The summer holidays have come to an end for UK school children but one last gallery of images should bring back happy memories of the 2014 Reading Sports. Click here to flick through 68 pictures – cheerful and cheeky – of the children’s medal presentations.
Donald – whose brother Brian still lives on St Helena – was one of more than 1,500 people who turned out for the annual UK gathering of Saints and their friends and families.
The organisers have been basking in the success of the event after taking a bold decision to move to a new venue at Reading Abbey Rugby Club.
Vilma Toms, secretary of the St Helena Association, said the high turn-out would mean bigger donations to charities back home.
She said: “It was absolutely brilliant. We had so much positive feedback from everybody.
“First of all, so much more space we had, and the fact that they could party all night should they want to.
“They enjoyed the club house, the disco, everything. It was a real party atmosphere.”
Staff from the rugby club and the inflatable rides were also enthusiastic about the event, said Vilma.
“The bouncy castle people said they’d love to come again because people were friendly and everybody was happy. The people in the rugby club are over the moon. They couldn’t do enough to help us. They just said, ‘The ground is yours, do what you like’.”
There was much more entertainment for children than in previous years, including bouncy castles, an inflatable obstacle course, a rodeo ride, and zorbing – rolling around inside giant transparent balls.
Some of the rides attracted just as many adults as children.
But while the races went ahead as usual – with adults required to run with balloons between their legs in the egg and spoon event – one traditional fixture was missing.
No one was willing to put up a team against the defending tug o’war champions, who were awarded the winners’ crate of beer without having to pull for it.
Perhaps they were all too busy zorbing.
Attendance was up on 2013, with about 1,100 paying adults and an estimated 500 children.
“More people were camping as well, so the party atmosphere started on Saturday and carried all the way through until three o’clock on Monday morning,” said Vilma.
Nick Stevens, who had travelled to the UK with the island’s Commonwealth Games team, manned the Enterprise St Helena stall, encouraging Saints to consider returning home to help build a new economy.
In the case of Pamela Ward Lees, departing chair of the Friends of St Helena, no persuasion was needed: she and partner Andy were at the sports to say farewell to friends before heading out to settle in Longwood (and make cakes).
The event itself took place in brilliant sunshine, but those who stayed on until bank holiday Monday had to take their tents down in heavy rain.
Hundreds of pictures were posted on Facebook by Paul George and official photographers Jessica Osborne and Emily Braden.
The association is supporting the same island charities as last year, including the arts and crafts group, the family support group and Father Dale Bowers’ fund for vulnerable people.
Ronnie Benjamin Joshua: What an absolutely fantastic bank holiday weekend!!! Thank you all, a whole bunch of lovely family and friends in one place!
David Peters: What a great day on Sunday. Reading sports day was fantastic. Many thanks to the organisers St Helena Association for a great job and great venue. Clean toilets, plenty of parking, friendly staff, and most of all, so good to see so many familiar faces. It’s like a day of an analogue version of Facebook. Thanks for re-uniting us with long lost friends and relatives.
Patrick George: Thank you St Helena Association for making it all happen. I know a lot of blood, sweat, tears and possibly sleepless nights went into the preparation. It was my first time ever and I feel like I made history for myself. Met old school friends, family and people I didn’t know except they knew my late parents Eric and Ivy George.
Monica Yon: I would like to say a huge thank you to the St Helena Association for all their hard work and making such a wonderful entertaining day for all of us. I thoroughly enjoyed it and meeting everyone, well most people as I miss so many I would have love to chat and laugh with. Such a lovely turn-out too, and great location. Thank you.
Carryn Jones: Another fantastic weekend that was well worth the long drive from Aberdeen. Love the new venue!! Thoroughly enjoyed catching up with friends and family.
Ursula Harris: I would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to the St Helena Association for all the hard work that went into organising another memorable Sports Day.
Rio Duncan-Prasetyo: Thank you for an awesome long weekend! The foods, music, sports, hospitality….and the weather (how lucky). The committee are friendly, helpful and hard working. The Reading Rugby club staff – thank you so much for welcoming us.
Joanne Tori Bowers: Had a wonderful day at Reading Sport. St Helena Association always do their best to make our sports day special and great job for making everyone come together. Unfortunately that was my last sports day but it has been really good for all the years I have been going and good luck in future (Joanne is returning home).
Trevor Toms: Big thanks to the few people who help us – Renee and Rio Prasetyo and Larry Hudson for running the sports events – what a brilliant job they did. Thanks also to Felicity Walters, Darlene Peters, Lorraine Duncan and Pat Harris for helping us on the day. Special thanks to James Miller for all his help and enthusiasm. Grateful thanks also to Leon Miller for all his help. Thanks to Phil and Paul for the entertainment on Saturday night, and to Phil for the amazing disco on Sunday night – loved the lights and the smoke – cool!!. Thanks to the Brooks Brothers and Sawdust for giving us great entertainment in the clubhouse.
The St Helena Association decided to move the annual UK gathering of Saints after 34 years of hosting it at Reading Rugby Club’s ground in Sonning.
The new venue at Abbey Rugby Club in nearby Emmer Green will allow celebrations to carry on into the early hours of the morning.
It also offers cheaper bar prices, better catering facilities, and access to toilets and showers through the night.
The association’s St Helena Day Dance has been booked for the same venue for Saturday 24 May 2014.
Interestingly, 24 May was celebrated as Empire Day in the UK between 1904 and 1958 – marking the birthday of Queen Victoria.
SEE ALSO: Reading Sports in pictures
Petrina Williams, the first ever island-educated St Helenian qualify as a doctor, is contemplating returning home to practise in Jamestown.
But even after five years of university study and another five in training in the UK, she says will still have to acquire new skills if she’s to work somewhere as isolated as St Helena.
“I’m going to have to practise medicine in all fields, which is very different to this country,” Petrina tells St Helena Online in an interview recorded earlier this year.
“It will be good to go back and see what I need to specialise in.”
Emergency medicine is one key area where she feels she needs more experience. “I’ve only done about six months of that, so I think I’m going to need more.”
She will also need to draw on her knowledge of diabetes. The incidence of the disease on St Helena is higher than anywhere in Europe, and almost the highest in the world. The most recent figures available said there were 570 cases on the island, in a population of just over 4,000 people.
“Prevention is better than cure and that’s where we need to start from,” she says. “If we treat their diabetes right, we won’t have to cut off their leg.”
Click here to listen to the full interview – recorded at the annual Reading Sports in the UK.
More than 500 pictures of the annual Saint gathering have now been posted on the St Helena Association website. Richard Bennett’s shots capture the action in the races at Reading Sports, as well as the fun on the bouncy castles and rodeo rides. There are also pictures of Saints enjoying the Enterprise St Helena video link with the island. High-quality copies of Richard’s pictures can be bought through the website, here.
SEE ALSO: Reading Sports in pictures and interviews – St Helena Online
Enterprise St Helena is inviting people on the island to book two-minute slots to send greetings to family and friends overseas via the video link on Sunday 26 August 2012.
For a second year, Saint FM will also be relayed to the sports and broadcasting interviews transmitted from the event – this time, it is hoped, with help from St Helena Online.
The link is being organised by IT expert Johnny Clingham, who will also be covering the event for the St Helena Community website.
Matt Joshua of Saint Connect has travelled from St Helena to attend the sports and meet people who are interested in returning home to the island. He will have information about investment, business and job opportunities.
He will also be showing films of the arrival on the island of the Basil Read ship, and construction of the workers’ camp at Bradleys, made by the St Helena Broadcasting Corporation.
Nigel Kirby of the Department for International Development will also be at the sports to talk about the airport.
The sports are organised by the St Helena Association and take place at Reading Rugby Club in Sonning.
Association president Owen George MBE says in his annual report: “As the older members will know we first started with the title Saints Mini Sport, and with a change of committee it became St Helena Sports Day.
“But in truth, beyond any doubt it has become The Saints Relatives and Friends Reunion Day, which to my mind is a very, very important event for people to renew old and make new acquaintancesat the same place, same day, same time each year.
“Saints in Ascension, the Falklands and wherever they may be, arrange their UK holidays to meet on this nostalgic occasion, and you cannot get any better than that.”
The event has been raising money for good causes on the island for more than 30 years.
Visit the association website for full details, including comments praising last year’s event.
See pictures of the 2011 sports, by Richard Bennett, here.
Saints attending the annual Reading Sports day in the UK will be encouraged to consider moving back to St Helena to be part of its hoped-for economic transformation.
Matthew Joshua of the Saint Connect project is heading for UK to attend the Bank Holiday weekend event, run by the St Helena Association.
All are welcome at the session between noon and 6pm at Longs Bar in Victoria Road, Old Town. Appointments can be booked by emailing email@example.com, or by leaving a message on the Saint Connect Facebook page.
Attracting St Helenians back to the island is seen as vital to its economic transformation: either to fill skilled jobs in the tourism industry once its airport opens in 2015, or to set up businesses to help establish a private sector economy.
The island’s Sustainable Development Plan says: “Retaining our smartest and brightest has been difficult in the face of better employment prospects overseas.
“The island wants to create the environment for a large number of Saints, who have gone overseas to try and improve their quality of life, to come home. Improving the standards of living, through real wage growth and better public services, is vital.
“St Helena can make itself a more attractive place to live by building an economy with real prospects for the people living here to make a better life for themselves.”
Enterprise St Helena has warned that Saints need to seize the opportunities presented by the airport before outsiders move in.
Another reason why Saints will not return is they have a better life in the UK and elsewhere. Employment protection; equal pay; Freedom of Information; health & safety. Why give up all of these to come back?
– John Turner, St Helena
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