The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

As Tony & Jane Rice-Oxley retire as Leaders of the St George’s Youth Club, Tony writes of a few memorial times during the past 17 years in Office...

It seems a long time since we took over the youth club from Jane and Chris Hedges in 1993. We were aided in this entirely new endeavour by Rosemary and Colin Monk and Lesley and Dick Handy. Our own children had left home and I guess that there was a small gap in our lives waiting to be filled. With some parents we attended the meeting in the churchwarden’s front room and,  as we sat on the floor, we found ourselves ‘volunteering’ .

Since those days we think that upward of 300 children have passed through the club with varying degrees of commitment. We carried on with many of the activities begun by Jane and Chris adding many of our own.  Travelling barbeque suppers on bikes and the annual beach party became firm favourites. We introduced the canal boat holidays and Colin began the Fordingbridge weekend trips.

Attendance at church became a regular requirement and since those days youth club has attended every third Sunday (August excepting) and has led many presentations.  I well remember them singing Michael Jackson’s Heal the World on Earth Day and the Christmas hit A Spaceman Came Travelling as well as Mistletoe and Wine. I can remember Lisa and Sarah writing appropriate words to songs and hymns to reflect the theme of the day. This takes my thoughts back to two young tykes joining and being very anti church in their early days.  However after a brief spell we were amazed to see them beautifully dressed in freshly ironed shirts and ready for the Sunday service. Sadly they left soon after as their mother was being harassed by a boyfriend. But some weeks later they rang from what was obviously a phone box and in a whispered voice asked if everyone at youth club was ‘OK’? We were most touched. I wonder where they are now? and do they ever go to church?

Parents have often described their children as quiet, disruptive or nervous, yet at youth club they all seem to settle down and become one of the group. I love the way everyone arrives at an activity weekend beautifully dressed and in no time is covered in mud. How those who are worried about riding their bikes through the New Forest come back with glowing faces, proud of their achievement. The quiet ones who you would never believe could say boo to a goose read the lesson in church in a firm loud voice.

The canal holidays became so popular that one year we had to have three boats. A regular feature was who would fall in next and Tasha Cook was one such victim as she went to grab the safety rail only to find it was a mop handle! Heaving her out in her fleece, which had soaked up the canal water, was quite a feat. The children had to learn how to handle a boat and a lock and received a book with their certificates in as a remembrance of the holiday. I can remember Lenka eating an entire jar of pickled onions and then drinking the juice. Another child told us they really didn’t eat much except crisps and cake. After a day or two of hard work in the open air they ate anything put in front of them! Yet another said ‘I  don’t do washing up at home’ but quickly fell in with everyone else when their turn came on the rota. We took a video camera along and the children would record their observations. They always seemed to include a view through the boat and several close up shots of the toilets! Last week I heard that one particular group of children (now adults in their own right) had had an evening together looking through these old videos.  I do hope that the narrow boating spirit lives on in them and that they manage to introduce their own children to this wonderful life.

We have always been well supported by friends and parents and it would be too much to name all these. Suffice it to say that the current right hand helpers are Jane Cook and Candy and John Williams.

In the early days a trip to the cinema would have been a great event and children really looked forward to it. Nowadays this is old hat as most children have more than ample opportunities to visit the cinema or to watch their favourite films on DVD. So times have changed and so have tastes and we have had to keep up to the mark changing activities as they became old hat and investigating new ones to suit the modern taste! We embarked on the Rock Solid programme to include a religious theme to certain evenings whilst having fun games at the same time.

So all things must come to an end and we have for some time now believed that the time is ripe for someone younger to take on the organisation and leader role. It has been great fun and we would not have missed it for the world. We have had lots of support over the years and remain hopeful for the future of the club.

On a final note we were turned over the sum of  500 when we took over the club and will be placing on deposit in the account at Santander a similar sum at the end of our period of tenure in July. A completed accounts sheet has been produced annually and included in the church accounts and a similar document will be available at the end of July.

This has been a brief and rapid trawl through our times at St George’s Youth Club. The fuller and unexpurgated  version will be available in paperback soon!

A final thanks to all those members of the congregation who have supported Jane and I over the past 17 years.

Tony Rice-Oxley





Festival Edition 2010

St George’s Youth Club