A View From The Fringe…
We could list all of Jen Powell’s achievements, a catalogue of posts and positions, the boards and committees that have been graced by Jen’s presence or even her passion for Welsh Rugby…but we only have a few hundred words to play with and there would be no room for anything else!
So, by way of introduction to former Conservative Councillor Jennifer (Jen to her friends) Powell, former Mayor of Guildford, past Portfolio Holder for Cultural Activities, Tourism, Heritage and Sport we will just use these words taken from the criteria for an Honorary Freeman, ‘a person of distinction having given eminent service to the Borough.’
We will also add ‘Great Friend of the Fringe’, a small but entirely justified accolade to add to all the others, we could not be more proud of your continued support.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls we present Jen Powell, Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Guildford.
Anybody that has spent any time at all with Jen will know that however many questions you might have prepared, the agenda will very quickly be swept away with charm and laughter, lots and lots of laughter. And so it was today, excellent coffee, delicious cakes and a view across Jen’s beloved and beautiful Horsley garden saw to that…
We did not expect to be talking about Boxing?
‘My time at the Council brought with it very many interesting challenges, some of which came out of the blue. Guildford Boys Boxing club was being run by an excellent chap called John, he was training lads of all ages and boy oh boy did they listen to him, they hung off his every word. Sadly, the facilities were far from ideal, in fact they were completely unfit for purpose.’
With help from many people in the community and from Guildford Borough Council we helped to change all of this, new facilities were found and the club was saved.’
We should say here that this story is typical of the way Jen operates, quiet efficiency and a steely will, Jen got things done without fanfare and nowadays these achievements are remembered with a self-effacing ‘I had a lot of help’.
Why is the cultural wellbeing of Guildford so important to you Jen?
‘There is a hidden value to the arts and heritage, it’s not just about the pounds, shillings and pence but also in the enrichment of the town and its residents. The story of Guildford is still being written and it is our duty to add to this story.
Can you give us an example of what you mean?
‘Guildford Museumis a wonderful resource, enjoyed by generations of Guildfordians and visitors to the town. The plans that are being discussed right now with specialist consultants will hopefully ensure that we can extend its appeal, perhaps with new features and facilities, possible access from the Castle grounds and more space to continue telling the story of Guildford’
So what do we need more of?
‘Money! Budgets are tight and there are a great many very deserving calls on the public purse so we have to be realistic.
Having said that, my dream is for Guildford to get our own Dale Carnegie, so if there is anybody out there with money to spare…how do you fancy having a fabulous museum being named after you?’
Until stepping down, you’d represented the ward of Clandon & Horsley for almost 30 years, what are you focused on now?
There is so much still to do and I have my passions of course. I was so proud of my town when we took second place in Britain in Bloom competition and I continue to fully support Guildford in Bloom. I’m also a trustee of Guildford Book Festival, an annual event which is now attracting visitors from all over the country with some great authors already lined up for this October.
And the museum of course, I am very hopeful that we can find the support that we need to give Guildford the museum it so richly deserves.
During the course of our chat we thought of a few more words to describe Jen, indefatigable, unswerving, modest, inspirational and classy… We still wouldn’t want to get on her wrong side though!
Thanks for everything Jen.