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The grand opening of the new YMCA Andover Community Branch was a fantastic event enjoyed by local families and invited guests on Tuesday 10th April.  The new branch opened for business in October but the official opening had to wait for a perfect alignment of many diaries.  Our president, Bishop Tim agreed to host the event on our behalf and Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, was pencilled in to unveil the plaque and declare the branch open.  Walice the Fox was booked to entertain the children and Peter Cooper to be the master of ceremonies.  Lots of cake, plenty of tea and coffee and surely nothing will go wrong.

When Sally Arscott was planning the day, it seemed like a good idea to ask some of the guests (representatives from local authorities and developers) to arrive early so that we could give them a more detailed explanation of what a Community Branch is, how it works and how they can work with the YMCA to deliver them.  And it may have been me that said, “well if we are doing that why don’t we invite other YMCAs to send guests who can stay    late and we can run a workshop for them, so that they can go and build YMCA Community Branches?”.

So that is how we found ourselves running four events (I may not have mentioned the community open day) in one day.  At 11:30am the Community Open Day was in full swing and the big room was absolutely heaving; the local authority seminar was complete and we were about to start asking everyone to gather in the foyer for the opening ceremony but the Bishop was missing!  It seems that we had given him the wrong postcode and at that point he was deep in the Hampshire countryside wondering if the YMCA would be around the next corner. Of  course, it wasn’t too long before Bishop Tim was safely with us and the proceedings could begin.

Peter Cooper wielded the microphone and before we knew it we had a group of children from the nursery arrive to welcome everyone.  Peter engaged in light-hearted banter with the Bishop; more children talked about their art work which now forms the stunning community art project and then Councillor Perry unveiled the plaque. So just the YMCA workshop to go!

As days at the YMCA go, this was a brilliant one but for me the real joy was seeing a new community coming together to celebrate together perhaps this the first sign that “it’s not really about us at all, it’s all about our communities”.









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