BGC was set up by Bedford Mencap in April 1997 as a garden maintenance project to provide hands on work experience for adults with learning disabilities. As well as the Garden Force, we now have a furniture workshop and can offer a variety of Educational experiences.
Our first adult, Richard Sawyer, joined us in May 1997.
In our short life we have moved a few times, we started in Kempston in a small industrial unit which we soon outgrew so we then moved into Kingsway House in Bedford. On October 11th 2001 we were the victim of an arson attack and were burnt out, this did not deter us all the staff worked over the week-end to clear the mess before the new week. We rose like a phoenix from the ashes with a better equipped building. In January 2007 we moved to 1 Brereton Road, Bedford.
We originally offered gardening work experience; now we offer gardening, retailing,wood working, machinery maintenance, arts & crafts, music & drama, independent living skills, health & well being, IT and pottery.
Over the years we have had many events some which were for public awareness some of which were fundraising.
Some of the events we have had:-
Thankfully the day dawned bright and sunny on the day of our first Disability Awareness Day into which a great deal of hard work and planning had gone over the past year.
The theme for the day was “I am what I am” and proud of it. The Lady Mayor of Bedford declared the day open by cutting a ribbon and went on to talk to all the exhibitors and project members. The Mayor stayed for approximately an hour leaving with information on several of the stalls and promising to support further events we might hold. The aim of the day was first to bring to the general public a greater knowledge of disability in all its forms and thus more understanding, and secondly to disseminate information from other charities and services and have representation from these charities and services in one area. The charities that responded to our invitation were Sight Concern, Aspergers, Spina Bifida and Hyrdocephalus, Disability Information Service, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Library Link and the Community Arts Team.
Sound Investments, who performed during the day, struck a lighter note. This is a choir of adults with learning disabilities. Members of the BGC project undertook a street collection, sold raffle tickets and talked to passers-by.
One of the highlights of the day was the launching of the helium balloons for the balloon race. The prize was a motor scooter donated by ATM of Woburn Sands. Masters Joseph McDowell, Jordan Williams and Ben Evans, who were introduced to us via the Aspergers Society, launched the balloons; the local press captured the moment.
The day flew by. In the evening there was a fund-raising dinner at The Bedford Swan Hotel on the embankment. Eighty-five people attended what turned out to be a very successful occasion with incredible support from everyone involved. The room at the Swan is based on a coaching inn and is very elegant; the round tables of ten were decorated with blue cornflowers complimented by white flowers – the cornflower being our logo – white linen and blue napkins.
Our speaker was the actor Mr. Warwick Davis. Warwick appeared in the film Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone where he appeared as Professor Flitwick. He had just finished filming the next Harry Potter film released in November.
He is also known for his appearances in the Star War films as a leading Ewok and then as the “walking” Yoda, Jedi Master. In the 1980s a much loved film was released called “Willow”, in which Warwick was Willow. He was cast in two series of the BBC television classic, The Chronicles of Narnia as the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep. There have been other notable films, too many to mention in this short report, but safe to say that Warwick gave an inspiring after dinner speech about his outlook on life as a “short person” and how he came to be in films and went on to make us laugh with his stories.
The evening continued with a very successful auction. The auctioneer, David Fletcher of Douglas Ross from Woburn, encouraged the bidding for our 23 lots and the money raised ran well into four figures. Our thanks to him and also to the guests who supported us by bidding so generously for our lots.
As part of this Disability Awareness Day project Tim Branson, one of our project members had the idea that we should produce a CD entitled “I am what I am” – this was then adopted as the theme to run through the day and has become a philosophy adopted by all of us involved with BGC. The songs’ composer, Jerry Herman, rearranged the lyrics for us and Tim contacted Paul Bell and the Backline Band who arranged the music for “I am what I am” and “Lean on Me”, the other song on the CD. Paul Bell and the Back line Band recorded the two songs and members of BGC attended the recording studio, Linford Manor Studio, one Sunday and can be heard on the second track, – the recording engineers have worked wonders! Paul Bell and the Backline Band performed the song ‘I am what I am’ for its first public performance.
“Hubble Bubble toil and trouble” – there were at least twenty witches at the Swan Hotel on Friday the 24th October, 2003 celebrating at the Halloween Party thrown by BGC. Other notables there were Jack O’Lantern, The Grim Reaper, Morticia from the Addams Family, a number of vampires with their brides and many others who had flown in for the evening. The festivities took place in a spectacular setting with the room decorated by balloons, streamers, visiting spiders and the odd ghoul!
The evening commenced with a reception of Champagne Cocktails and Canapés, followed by an excellent four-course dinner, coffee with mints.
Mr. Glenn Farrar, General Managers of The Bedford Swan Hotel and his staff once again this year looked after us superbly. Mr. Farrar’s generosity and support for our project contributed greatly to the success of the evening.
The evening continued with an auction conducted by Mr. David Fletcher, Auctioneer, who encouraged all present to open their wallets to bid for the excellent lots which were on offer, including a luxury day at Henlow Grange, a David Beckham football shirt signed by him and many equally exciting items. Guests danced the evening away to the well-known local band ‘Top Banana’, only stopping for the grand draw or to buy a tombola ticket.
Our special thanks to Mr. Ian Foster, Toastmaster, who once again this year orchestrated the evening without a hitch – our thanks again to Ian and David Fletcher who give of their time freely on a Friday evening and to supporters of BGC who travelled from as far a field a Co. Clare in Ireland, Essex, Cambridgeshire to be with us on the evening.
Disability Awareness Day 2004
As the day approached, the BGC building became increasingly hectic with people rushing around making sure that paperwork for the event was correct and in order, making cakes to be sold, finishing off notice boards and finally loading the equipment on to the trailer. The Awareness Day was the following day and although I had never experienced the Awareness Day (apart from being a member of the public) I was feeling calm; all that I needed to do was to collect the cakes the following morning at 7.45am and be at St Paul’s Square by 8am. When I arrived at BGC the following morning to collect the cakes, I was greeted by about 20 deflated helium balloons that had been inflated the previous night. Not a good start to the day!!!!!
When I arrived at St Paul’s square there was an overwhelming smell of fish. The town’s market had been on the previous day and the odour was still lingering around the area that was to be the Mencap stall and the BGC cake stall. Thankfully someone came along and washed the area down so the smell eventually went. Once we had set up our designated areas and the project members had arrived, it was time to declare the event open and for the fun to begin.
The cake stall had excellent support with people donating homemade cakes, and helping run the cake stall. Three of the project members helped serve on the stall. Gemma Henchy,who has past experience working in a busy café in Milton Keynes, helped serve the cakes. Stuart Goldsmith served the hot and cold drinks whilst Stephen Brill took the money. Also Mrs Foster volunteered for the day and supported the project members to serve the customers. The cake stall received a steady stream of customers many of whom came back for more.
The main entertainment came from two sets of performers: BGC’s very own Stomp production from the Education department, and Mencap’s Stardust. Both sets of performers turned up the volume and provided much interest and entertainment for the crowd of onlookers.
As well as musical and theatrical entertainment there was miniature model painting, a raffle, a tombola and a balloon race. There where many other stalls providing information on their various charities and businesses.
The whole day was a success, and planning will soon start for the event next year.
Zoe Johnson -Team Leader
We began as part of Bedford Mencap before becoming independent and forming a separate charity in 2002.
Beds Garden Carers is a Registered Charity number 1091271 and a Company Limited by Guaranteed number 4327714