Have you ever wondered how long you might have to be involved with a local group or society in order to become a committee member or even Chairman or President? For example: how many years would you have to participate before becoming President of the Rotary Club of Sherborne Castles? How many years are needed to get on the council of the Sherborne Museum? How do you even go about becoming chief fund-raiser for Sherborne’s incipient Community Arts Centre? The answer, in the case of Richard Hickman, is less than four years as he and his wife, Mary, only arrived in Sherborne in 2007. In such a short time, he has become a fully-fledged member of the community, contributing to many facets of the town’s activity.
Read the full interview with Richard Hickman below:
Q: Which of your various roles in Sherborne came into being first?
RH: Well, as newcomers to the town living in Fosters Field, we joined the Fosters Field Residents’ Association – of which I am now Secretary, so maybe that was first – and we sometimes have speakers from around the town to talk to our members. At one meeting, someone from the Museum came to talk about some Bronze Age pottery that had been found on the Fosters Field site and this led to my wife becoming involved with the Museum. This in turn led to my joining the Museum Council as Buildings Officer, in other words becoming responsible for the fabric of the building, the security and the maintenance.
Q: Is this a very demanding responsibility?
RH: As with any old building, there is always something that needs attention. The Museum actually consists of two buildings from the early 17th century and the East wall is said to incorporate a section of the medieval precinct wall to the monastery which abutted on to the Abbey Gateway. The Museum was first created in the mid 1960s and there are probably over 75 volunteers working there on a part-time basis to look after our permanent and temporary exhibitions so the requirements on the building are manifold and need constant consideration
Q: Just as a matter of interest how is the Museum funded?
RH: We receive a very small grant but most of the revenue is dependent on entrance fees, shop sales and donations. We also have a very supportive group of Museum Friends. Surprisingly, most of our visitors are from outside Sherborne with very few people from the town popping in to see the various exhibitions, something we would like to change.
Q: What about Rotary? Had you ever been a member before?
RH: No, I hadn’t really been aware of Rotary but when I joined the Residents’ Association and got to know some neighbours, it was suggested that I might like to go along to see what it was all about. I liked the idea of working on some fund-raising projects to support local charities in the town and I thought it was a good social vehicle, working with like-minded folk and having some fun along the way.
Q: You seem to have become very committed very quickly; was that your plan?
RH: Not really. Rotary is divided into different committees and I was put on the Community Committee which is responsible for organising various local activities, anything from Blood Pressure Awareness Day to our Christmas appeal or marshalling a charity run. All of a sudden, someone left and I found myself chairing the committee in my second year. I got a very good insight into what Rotary could offer and how to get things done so then I put my name down for Club President which I currently am. It is very satisfying to see the benefits provided to the town by the two Rotary Clubs, activities which are enjoyed by the community such as the film festival later this month and the hidden gardens weekend or the historic car rally. At the same time we raise funds for deserving causes but in a very convivial atmosphere.
Q: Now what about the Community Arts Centre – how long have you been involved in that?
RH: Since the beginning really, about two years ago. The project has really progressed since then: we have acquired the land, just behind the Paddock Gardens, and we have the planning permission based on the architect’s design. Now we are about to kick off a major fund-raising exercise for £1.5 million. We’re producing a DVD to submit to individuals and to groups and we’ll be launching this in early December, so do let us know if you can think of likely sponsors or donors.
Q: You seem to have become very busy around the town. Is there time for anything else?
RH: Well I’m a member of NADFAS and the Historical Society. I’m also a very keen walker so enjoy long walks in the surrounding countryside and along the coast. All in all, I really enjoy living in Sherborne.
Q: What about the town’s future?
RH: I do hope that Sherborne manages to retain its current character. I can see that there will be a lot of pressure on the town with new homes being planned and pressure on the independent shops but I’m pretty confident that Sherborne will manage and keep its charm and appeal.