As I have mentioned in some of my previous articles, I have been associated with the Leisure Centre since 1989, when as Secretary of Littleport Town Football Club I wrote to the Parish Council asking for a new sports pitch for the football and cricket club, as the owners of Highfield were not allowing us to renew our lease on the old Highfield sports field. Since those early days when under the Chairmanship of Grenville Goodson, a working Committee was formed to look into the feasibility of not just a sports field, but a fully equipped Sports & Leisure Centre, there have been many people who have given their time and expertise to the Leisure Centre and I would like to reflect upon some of these people and what they did.
The First Chairman was Grenville Goodson, who chaired the first meetings and helped form several working subcommittees, Grenville was followed by Andy Wright, who was the driving force behind what we have now. Andy spent numerous hours with Council Committees and with Council Officers putting together a proposal for the funding for this building and fields. Andy was supported by what was then called “The Gang of Four” which was Andy, John Crane, Jane Binks and Mick Willett. These four were the decisions makers, so that changes were not held-up by waiting for the next Committee meeting, all major decisions were presented to the Committee for their views, but the “Gang of Four” had the authorisation to implement changes that needed a quick answer.
This Gang of Four were well supported by a string of Committee members, who all played a big part in helping to implement the decisions which resulted in what we have now. Many of you will remember Dennis Thurling; Dennis was the Committee Treasurer and unless we could have secured the services of the Governor of the Bank of England, we could not have had a better money man. Dennis looked after every penny and ensured that correct records were kept for anyone to inspect. We also had the services of Ron Bamber or as some referred to him as Tannoy Mouth. Ron was the public voice of the leisure centre, he would broadcast all updates on the project at every opportunity mostly on his hand-held tannoy or at any venue that had a microphone.
I cannot list all the Committee members, but I must mention one last member of the original Committee and that is Norman South. Norman (now in his eighties) was and still is one of Littleport’s most famous sporting son’s. Norman played County level football, cricket, table-tennis and badminton, and apart from supporting Charlton Athletic, Norman’s views on sport are well respected.
Norman was responsible along with a couple of other people for the range of sporting activities and facilities which we have in this current building. I for one hope that Norman will enjoy the new centre and continue to support it.
Following Andy Wright as Chairman came one of the most respected men in Cambridgeshire football, and that was Mick North, I was lucky to have known Mick for many years as a football referee and County Competition Secretary with the County FA. Mick loved the leisure centre and he would drop down and have a little chat with me and other members of staff nearly every day.
Mick was a great motivator and he would make everyone feel at home within the centre. He would listen to everyone’s views and suggestions and he liked nothing better than to give one of the Duty Managers a night off so that he could be the Duty Manager and form a closer relationship with members. Unfortunately Mick’s reign as Chairman was tragically cut short when he died in a car accident on Christmas Eve 1999.
Following Mick’s death, Brian Hayes, who was a serving committee member was asked to take over the reins. Brian was a very meticulous person who was on numerous committees within the district and whilst not a sporting person, Brian put a great deal of his time and efforts in securing the funding required to upgrade our smaller sports hall, making it a better venue for music and theatre.
It was also under Brian’s leadership that the Fitness suite had its first major refit along with a dedicated sports manager.
When Brian stepped down in 2004 we then had a period of instability with several Chairmen stepping in and due to many personal reasons we were changing the Chair on a fairly regular basis, but every person who took the Chair, added something to the centre and their efforts have been much appreciated by staff and members.
During this period, there was one constant, and that was Committee Secretary, Elaine Ellis. Elaine first joined our Committee in 1997 as the representative for the Scouts and Guides, but Elaine through her dedication and loyalty to the centre has been supporting us for approx. 19 years, not only has Elaine been a very efficient secretary and minute taker, she has also helped out at busy social events, been Chief Marshall at the annual 10K run and it was Elaine who kept me company biking around the village in the pouring rain mapping out the route for this well received race. She has also been responsible for obtaining the Centre sponsorship from some local companies.