Ann O’Hara and Myra Sheppard have been chatting to the people in their local communities to bring together all the stories that lifted people’s hearts and made them smile through the bleak winter of isolation.
Contributors include well known Cotswold poet Pam Ayres, children’s poet Juli Frances-Taylor, Bishop Rachel, a lady with Multiple Sclerosis, and a whole range of local people from the shop keeper to the postman.
Ann explains how the idea came to mind. “It was January and through the conversations that I was having I started to realise that people were feeling really down. Not just the usual feeling you get after Christmas, but something different – people were fed up with the long, grey days in lockdown. I would find myself saying to people – “Something has to have made you laugh or cheered you up recently” and I found that reflecting on the good times started to change how people were feeling.
“We were in a PCC meeting, discussing the impact that the lockdown had had on parish finances and the idea came to me that we could fill a book with good things and fun stories, which could cheer other people up. Myra said that she would help, so we set off on this adventure together, to get people to remember good things.”
Myra said, “Both Ann and I have been amazed by the contributions we have received and cannot thank our contributors enough. Without their input, this book would not have happened. We have both been uplifted by the many ways people found joy and solace in so many different ways during difficult and strange times that none of us could have expected to experience. I certainly believe that God has been with us every step of the way and we are thankful for that.”
“One person in the village had been writing up a daily joke on a whiteboard to entertain the children. My husband and I had walked past each day and had a laugh about it, so we asked the lady if we could include the story. It turned out the lady was Julie Francis-Taylor, an amazing poet and had been writing stories and poems for the girl next door and for the school.”
Some of the stories have moved them to tears, such as the work of Kim Paul and her team supporting bereaved parents following baby loss. And some stories have made them laugh a lot, like the story of the Down Ampney Village shop volunteers and the antics of Samson the cat.
Myra and Ann are both school governors and made sure that every child at the local primary school had a chance to contribute to the book. Headteacher Richard Mendum said that the idea for the book fitted in perfectly with the school’s aim to help the children talk about their worries and remember the good times. He told the team, “The children enjoyed presenting their thoughts and memories. It has added to a very settled, happy start to the school reopening.”
The Revd Kim Brown, Vicar of the 5 Villages (Kempsford with Whelford, Castle Eaton, Marston Meysey and Meysey Hampton) said, “It’s a very uplifting book and the wonderful contributions that have been shared have helped to bring the community together even more in a time of hardship. The church is involved in village life, from the food bank to village trails, to Open the Book Bible stories and Prayer Spaces in the school and this is a great way for us to serve and bless our local community.
“This book is one way we can share the beautiful stories of the kindness and humour of the people of Kempsford, Whelford and our surrounding area.”
The book, Collecting Rainbows: moments of joy during the pandemic will be launched at a special event in the village on 9 July,priced at £8 up to and on the launch night and £9.95 thereafter and proceeds will go towards installing a loo in the church building, so that the worshipping community can provide an even warmer welcome to visitors who come for services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, days of remembrance and celebrations like concerts.