‘Unrest’ as residents demand collage be reinstated at village hall

millenium collage East Preston SUS-160903-091424001
millenium collage East Preston SUS-160903-091424001

A much loved collage capturing life in a busy village has disappeared from public view and residents want to know why.

For 15 years a textile picture celebrated life in a busy village, with scenes of the annual festival and carnival, families enjoying the seaside and cultural and sporting pastimes.

The collage adorned a wall of the Miller Barn, part of East Preston and Kingston Village Hall.

But when it did not reappear after being taken down last year while the hall was decorated, deep unrest was sparked in the coastal community.

Now parish councillors are set to hold talks with trustees of the village hall foundation, which runs the premises on behalf of the community, in a bid to resolve the rift.

Almost 200 people have signed two separate petitions calling for the collage to be reinstated in its original setting, and all three Women’s Institutes in East Preston have lent their support to the campaign.

Twelve members of the two WI groups in the village at the time took 18 months to create the detailed picture, marking the millennium in East Preston.

Hazel Tester, a member of the Lashmar Ladies WI, which meets in the village Girl guiding centre, said: “It’s a beautiful wall hanging. It was made for the village by members of the village community, and the obvious place to put it was in the village hall. That’s where it should go back.

“Since it was taken down there has been a lot of unrest about it.”

Former parish councillor Celeste Amoo is also among those calling for the collage’s return to the hall ‘at the heart of the village community’.­

The picture is currently in storage at the parish council’s offices.

She said: “You can’t get rid of this, or put it somewhere rolled up and stored out of sight.

“It commemorates a moment in history which is significant.”

Further upset was caused by the removal of numerous photos of the popular East Preston Festival and a life­size figure of festival president Doug Medhurst, known as ‘Mr East Preston’, from the corridor leading to the hall’s Warren Room.

Jennifer Wallace is a regular visitor to the hall, dancing and playing badminton with organised groups, and is among those who signed one of the petitions.

She criticised the trustees for emailing a questionnaire to hall users asking whether they were in favour of the collage being reinstated.

It showed a majority of those responding did not want the picture put back.

Mrs Wallace said the survey was not a true test of village opinion, as people using the hall were often from outside East Preston and did not appreciate the collage’s importance to the community.

Groups were given only a few days to reply and some were not sent questionnaires.

She claimed that the trustees subsequently voted 4­1 in favour of not reinstating the wall hanging, with two abstentions.

However, the parish council then voted 12­1 for it to be returned to the hall.

Mrs Wallace added: “The village hall trustees are flying in the face of popular opinion in the village.

“I think they are just being stubborn.”

Parish council clerk Simon Cross said the hall trustees, having initially refused to meet the council to discuss the matter, had now agreed to a meeting and it was hoped this would take place soon.

The Gazette contacted the chairman of village hall trustees, Christine Merrington-Trice, but was unable to received a response before going to print.

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