More than 1,000 poppies set to go on display at historic former social club

Amanda Stringer and Ruth Brewer with trustees David Todd, Margaret Lashly, Valerie Owen and Bob Francis outside the Westbourne Club. Picture: Sarah Standing (180756-5560)
Amanda Stringer and Ruth Brewer with trustees David Todd, Margaret Lashly, Valerie Owen and Bob Francis outside the Westbourne Club. Picture: Sarah Standing (180756-5560)
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TRUSTEES at a hall steeped in history are calling on the public’s help with a floral Armistice Day display.

Figures behind the Westbourne Club have shared their vision of adorning the structure with a cascade of more than 1,000 bright red knitted poppies for a centenary celebration next month. 

Dubbed Keeping The Home Fires Burning, the fixture on November 10 is not only geared at marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, but highlighting the hall’s role in the conflict. 

The venue, built in 1899, was used as a training gymnasium for local men who fought – as well as a place to recuperate after the dust settled. 

‘In the area between Portsmouth and Chichester, the population has grown so much over the years that many people don’t know about the history on their own doorstep,’ said 54-year-old volunteer Amanda Stringer.

‘But with the First World War centenary coming up, we wanted to bring the whole community together and educate people who don’t know about the history of this club in a creative way.

‘I’m asking any one, of any age, to knit or create a poppy of any size to feature in this display.’ 

Inspired by the Wave sculpture visited by thousands of people at Fort Nelson earlier this year, the poppies created for this project are set to be fastened to a cargo net and united in a cascading fixture outside the hall. 

The day on which they are unveiled will also feature live music and a visit from Nigel Peake – father of the astronaut Tim Peake, from Chichester – with revellers invited to tie a heartfelt message to a loved one with an armed forces connection around the hall’s enclosing fence. 

Mrs Stringer said: ‘I’m glad to say the poppy appeal is taking off on Facebook – we’ve had people pledge to get involved from as far as France and the Isle of Wight. 

‘But we’re not giving up, because we want to make this as amazing as we possibly can.’ 

Having changed use after the First World War, Westbourne Club was known as Westbourne Social Club until the end of last year.

But bound by a deed, the building has always had a generation-spanning board of trustees – who recently reacquired it and have a dream of turning it into a charity to re-cement its significance as a local landmark.

‘This building has always been part of our lives,’ said 74-year-old former parish councillor David Todd, the youngest trustee on the hall’s board.

‘My father used to come here and so did I when I was of a suitable age. 

‘But it is time to give this hall the recognition it deserves and get younger people interested in what it represents. 

‘There is no reason it cannot become the centre of the community again.’ 

Keeping The Home Fires Burning will run from 10am until 3pm on November 10 and poppies should be made by November 6.