Shoreham’s Ropetackle is losing a volunteer who has served it from the very start.
At the age of 77, Brian Whipp says he is making way for someone younger and also to spend more time on the road in his camper van.
He has volunteered since the Ropetackle opened in 2007, but was very much part of the story before that as well. Brian recalls: “There was a public inquiry in the late 90s to try to keep the Ropetackle hard open. I was involved in the public inquiry giving evidence for keeping the public hard there. In the end, the inspector said any development had to keep the hard. I also knew about the Ropetackle Action Group that was saying that there had to be a community space there. I had also been involved as a councillor on Adur and West Sussex County Council between 1997 and 2005, so I knew the political background to it all. When the trust opened in 2007, I thought I would become involved to help try to make a success of it all.
“I have been doing the box office, going in twice a week, taking all the online bookings and also dealing with the public face to face at the counter and also doing all the postal stuff. I have really enjoyed meeting the public. I just started to try to make it all work, and I have ended up there 11 years. My initial aim was just to help get it started.
“I had never really met the public much in my previous occupation. I was a signalman for British Rail… which was completely different! But obviously, communication was very important in that job as well.”
Brian moves on as a huge fan of the Ropetackle: “I think it is a marvellous place. We have managed to encourage people from a very wide spectrum to come along and see different things. I would love to see us do more. I think more could be done to reach lower-income groups. But as a charity we can’t make a profit and we still rely a lot on Arts Council funding to keep the place going. We have not been able to get as much money from the local authorities as we would have liked. It has been a fight really.
“But I just thought in the end it was about time I allowed someone younger to come in now and find a niche. It was a difficult decision to step down, and I know I will miss it, but I think I have done my bit. We have got plenty of plans and energy. We will do more touring in our little camper van. My wife and I are going to be seeing more of England and Europe than we have done before now. If you go away for long spells, it was hard to find people to slot into the box office, but I will be freer now.”
His last day at the venue is April 12.
Ropetackle artistic director Phil Jackson said: “Not long ago, Ropetackle celebrated its tenth anniversary, and Brian has been a volunteer pretty much from the start. He’s even got his own chair!
“As is his way, Brian announced his second retirement quietly, and without any fuss not long ago, and the reality of what life will be without Brian at Ropetackle has yet to sink in. Although his chair will be very hard to fill, I would like to thank him for all of his hard work that he’s put in.”
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2