‘It‘s basically hairdressers, nail salons, charity shops and cafes...’ How the Waterlooville Events Team is working to breathe life back into the town centre

Made up of volunteers, The Waterlooville Events Team are working to bring the town centre back to life. Chairman Jackie Buckley is fourth in from the left. Picture: Malcolm Wells (180911-2547)
Made up of volunteers, The Waterlooville Events Team are working to bring the town centre back to life. Chairman Jackie Buckley is fourth in from the left. Picture: Malcolm Wells (180911-2547)

It is a team of dedicated and hardworking volunteers who are passionate about bringing a much-loved town centre back to life in the way it deserves. 

Encouraging people to visit Waterlooville as businesses pack up and empty shops can be seen in most parts of the precinct is not an easy task.

Wellington Way, Waterlooville town centre. Picture: Keith Woodland

Wellington Way, Waterlooville town centre. Picture: Keith Woodland

But by using their tagline ‘Building a Community for our Town’ and organising a whole host of events, the Waterlooville Events Team is not giving up in its goal to make the place vibrant again.

Jackie Buckley, chairman of the group, said: ‘We have 25 core members - all unpaid volunteers - who work to bring Waterlooville back to life.  

‘The town centre is basically hairdressers, nail salons, charity shops and cafes, with a couple of dress shops thrown in. 

‘There has to be a reason for people to come into Waterlooville which is why we host events, because even if it’s just a car boot sale, if someone visits and discovers there is a jewellers a hairdresser they didn’t know about - they might return. 

Tony Spaghetti entertained children at the Waterlooville Summer Fete in August

Tony Spaghetti entertained children at the Waterlooville Summer Fete in August

'We find ways of bringing people together.’ 

READ MORE: Here’s what the council’s vision for the future of Waterlooville town centre looks like 

The group started years ago as part of the Waterlooville Community Forum. When that disbanded the events team continued and four years ago Jackie, previously chief executive of charity Relate Portsmouth and district, was asked to be chairman. 

She added: ‘We created a new Waterlooville Events Team and it's blossomed with all the extra things we do now. 

‘It’s been a fantastic challenge because nothing was really in place then. People thought we’d last six months, so we had to battle and show we were serious and would work. 

‘The business meetings we held lost their momentum so we switched things up and involved the community. At the first meeting in the library this year about 20 people turned up, we advertised a lot, and at the second in October – I couldn’t even get in the room. 

‘About 160 people were there to discuss the future of Waterlooville with Councillor Tim Pike and it threw everyone. 

‘Waterlooville has been at the bottom of the pile because it doesn’t shout, you look at Hayling Island, and Emsworth, they’ve got proper communities. The hope is the meetings we’re running will give us that voice. 

The group can call upon another 15 volunteers to help out. It puts on a host of events throughout the year for the community, like a classic car event and an arts trail involving schools.

It has been supported funding-wise by ward councillors, Hampshire County Council, sponsorships, grants and the Havant Community Lottery.  

Jackie said the pancake race and classic car events used to be run by Havant Borough Council, which pulled out due to funding issues.  

‘I can understand why the council pulled out because the events are expensive but if you want something to happen you’ve got to get involved - you can’t always blame councils,’ Jackie added. 

‘Critical services are more important than whether we have a pancake. We didn’t have the capacity to put them on last year but this year we did, the council has supported us behind-the-scenes and the events have been very successful. 

‘This year 3,000 people attended our summer fete, a lot of hard work went into it and the community definitely enjoyed it.’ 

Jackie will step down as chairman in January 2020. She said one of the team’s best projects is the community cinema, run by volunteer Petra Harris. 

‘She’s done a fantastic job,’ Jackie added. 

‘When we first started, we had to hire equipment, find a venue - it was expensive. 

‘Six months down the line we managed to attract funding from Hampshire County Council and we bought the equipment, and Petra has between 40 and 70 to each showing.

‘Times are changing and town centres are never going to be as they were, but we are making a difference.’ 

EVENTS

Christmas event – November 17

Music and entertainment from 12pm with a lantern procession at 4.30pm from the south end of London road, led by Horndean Band. Sing-along around the Christmas tree and lights switch-on by the Mayor of Havant, Cllr Peter Wade, at 5.15pm

Santa’s Grotto – December 8 – December 23

A winter wonderland for children at Waterlooville Library. Elves will deliver wrapped gifts for £2 per child. Visit Father Christmas in his house built by the Waterlooville Men’s Shed. Saturdays 10am-3pm, weekdays 10am-12pm, 10am, December 20 and 21 10am-2pm

Pancake race – March 5, 2019

Businesses take over the town centre and run up and down with pancakes, competing

Party in the Precinct – May 18, 2019

For the first time a carnival atmosphere will take over the town centre. There'll be music, games, races and more and the event will be fancy dress

Car boot sales – Spring 2019

Held in the town on the first Sunday of every month, running up until winter 

Bandstand – Spring 2019

Performers entertain shoppers in the bandstand in the town centre on Saturdays. Bands and solo artists can perform as well as schools, until September

Classic Car Event – July 20, 2019

A display of classic cars sees Waterlooville come alive with music to jive to 

Waterlooville Music Festival – June 8-16, 2019

At St George’s Church. Daytime concerts are free of charge. Music in the town centre on June 8

Waterlooville Arts Trail - June-July, 2019

Schools and businesses pair up and pupils display their artwork in town centre shops. Havant Borough Council draws up a map of shops where art is displayed

Waterlooville Summer Fete – August 17, 2019

An event for the family at Jubilee Park. Fun, games, stalls, activities and more

Waterlooville in Bloom - Throughout the summer

Town centre businesses compete for the best flower display. It was won in August by Phone Repair Doctor

Visit weteam.org for more information