St Helena Online


Going downhill fast: Cable & Wireless claims kart trophy

The Cable & Wireless kart takes a tumble. Picture by Neil George
The Cable & Wireless kart takes a tumble. Picture by Neil George

Seven improvised vehicles careered down the hill into Jamestown in St Helena’s first ever kart racing event, organised by the disability charity SHAPE.

Cable & Wireless was declared the overall winner at the end of a series of races in the Gravity Rush event.

The winners - by Neil George
The winners – by Neil George

Mike Olsson, reporting on Saint FM Community Radio, declared the event “a huge success.”

He said: An estimated 800 people watched the seven carts come down the street from AVES down to The Bridge in Jamestown.

“The event kept the town busy into the night. 

“The SHAPE kart was deemed to be the best design. Unfortunately, it had to withdraw later on due to technical problems. 

“This was a novelty for St Helena that undoubtedly will be repeated.”

St Helena Online comments: this was obviously a fabulous event – but maybe next year, the karts should start at Hutts Gate – it’s a drop of 2,000 feet, and downhill all the way.

A gallery of pictures by Neil George will be published on this site in the near future. 

SHAPE waves starter’s flag for St Helena ‘Grand Prix’

Kart racers in Jamestown might be advised to wear protective clothing. Picture: Bengt Nyman
Kart racers in Jamestown might be advised to wear protective clothing. Picture: Bengt Nyman

Daredevil drivers are being challenged to race home-made soapbox karts through Upper Jamestown, in aid of disabled workers on St Helena.

Fundraisers at the island charity SHAPE have dreamed up the idea of the rally and hope to attract at least 20 competitors in home-made karts.

The Gravity Rush event is scheduled to take place on 16 June 2013 – the same day as the popular soapbox derby in Brackley, home of the Mercedes Formula One team.

Next stop, Jamestown? Racers in Sweden, by Bengt Nyman
Next stop, Jamestown? Racers in Sweden, by Bengt Nyman

SHAPE manager Martin Joshua said: “At the minute we are targeting companies and also anyone of the public that actually wants to create and ride their go-kart down to the Bridge.

“We contacted the Highway Authority and they gave us permission to use the highway from the AVEC centre down to the Bridge.

“There’s a lot we need to sort out. We are hoping to sell some sponge balls with buckets of water and people can throw them at the participants as they ride through to the Bridge, so it can be quite fun.

“To make it good competitive day we are hoping for at least 20 entrance fees.”

The organisers hope to be able to take over the Market building to lay on children’s attractions.

A set of rules has been drawn up and karts will be inspected before the start of the time-trial.

St Helena karters face a sharp right turn on to the Bridge. Picture: Bengt Nyman.
St Helena karters face a sharp right turn on to the Bridge. Picture: Bengt Nyman.

In the Brackley race, competitors have a straight run down the High Street… and into a pile of cardboard boxes, positioned bring them to a safe halt. Even so, some competitors take a tumble, swerving to avoid the boxes.

The road down to the Bridge in Jamestown is much steeper than the Brackley race route.

The Brackley rules set limits for the size of the karts and their wheels, and say no materials can be used that might shatter on impact. Fitting brakes is “strongly advised”.

Brakes will be required on St Helena karts.

The pictures on this page are from the Red Bull Rally in Stockholm, Sweden, where much bigger and more elaborate vehicles are allowed – and bigger crashes happen.

Anyone interested in entering the Gravity Rush should contact Martin Joshua of SHAPE – St Helena’s Active Participation in Enterprise – at


SHAPE supporters walk to help island’s disabled into work

From Facebook: SHAPE (St Helena Active Partication in Enterprise) will be doing a sponsored walk with a difference from Whitegate to Rosemary Plain on 26 April 2013. The event is open to ALL who are fortunate to be involved with a special group of individuals within our community. The fund-raiser is designed to show that the work you do doesn’t go unnoticed, therefore a percentage of the monies raised will be used to arrange a coffee morning and pamparing session. If anyone is keen to sponsor anyone during this walk please contact


SHAPE praised as advisers cite unknown scale of disability

The role of St Helena’s disability charity, SHAPE, has been singled out for praise by UK aid advisers.

But they say help for disabled people is “fragmented”, with too little knowledge about the problems people are coping with.

The success of SHAPE – short for St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise – shows the role civil society groups can play, says the report on the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission, which looks at the challenges facing the island.

SHAPE trains disabled people in craft skills at the old school building in Sandy Bay, and provides them with work such as making and selling jewellery. It has also set up a recycling service.

The aid advisers’ report, agreed with St Helena Government negotiators, notes a need for “a thorough analysis of the number of disabled people on island and types of disability/capability issues, linked to levels of disadvantage and vulnerability.”

The findings “will undoubtedly impact” on health and social services planning, it says.

It also says a contract for SHAPE’s services should be continued.

It adds: “Whilst provision for disabled people remains fragmented, we welcome SHG’s recognition of SHAPE as a front-line service delivery agency.”

The government also needs to consult on concerns in the community, it says.

SHG is set to policy on managing disability.

How a gift from a lost tribe helped island jewellery take shape

Close up shot showing "beads" of rolled-up paper, with some of the type still visibleEye-catching paper necklaces link St Helena with a lost tribe of bush people in Botswana. They are based on a piece of jewellery that was passed to the island’s craft enterprise, SHAPE, by Hazel Wilmot, owner of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown. Her father had been a member of an expedition in the 1960s to record the tribe’s disappearing lifestyle. The story is taken up by Hazel’s sister.

map showing Okavango Delta and St Helena, with pictures embeddedCLICK THE MAP for more pictures


A couple of years ago, my brother and I attended the funeral of one of the last of the River Bushmen to roam and live a nomadic life in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

1960s photo shows two men standing in dug-out canoe
river bushmen of the Okavango Delta: 1960s photograph. Click the pic for more

Their existence was well documented by Mr Clive Cowley, in a book recording his search for the remnants of this dying-out tribe.

The man who had died was well known for being the head of his village, deep in the Okavango, where very few foreigners ever went.

It was a sombre affair at the grave side, but the wake was well attended by many friends and long-lost relatives arriving from across the width of Botswana.

The only access was by dug-out canoes, or mokoros, as we call them. Gliding through the crystal clear channels of the meandering waterways, these few villagers gathered honey and wild dates from the palm fringed islands and fished with home-made nets. They lived a peaceful life, living in harmony with ways of nature that sustained their very existence.

Detail of a 1960s newspaper article on the "fabled tribe" of river bushmen
1960s newspaper cutting

At the funeral, I greeted many familiar faces and offered our condolences. During lunch, an elderly lady came up to me and presented a gift of a paper bead necklace. I was intrigued at the beauty and simplicity of the making of it.

She had cut strips of the Ngami Times newspaper (our local weekly newspaper) and rolled them to perfection, glueing them to make a final ball with a clear sealant. I thanked her and told her I would treasure it always.

Knowing that Hazel, my sister on St Helena island, was always looking for ways of helping others with little home industries, I packed this necklace and took it with me to St Helena, for her to give to SHAPE.

I am happy to see that they have perfected the technique, and that today they sell many beautiful necklaces, bracelets and trinkets of all sizes, colours and shapes.

So, the team at SHAPE had been inspired by the gift from Hazel and Daphne, but that was only the start, as LOLLY YOUNG explains.

A group of people sitting round a bowl full of paper for rolling
SHAPE staff and members at their base in Sandy Bay

We had the sample, but Woody (a member of the team) figured out how to make the beads. He cut a large paper triangle and rolled the beads very finely along a toothpick.

Ashley George became the main bead roller – very fast and efficient. Wendy Anthony, who is blind, threads the paper beads with other donated beads and makes the jewellery.

Wendy does the making at home. She also sells at Reading Sports (the biggest annual UK gathering of St Helenians) as a little sideline.

We use any paper. We started using TV guides, because of the colours, such as yellow and pink. Now we re-use glossy wrapping paper, and we are making the beads much smaller for a more sophisticated look.

And Daphne Wilmot has a message to pass on to readers:

By buying one of SHAPE’s necklaces, you will be supporting a whole industry – and helping others with special needs to help themselves.

  • Lolly’s use of Woody’s nickname alone is in keeping with a strong cultural tradition on St Helena. Everyone has a conventional name, but they don’t necessarily have much use for it. Perhaps one day, someone will research the stories behind the names, which are often passed down within families. 

SHAPE:  St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise
SHAPE on Facebook
IN GOOD SHAPE – feature

Jonathan stares at the camera, beak open wide

Keep your distance, please: Jonathan gets some privacy

Jonathan stares at the camera, beak open wide
Oi! I was here first! Jonathan the tortoise, pictured by Guy Gatien

The paddock that has been home to St Helena’s oldest resident for more than 100 years is to be given a makeover. The island’s planning board has given approval for new fencing to protect Jonathan, one of the world’s last surviving Seychelles Giant tortoises, from the attentions of over-intrusive visitors at Plantation House.

Planning board member Vince Thompson said: “The new fencing will do away with the kissing gate which people used to pass through to get a closer look at the Jonathan.  Now they have to stand at a distance.”

Jonathan’s age has been calculated at between 160 and 180, meaning he has already exceeded his life expectancy by at least a decade. Joe Hollins, the island vet, said being swamped by visitors could be “too much” for him.

The planning board also approved a new shelter for St Helena’s donkey sanctuary, and the siting of containers and a sign for a recycling centre to be run by SHAPE, the island charity providing disabled people with work.

FEATURE: Jonathan the tortoise: a slow heart-throb keeps on going
FEATURE: The great survivor: how Jonathan turned out not to be extinct

Recycling centre plans wait to be signed off

Plans for a recycling centre have also been submitted by SHAPE – St Helena’s Active Participation and Enterprise – which provides employment for people with learning difficulties and other disabilities. Permission is needed for containers and signs.

The island’s planning board, which meets on Wednesday, is also considering an application from Solomons for new farrowing pens, and a new donkey shelter for the St Helena Donkey Sanctuary.

SHAPE: St Helena’s Active Participation in Enterprise
Planning board agenda 11 July 2012 (Word document)