New steps for extra safety at St Mary's

Last year the choir was informed that in order to comply with St Mary's new Health & Safety policy we needed to make it possible to cross our staging and get into the chancel in order to use a door from the vestry that has now been designated as an emergency exit. At Christmas we tried an adaptation using our existing staging by moving the ramp to the back of the staging but whilst it satisfied one problem, it created others and we assured the church that we would provide steps to access the chancel.

We got a price for them which, whilst reasonable considering what was required, was going to take a significant chunk from our reserves and the choir was warned that we may need either to ask them for donations or organise some fund-raising activities (not popular with our already busy choir members) However, we also looked for organisations to whom we could apply for a grant to help us but most of the bodies we looked at as a possible source only gave much larger sums than we needed, or had a decision date that was too late for us to apply to be sure of getting the steps in time for our concert, or we did not fit their criteria for grants. We applied to one knowing that we had only a tenuous claim and although we were refused, they were so sympathetic to our claim that they said that if necessary we could ask them to support an application elsewhere. Then someone suggested the Richmond Town Council. We sumbmiited an application and it went before their Donations Committee in March

Our Chair Judy Moorhouse and Publicity Officer Janet Hall were invited to attend the Donations Committee meeting to put our case and we explained what we needed and why we needed it and answered all their questions about what we did and how we benefitted the town and its residents etc. The result was that they agreed to give the sum we asked for which covered most of the cost of the steps which we were able to order almost immediately with just enough time to be confident of having them before the concert.

Knowing we would have our steps, we invited Richmond Town Mayor Stuart Parsons and Lay Chair of St Mary's PCC Gillian Lunn to come and give them a formal opening on the day of our concert once the staging was up. Both Stuart and Gillian have been incrediably supportive of the Choral Society and we were delighted to have them at our concert that evening as well, especially as Gillian both opened and closed the evening with words of support.

We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the Richmond Town Council for their generous donation towards these steps as without them we would either have had to change the choir's repertoire and singing style or find a different venue from St Mary's, neither of which would have been in the choir's best interests.

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