Tuesday, 19 September 2017
THE new organiser of Henley’s Poppy Appeal gave this year’s launch a little extra “pizzazz”.
Annie Arscott had dyed her hair red specially for the occasion and she danced with Royal British Legion official John Green as ukulele players performed some old favourite songs in Market Place on Saturday.
She said: “I thought it was great fun. Everyone was full of enthusiasm and it was so infectious. It gave the whole thing a real community spirit.
“I had that red flash put in my hair a couple of days before just to provide that bit of pizzazz.”
Mrs Arscott, whose eldest son James, 25, is in the Royal Marines, is taking over from Shirley Lees who will step down as organiser after this year’s appeal after four years.
It was the fifth year running that musicians led by Sam Brown, from Sonning Common, had performed at the launch, which passers-by gathered to watch. Their set included You Are My Sunshine, Some Bright Morning, Jolene, Ghost Riders in the Sky and Bad Moon Rising.
They also sang Happy Birthday to one of the crowd of spectators.
The musicians took a break while Henley Mayor Julian Brookes bought the first poppy from Mr Green, chairman of the Royal British Legion’s Henley and Peppard branch.
The Mayor, who is a former engineering officer in the Royal Navy, said: “The Poppy Appeal is very important because it is supporting ex-servicemen and their families. There are about six million individuals who qualify for support from the Legion so it’s a worthwhile cause. Please give generously.”
Alex Manning, one of the ukulele players, read a poem called For Remembrance.
He said: “I must confess that, no matter how many times I read it, both in private and in public, I have great difficulty in keeping myself together in the last verse.”
Mr Green and town councillor Martin Akehurst were both selling poppies while dressed in First World War uniforms and danced to the music.
Mr Green said: “It was a wonderful way to remind the local community that it’s the time of the Poppy Appeal again.
“Behind the fun, jollity and good humour there’s a very serious intention.
“The fact is there are many thousands of family members, ex-servicemen and women who need help.
“To launch in such a lovely community-centred way speaks volumes for the generosity of the Henley community and their ability to rise to the cause.”
Mr Lees said: “This event has become one of the highlights of the Henley calendar.
“We want to express our gratitude to the people of Henley who are consistently very generous towards the Poppy Appeal and towards the wonderful welfare work done by the Royal British Legion for both serving servicemen and for veterans.”
Mrs Arscott, 55, a former lawyer, said: “There’s a huge amount of work and effort that goes into supporting the appeal and there are lots of people who volunteer to sell poppies and go house to house.”
She lives in Fair Mile, Henley, with her husband Simon. The couple have another son, Oliver, 23, who is studying medicine at Manchester University, and a daughter Beth, 20, who is studying fine art at Oxford Brookes.
Mrs Arscott said she became interested in becoming the Poppy Appeal organiser after meeting Mrs Lees at Henley Tennis Club.
“I thought how tremendously interesting it all sounded,” she said. “It’s not a job to take on lightly and I’m going to have some big boots to fill with Shirley leaving.
“I’m not working at the moment and it’s a really nice way to get involved in the Henley community.”
Mrs Arscott said she hoped to give the branch a greater online presence and fund-raise over and above the usual remembrance period.
Henley’s service of remembrance will be held in Market Place at 11am on Sunday, November 13.
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