Awards, Big society, Cameron and Downing street

Well what an exciting day! A representation of Wotton Swimming Pool Club, and the not for profit organization associated with the club, Wotton Swimming Pool Ltd, were generously chosen to attend the awards day in London on Thursday 12 May. Are my shoes polished? Which tie should I wear? Would it be a faux pas to turn up in red? Can I walk in those shoes? Have I remembered my invitation to Downing Street?? We arrived in London Paddington, and after a 30p wee and a tourist orientated taxi ride (I guess the driver misunderstood our chatter of going to Downing Street, thinking we were just looking!), we descended on Somerset House on the Strand for the first part of the day. Part of the award was to attend some seminars to help the stakeholders involved with community projects, such as Wotton Pool, with some of the possible difficulties surrounding such enterprises. Wotton Pool Swimming Club was one of 16 winners of a Big Society Award at Somerset House, and the range of organisations represented was huge. There were groups doing all sorts of good for their local communities, and also amongst disparate communities location-wise, but common communities needs-wise. The humanity and generosity of the people present was pretty much the only similarity between the groups, as well as the sense that Cameron’s Big Society, was a new name for an old principal: rather than focus on them sorting out problems, to take responsibility and make the area around you better. And this comes in many different guises, be it cleaning up your local area, educating others about health, getting employment for those on the street, feeding people who don’t usually get a meal, or running a swimming pool (or 100 leisure facilities!). After learning about reaching people through the big conversation (there’s a whole world of social media out there, and there is a conversation going on that many miss out on, although hopefully Wotton Pool is contributing, chatting, and listening to the online society) it was time to board the buses to Number 10. And what an experience. We were scanned for weapons, ushered inside, led up the staircase adorned with the portraits of past prime ministers (didn’t see Hugh Grant or Girls Aloud though unfortunately), and into a collection of ‘shabby chic’ reception rooms. While drinks and the poshest canapés I’ll ever see circulated, we waited for the main man to arrive. What would we ask him?! When it came to it though, and Mr Cameron was stood in front of us talking about Chipping Camden’s community run lido and Jeremy Clarkson, any previously planned dialogues went out the window. FLASH, photo taken, and off he flew to the next group. Wow. Star Struck? Not quite: we didn’t ask for his autograph, nor did anyone attempt to touch him, but all the same, to have been inside the house of the Prime Minister is an experience we will never forget. The award is a great acknowledgement of many years of hard work from a huge number of volounteers associated with the pool, and of course those school children and their teachers who built the pool, 60 years ago. Whatever name you give it, the achievement to keep Wotton Pool open is a success story for the whole society of Wotton.