THE FACES OF SHERBORNE
In our monthly series of “The Faces of Sherborne” we introduce you to the people behind the faces. This month (February 2012)
MEET BRIDGETT WILSON
CHAIRMAN OF BREAKTHROUGH SHERBORNE
Whenever opinion polls are published, there are those who agree, those who disagree and those who “don’t know”. Bridgett Wilson definitely does not belong in the last category; she has definite views on life, arrived at mostly as a result of serious consideration, investigation and experience. If you ask Bridgett to do something you can be sure it will be done most thoroughly and if not there will be twenty-three reasons why it is not possible. Bridgett Wilson belongs to the “glass half-full” philosophy of life, she gets things done, and it is not surprising that when one of her daughters had to be treated for breast cancer, Bridgett decided to set up a local branch of Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Sherborne.
Read the full interview below:
Q: How long ago did you set up Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Sherborne?
BW: About six years ago now. I have a daughter in Canada who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and I just felt that there needed to be more research undertaken, given the huge number of women who go through this. Breakthrough works to raise awareness of the disease, campaigns for an improved screening programme, carries out research and informs and educates people about the whole subject.
We’re a fairly small group in Sherborne but we raise a few thousand pounds every year by running a Christmas Fair, through a charity concert and other occasional ad hoc events. The past Breakthrough CEO lived in Yeovil so we were quite lucky to have his personal support when we first started.
Q: What else are you currently involved in?
BW: Well I’m part of the committee for a brand new organisation being set up for the Sherborne area – the Sherborne Literary Society. It’s quite exciting really and I can’t imagine why there hasn’t been one before given the academic bent of the town and its demographics. Apparently there was a Sherborne Literary Institution in the mid 19th century, set up by William Charles Macready so there’s a great precedent and we hope to provide something just as interesting for the town.
Q: What sort of activities are being planned?
BW: We hope to achieve a wide variety of events that should appeal to a broad cross-section of the community. There will be talks from well-known authors of course but also workshops, discussion groups and readings in the town; the main event, however, will be a Literary Festival that is planned to take place in October this year.
Q: How can people find out more?
BW: The society is being launched on April 23rd and it will be publicised in the local media but you can also keep up-to-date with what’s happening on the website www.sherbornelitfest.org.uk
Q: How long have you lived in Sherborne?
BW: I was educated at the Girls’ School which taught me to think outside the box! It was wonderful, it also gave me a sense of adventure. However, I had moved on after that and I came back in 1994 as I knew the town and I had some friends here. I became involved with the Abbey’s West Window Appeal and after that with the Appeal for repairs to the roof of S. Abbey. I was also on the committees for the one thousandth anniversary of the Benedictines’ arrival in Sherborne as well as for the Sherborne branch of the Joseph Weld Hospice while it lasted so I feel very much part of the town.
Q: Take us back further…
BW: I lived in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, for 23 years where my husband was a tobacco farmer. Whilst there, I also had my own secretarial agency for ten years.
We came back to England in 1980 and through my interest in politics I managed to get a job in Parliament. I worked for an MP at first but then I landed my ‘dream’ job as Administrator for the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Parliament receives about four delegations a year of MPs from abroad, about twenty people at a time and it was my job to organise their visit: VIP arrival, accommodation, meetings, agendas, interviews with Ministers, entertainment, dinners, lunches for 50 at a time, menus and placement. I would also have to accompany them everywhere they went in London and around the country. One delegation was when Mr Gorbachev came for the first time to the UK in 1984 with a Russian delegation before he became the President.
Q: Were these visits reciprocal?
BW: Twice a year UK delegations of about 25 MPs went abroad to various countries for conferences and I accompanied them after booking their flights, arranging hotel accommodation, meals, agendas, meetings and so on. For the Centenary of the IPU, I was on the organising committee of a big international week’s conference for 1800 MPs, wives and staff, with HM the Queen opening it and all the protocol thereof, the accommodation, transport, gifts, and entertainment. It was a mammoth event! During this week, I also organised a smaller one day conference for Betty Boothroyd and 100 international female MPs.
Q: Didn’t all this fraternising with politicians give you the bug?
BW: I moved on from London after about ten years and for two elections I was voted in as a Borough Councillor for Basingstoke when I became Vice Chairman of the Housing Committee and I worked for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau for three years. Subsequently, I worked voluntarily for the European Union of Women becoming Chairman of the Dorset and East Devon Branch and Chairman of the British Group Migrants committee which involved travelling to Greece and Switzerland for conferences.
Q: Having packed so much into your life, doesn’t Sherborne now seem a little tame at times?
BW: Not at all. Breakthrough and the Literary Society keep me busy enough. I also attend French lessons and play bridge and travel. Sherborne has plenty to keep anyone fully occupied!