The Festival of Flowers & Music 2003

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of the Friends of St James. The Friends was set up in 1983 to assist the Rector and Parochial Church Council in the maintenance of the Church and Churchyard. Since its foundation, the Friends has raised over 85,000 and funded numerous projects.

The 2003 Festival was the seventeenth organised by the Friends. The first was in 1987, when the Church was decorated with flowers for the launch of an appeal. Just over 2000 was raised on that occasion and it became, by popular demand, the first in an annual series. All the Festivals have used the gifts of flower arrangers to decorate the Church to raise money through donations from visitors. Over the years the Festival has grown to become one of Flowers & Music, to include a mini fete, and a sale and exhibition of paintings and, most recently, photographs.

The Festival is now much more than just another fund raising event. It is a time of outreach, a time for renewing old friendships as people come back to Thorley just for the Festival, and a time for fellowship as members of the parish family chat over lunch, cream teas and ice creams.

As in recent years, a subcommittee was responsible for planning this year's Festival. On the Thursday these plans started to come alive. All that day, and on the Friday, the Church was a hive of activity and creativity as the floral arrangements took shape. The flower arrangers, working under the leadership and direction of Lina, once again produced spectacular displays depicting different verses from scripture. All were linked to the overall theme of this year's Festival, "Relationships - To Know Christ and To Make Him Known". Working together, praying together, and providing fellowship, support and encouragement to each other, the seasoned and first-time arrangers made the Church look beautiful.

Work also got underway in the St Barnabas Centre. On the Friday evening the art and photographic exhibitors arrived with their offerings as Bill supervised the displays. On the Saturday morning the wood turner from Elsenham set up his pitch, ready to demonstrate his skills. Other preparations were by then in full swing. Those organising the catering had been shopping and were now setting out the tables for refreshments. The Outreach Group's table was put in place. John was putting the finishing touches to the all-important signage.

At 10:30 a.m. everyone took a deep breath and stopped work to give the Festival to God in a short service conducted by Bob. The Festival then became a reality as we turned our attention to welcoming the first visitors. This year we opened at noon each day and Thorley Church once again attracted lots of people - some regular visitors to the Festival, some new to the area - all of them outreach opportunities. The refreshments provided an opportunity to sit and chat, with Sue, Joan and the catering team ensuring the smooth running of this oasis.

Simon organised the many musical contributions. The organ music that he, Barrie and Duncan played was greatly appreciated, as were the other musical activities - with so many people taking part as singers, soloists and instrumentalists.

Throughout the Festival Lesley and Dave sold a selection of plants they had nurtured from a stall in the Churchyard, which was, as ever, a tribute to all those involved in its upkeep. Bill offered guided tours of the St Barnabas Centre and the Church, pointing out and explaining items of architectural and general interest. Frank arranged for the ringers to demonstrate their skills, and for visitors to try their hand at chiming a bell.

On the Sunday evening Bob led a service in celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Friends. It was good to see so many members at this service.

Monday dawned, and this year the mini fete was held in the Emmaus Centre. The fete always adds a special interest to the final day of the Festival. Thanks to Pauline, it was once again a great success. The warmth of the fellowship within our Church family and towards our visitors made the Festival a wonderful event.

The total money raised was 4004, making it by far the most financially successful Festival to date.

So many people contributed to the success of the Festival that it would be impossible to mention them all individually. The Committee of the Friends of St James therefore wishes to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in ensuring the success of the Festival of Flowers & Music, not just those mentioned above, but also the supervisors and stewards, and all those who worked behind the scenes. Without your hard work there could have been no Festival. A selection of photographs from the Festival, the verses that inspired the flower arrangements and an article on the music at St James the Great featured during the Festival can be found elsewhere on this Website.

Philip Hargrave
October 2003

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