The Mayor of Godalming Cllr Adam Druce and The Mayor of Guildford Cllr Masuk Miah. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, and his family joined in on the fun stopping by for a look when the build opened to the public Friday 15th to Sunday, 17th December.

“We had a lovely time at the balloon event, we have never seen anything like it and had to go around twice,” said Kimberley Burmingham, an associate at Phyllis Tuckwell.

“We are so very happy to receive this wonderful donation, which we will use to provide vital play and leisure opportunities to local disabled young people across the South East, so they can have fun and enjoy new activities with their friends,” said Becky Cox from Disability Challengers.

All profits from ticket sales have been donated in an equal split between the five charity partners: Disability Challengers, Action for Children, The Meath Epilepsy Charity, Phyllis Tuckwell and Farnham Youth Choir. The five charities will split the $10,000 raised to help children in the greater Surrey area.

“The funds raised from the Big Balloon Build could support up to 380 children by paying for soft furnishings for a young person moving into care, helping them to make their room feel like their own,” said Sam Jones, regional manager at Action for Children.

Generous sponsorships were also given from Brewers Decorator Centres and Dominos Pizza Guildford-Stoughton branch who provided a group trip for the delegates to Wisley Glow and evening pizzas for them too. “We are extremely grateful as without the delegates, these fundraising events don’t happen!” said Brown.

Gemar Balloons, a leading manufacturer of 100% bio-based rubber balloons, donated all 125,000+ balloons to the cause and PremiumConwin, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality balloon  inflators and ecofriendly balloon accessories, provided all equipment to inflate the Christmas Wonderland.