Saturday, 31 July 2021

Henley Rotary Club

SINCE she took up her post as Henley town manager on September 1, Helen Barnett has aimed to make contact with all the businesses and organisations in the town.

At the club’s lunchtime meeting at the Red Lion Hotel last week, she enthusiastically set out Henley’s vision to become “the best town in the world to live, run a business, work, play and visit by 2030”.

Ms Barnett, who revealed her late father had been a member of Ascot Rotary Club, said she had always wanted to work in Henley.

She had previously worked with Conde Nast Publications, Kingfisher and, most significantly, as head of the marketing team for the Bracknell regeneration project.

In her 10 years there, she started the Pride of Bracknell awards and was involved in Bracknell in Bloom as well as chairing a Shopmobility committee.

She then worked briefly for Bracknell and Wokingham College before joining the marketing team at Shiplake College, which enabled her to get to know the Henley area well.

Her son, William Legg, plays cricket for Henley Cricket Club (he was the joint winner of the Henley Standard’s John Searby Trophy in 2015) and her daughter is at Gillotts School.

Her position as town manager is full-time, whereas her three predecessors were part-time and called the town centre manager. The post is funded jointly by South Oxfordshire District Council and Henley Town Council.

Ms Barnett works in partnership with the town clerk and the Mayor and, as well as her daytime commitments, she has been organising and attending meetings in the evenings.

Among the many projects she has been working on are:

l Improving all literature issued by the town council as well as its website.

l Launching a tourism week.

l Improved signage.

l Re-organsing the “town team” into smaller groups.

l Reconsidering the provision of wi-fi in the town centre.

l Introducing new parking machines to take the new £1 coins.

l Reviewing all the tourist accommodation possibilities in the town (there were 81 “air bnb” locations registered on the internet).

After a number of questions, the vote of thanks was proposed by John Luker.

Earlier, the meeting had heard about various forthcoming events, including the charity auction at Henley Golf Club on March 14, the district conference in Bournemouth from March 24 to 26, the jazz night at the Christ Church Centre on April 1 and the visit to the link Rotary club in Naestved, Denmark, at the end of May.

At the twilight meeting on Tuesday, secretary Philip Fletcher gave an amusing account of how he and a colleague constructed a cardboard canoe to take part in the now defunct Henley Rotaract Club’s cardboard canoe challenge in 1997.

They won and were banned for entering the next year’s event!

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