Cotswolds Charity Campaigner Lucy Greaves
PUBLISHED: 13:35 31 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013
Colin Dyer meets the woman who has gathered a formidable force of fund-raising funds around her.
Lucy Greaves is a woman who is right at the heart of all things Cotswolds. Not only because she lives deep in the countryside, as she has for the last forty years, but because in that time she has become a focus for the social life of the community.
A redoubtable charity campaigner Lucy has organised countless events in the area from glamorous balls and golf days to comedy evenings. Not to mention her fabled Christmas and Summer fairs which attract visitors from across the region in their hundreds and their thousands. Over the last 20 years these fairs have become an essential part of the Cotswold social calendar, gaining momentum, support and social standing, and raising increasing sums for worthwhile causes.
Around Lucy have gathered an indomitable band of Cotswold women -friends of friends who have come together to do what they can to give something back to the community. They give generously of their time and money and what they have achieved together over the years is remarkable. Lucy tots up that she and her friends have raised a cool million for good causes, and the cause closest to her heart is WellChild - the national charity for sick children, which is based in Cheltenham.
Lucy lives with her husband and four strapping sons on the outskirts of the village of Chadlington in a stately Victorian farmhouse which could be a tourist advertisement for Cotswolds living. On the fine spring morning I visit, daffodils poke through manicured lawns and the sun teases honey from the Cotswold stone. We're just a short canter on horseback down verdant lanes from Adlestrop where the poet Edward Thomas once sat becalmed in his steam train, listening to the song of all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Sitting in the high ceilinged kitchen as light floods in through the windows Lucy explains how the Summer and Christmas fairs slowly grew to become as much a part of Cotswold life as the Aga in the corner.
Lucy was first inspired to fundraise for charity 24 years ago when she organised a cricket themed ball to aid Ethiopian famine relief and she has not looked back. Next came various balls, which blossomed into markets, as friends realised they could make even more money for charity by selling things at the events.
Later she moved to supporting WellChild - as her own family grew and, like all mums and dads, she became focused on children.
"I was drawn to the idea of helping children. I have four children of my own and they were young when I first started doing this. They have been brilliant and helped out a lot over the years with everything we do and they have now grown up and do things for charity themselves."
The Christmas fairs were first held by Lucy in her home, then in a marquee in the grounds and later they outgrew that too, moving first to Lyneham golf club and now to Rissington Business Park. Now the fair is held in two 100 foot marquees. There are more than seventy stalls and more than a thousand people come through the doors during its two day run. The summer fair was a later addition. It is on a similar scale and currently attracts more than 500 visitors - with that number growing year on year.
Both events boast an expansive food market and all manner of stalls including women's men's and children's clothes, and accessories, items for the home and seasonal items such as Christmas decorations in the winter and garden gear in the summer.
There will be a pig roast at the summer event this year, said Lucy, plus an emphasis on vintage clothes and accessories. French cider will be on sale and a jazz band playing.
"We are also doing discounted designer wear for those who find themselves credit crunched," she said.
The people who attend the fairs are a mix of all sorts of local people and some visitors to the area, said Lucy, but she is very clear who the core supporters of her events are.
"It's ladies who lunch!" said Lucy with a laugh, "Smart 35 - 45 year old women (you could say Yummy Mummies) who come along and meet their friends for coffee at the fair then have lunch, do some shopping and look around the gardens. It's just great fun."
"People from the Cotswolds are hugely generous both with their time and with charitable donations," she said. "They are wonderful supporters of charity in this area - though we could always do with some more sponsorship for the fairs."
For the past few years the summer fair has been held in the beautiful Bourton House at Bourton-on-the-Hill, a huge Queen Anne house with an exquisite tithe barn in the grounds and spectacular views.
Lucy knows the property well, because growing up as a teenager, it was her family home.
"I was aged around 17 when it was my family home. My father bought it without my mother ever seeing it!"
One of her happy many memories of the house is when a film crew descended to make the movie of Henry Fielding's bawdy novel Joseph Andrews with actors like Jim Dale, Michael Hordern, Ann-Margaret and Beryl Reid in tow.
"It was great fun because they came and virtually lived with us for two or three weeks," she said.
The current owner of Bourton House is Mrs Monique Paice, one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated of the ladies who help with the fundraising effort for WellChild. Her hard work on the historic gardens at the house have made them a magnet for enthusiasts - you can see them on a pre booked trip and but tickets to the summer fair come with a chance to look around them.
"Monique is a wonderfully kind and generous lady," said Lucy. "She had always been a visitor to my fairs and I approached her for help. She is also very involved with our Christmas fair - she's very hands on and really wants to help make it all a great success."
These days Lucy's committee of twenty glamourous, trendy and dynamic women organise the fairs with the precession and professionalism demanded of such big complex events. And more women come along to help with all the hard work the events entail.
"I get a huge amount of help from lots of supporters, both young and old. They pitch in, not just doing the nice jobs but all sorts like setting up, clearing away and serving the drinks! - these are the unsung heroes."
"They come from all over the Cotswolds they are wonderful people and we really appreciate them. It is all women - there are twenty of us on the committee - but we would really love to have some men too. I am lucky to have people on my committees with a wide range of skills who do an extremely good job. It's a team effort, with everybody doing their bit."
Currently they are all working hard on the Summer fair in June - which Lucy hopes will be the best yet.
"It has become one of the society events of the summer," she said. "It's the absolutely typical Cotswold mix of lovely countryside and lovely people."
The Summer Fair takes place at Bourton House, Bourton-on-the-Hill on Wednesday June 3 from noon onwards and on Thursday June 4 from 10am until 4pm.
WellChild is the national charity for sick children. It has its headquarters in Cheltenham but helps seriously ill children and their families throughout the UK.
The charity's mission is to reach as many children and young people as it can - year after year.
It is not limited to a single illness but tries to offer help to sick children whatever they are suffering from as they deal with the consequences of serious illness and complex conditions.
WellChild focuses on care, support and research and its involvement in so many different aspects of children's health makes it unique.
The dedicated team of WellChild Children's Nurses works with sick children and their families across the country.
These specialist nurses help to ensure children with complex needs can leave hospital and return home. They are vital in the prevention of frequent re-admissions.
WellChild Children's Nurses carry out wide ranging work which includes: helping the child get home from hospital and back to their family, making sure the family gets regular respite time, arranging for carers to help with feeding, organising new equipment for children and supporting through bereavement.