Introducing the WHCA Trustees – Part 5

Over the last few issues of The Whistler we have introduced the current members of the West Hill Community Association management committee (the Trustees) to give you a flavour of who they are, what they do and maybe to inspire you to become one yourself.

In this issue we meet COLETTE WILSON.

I’ve lived in the West Hill area of Brighton since 1992, having moved here from Hastings.

I had studied English & Drama  at Aberystwyth and worked in the theatre for ten years after I left university, but ended up working in the fashion industry. After several years commuting to London from Hastings to work with Country Casuals and, thereafter, with Jaeger, I became the Production Planning Director on the board of the manufacturing division of Jaeger Ladieswear. Those were the good old days when the clothes were made in Jaeger’s own British factories, and my team’s job was to keep them supplied with the orders and the materials so they could work at full capacity. The manufacturing head office was in Burgess Hill and it was more convenient for me to live in Brighton and drive the short distance there instead of the long cross-country journey from Hastings.

Sylvia, my partner, who moved with me from Hastings, joined the WHCA committee in 1993 and was elected Chair. As I was busy travelling around the country visiting factories I did not have much to do with WHCA in those days, but I supported it, and the work Sylvia did for it, from afar. In 1997, I started helping to edit and typeset The Whistler.

1997 saw the demise of the Jaeger factories in Scotland, Plymouth and Burgess Hill as manufacturing was too expensive in this country and I did a splendid job of closing everything down and did myself out of a job! However, West Hill Hall benefited in some small measure as I was able to rescue chairs and tables from the Burgess Hill factory canteen. Those chairs are still in use at the Hall today.

Later in 1997 I returned to commuting to London, this time working for House of Fraser in its Victoria Street head office. I continued the soul-destroying journey up to London every day until 2010, when I gave it all up and started my own retail consultancy business. During those years, the monthly Quiz at the Hall became a regular feature and I started going to it, helping to set it up and serve the drinks. Finding I had slightly more time since I was not commuting full-time any more, in addition to co-editing The Whistler, I joined the WHCA committee in 2012 and offered to become Treasurer and take on the Hall administration and bookings from the departing Hall Manager, Lianne Hall.

After the Association bought the Hall in 1996, the administration had been undertaken by Sylvia and the late Pam Bean on a manual basis: writing letters, posting booking forms, banking cheques, etc. Thank goodness for the internet and email as I now do everything at any hour of the day or evening!

It’s been a wonderful experience working on a voluntary basis for the  Association. I love editing The Whistler and it’s especially gratifying when readers write in to comment about articles and then end up writing their own  articles on all sorts of different subjects. We are really lucky to have our regular contributors, and we are very grateful to the many local businesses which have advertised with us over the years, as the only regular income WHCA receives is advertising revenue and booking fees for the Hall. I was recently chatting to one reader who told me that she always picks out businesses she’s seen advertised in The Whistler when she’s in need of a particular service. The Whistler is now due for an updated layout and we’d really welcome help with some ideas from a graphic designer who is willing to do this on a voluntary basis.

I still prepare, stock up, and serve refreshments at the monthly Quiz which has become more and more popular over the last couple of years. It’s a cracking evening of fiendish fun and friendly faces, and it’s fantastic that we have so many guest Quiz setters. The Christmas Social, hosted by WHCA since 1985, is a lot of work to organise and that’s why we’ve had a break from it this year. But with more volunteers to help set up and serve the food, we’ll be able to stage it again in 2019.

Being a Trustee has been a many and varied experience for me, and it could be for anyone who would like to join us to ensure the Association, the Hall, and The Whistler endures in the future.


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