If you go down to the woods today

Author: Jason Davies

Published on: 5 December 2018

The idea for our event was to celebrate Norfolk Day (Friday 27 July 2018) in association with Radio Norfolk and the Eastern Daily Press.

I listen to Radio Norfolk on my journey from Rackheath to Hingham daily and had heard Nick Conrad, the breakfast show host, promoting the forthcoming event.

Our Church warden at Holy Trinity, Rackheath rang me and asked if I had any thoughts on what we as a church could do to support this within our village. I explained I had been thinking about putting on a Teddy Bears Picnic but that I did not want to make this a church ‘fundraising event’. Everything would be free.

Before committing myself, I contacted other groups within the village (WI, Parish Council etc) to see if they were planning on celebrating the day. Luckily for me they were not! I then spoke with the PCC and proposed how I envisaged the event would go and that the church would not incur any costs, and that I would do all the organising and obtain/donate the funds.

Planning – I sat down and though of the logistics – the weather, location, the date – a Friday, would anyone actually come along! How was I going to make this fun and attract people and get across our mission as a church without putting them off?

Who was I hoping would attend the event? – Non-churchgoing families, people within the village? I then thought of what Teddy Bears and God have got in common? Firstly, I thought both bring comfort. A bear is an animal, how do animals and God blend. I sat down with my favourite bible, my colourful children’s bible and the Noah’s Ark story sprang to mind!

In order to make it fun I wanted to do things we do not usually have at church or village events. I wanted it to be fun for the children and younger people. I found a visiting Zoo with owls, snakes, big spiders and exotic animals that everyone could hold and learn about.

I contacted a local magician and engaged him to entertain everyone throughout the event, with magic tricks, balloon art and a magic show finale for all ages!

I asked a local young non-church attending football enthusiast to come along to play football and ball games. This was a huge success.

We had arts and crafts, guess the name of the teddy, how many sweeties in the jar etc.

The idea was the event would be for two hours (12-2pm), fun and busy. The church hall was decorated with bunting and flowers, and we had a big ark in the chancel with lots of teddy bears. Quality refreshments were offered and served to everyone including a free ice cream from the ice cream van.

The event was advertised via the local village Facebook pages weekly, in the local shops, pubs and notice boards, on the radio and in the EDP. I produced two posters one eight weeks before the event. Saying “Save The Date” giving details of when and where it was happening. Two weeks before the event I updated the poster. Both were sent home with every school child, and to every playgroup and children’s organisation (Rainbows, Scouts etc) in Rackheath and Salhouse. I then invited people personally by hand delivering invitations.

The planning went well and people approached me with donations to fund the event. The entire event cost around £600 to put on. This was funded via private donations from local people and the Parish Council.

On the day the weather was perfect. Within the first ten minutes 250 people had arrived! Everyone was kept busy taking part in activities, petting animals and eating whilst being entertained. At the end of the event everyone gathered to watch the magic show finale and hear a brief story of Noah’s Ark read by one of the church’s lay ministers (unrobed).

Fundraising for EACH – A donation box was left by the exit of the venue for EACH. This raised £800. If the church had funded this event it would have still returned a £200 surplus and attracted lots of people who do not normally attend such events.

I think we can safely say that Norfolk Day has been very successfully launched in Rackheath.

Would I do it again? Yes, but not the same thing. I never repeat events. Things are often not the same the second time round! We are planning another event for 2019.

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Jason Davies

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