Wymondham Magazine lettering

Q&A With Georgette Vale

Gill Harle Published: 01 February 2024

Facebook iconTwitter iconWhatsApp icon
Lady in bright jumper waves with market cross in background

Wymondham has a wealth of opportunities for getting involved in local community events as a volunteer. This month we talk to Georgette Vale, a familiar face around town, who has fully taken advantage of what’s on offer. Georgette’s husband, Tony Vale, is also an active member of the Wymondham community, and they have even set up organisations for local people. Here Georgette tells us about these activities and how she never has time to get bored.

How long have you lived in Wymondham and what do you like about living here?

We moved here in March 1997 - 26 years ago - and I loved Wymondham as soon as I came here. We decided to move here because of Tony’s job at the time and I managed to get a job in the same area. We moved from Bedfordshire, though I was brought up in Southeast London and worked in France for a while as my mother’s family are French. I later went to Suffolk for my profession - I’m a rehabilitation officer for visually impaired people, specialising in deaf-blind, and was offered secondment in Suffolk in 1985, and that’s where I met Tony.

I like the small-town ethos of Wymondham and the fact that when you walk around town, you keep meeting people you know. I’m a great believer in ‘life is what you make it’, so if you go out and involve yourself with things, you’ll soon get to know other people.

What are the events and activities you’re involved in and why did you choose them?

The first thing I sought out when I came to Wymondham was the local drama group, Wymondham Players, because I was brought up doing drama with my parents.

Lady dressed in vintage clothing with prayer book

We also started up Wymondham and Attleborough Talking Newspaper for visually impaired people. Tony was involved in the Stowmarket Talking Newspaper when I met him, and as my day job is in sensory impairment that’s how I met him originally. The Wymondham and Attleborough Talking Newspaper is still going (and still needs funding), and that’s something we’re still very much at the forefront of organising. It didn’t exist before, although the Lions’ Club were thinking about doing it. Those were the main things I was involved with at first.

I’ve always loved history and wildlife, so I joined WyNG (Wymondham Nature Group) and Wymondham Heritage Society (WHS) who run the Museum and organise talks which take place in Fairland Hall. I now organise the speakers for that and for u3a as well.

Even when I was working full time I had lots of hobbies and interests. I was chair of Norfolk Quilters for a time - but then I changed jobs and had to go to London quite often so some things fell by the wayside. I’m still working part time, one day a week at the moment, but when I ended up doing less of the day job, I could take on more hobbies. It was 20 years ago that I got on the WI (Women’s Institute) Speakers’ List to give talks about 3d fabric flowers which I had developed as an offshoot of the quilting. I did about one talk a month at that time.

Then in 2011 someone suggested that the story of Lucilla Reeve would make a good play. That’s the story of the eviction of villages in Norfolk to create the battleground training area during the Second World War. I read up on it and worked it into a solo performance. It was the first live history talk I did. I now have nine different characters and I get my drama and history kicks out of doing those performances. I do at least one of those a week, so that’s my second job now. I also do guided tours of Wymondham and I have groups that book that. I sometimes get asked to do it in French. I also do a live history of Ethel Gooch as a guided tour.

Since I became semi-retired in 2015, I got involved with the u3a and became Secretary. I am now the speaker seeker. Tony started the u3a in Wymondham as a way of using the North Wymondham Community Centre long before we were able to join as you have to be retired or semi-retired to join. When mum moved up here she joined. It has now outgrown North Wymondham and meetings are at Central Hall. You can come along to a coffee morning on a Thursday to find out more. I now run several groups - Ancestry and Astronomy, and French groups by Zoom. My mum originally ran the French groups but she’s 91 now, although she still takes part. Tony organises some groups as well, including visiting other towns in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In springtime I get heavily involved with Toadwatch. I enjoy doing that because it’s something for nature that is practical. I firmly believe that humans have no right to put other species into extinction and driving our cars around is likely to do that. Toads migrate back to their ponds in springtime to mate and they come out at dusk when the weather conditions are just right for them, so it’s difficult to know when to get the volunteers in the right place at the right time to get the toads safely across the road. There are specific places where we do this. Sadly some of the sites go into decline as other new sights appear. We found a new site at Carleton Forehoe last year, and Wramplingham Road is our biggest site. We also have quite a few at Wicklewood where we get a good turnout of Toaders. I sort the rotas and put the reports into Toadwatch each night which later go onto Frog Life.

Lady dressed in vintage clothing with abbey in background

I also get involved in crafts and did the Nativity set display with Jaqui Horton when she was the Methodist minister for five years. I’ve now worked that up into a talk which I do as well.

And I’m involved in the Town Team. This is rather like an umbrella organisation of volunteers to assist with events such as Wynterfest or Vintage Day. We are looking at different strategies for the future, but we badly need more volunteers to take leading responsibilities to make sure things happen.

What recommendations do you have for others who want to get involved in volunteering and what level of commitment do you need?

Organisations which need volunteers do rely on commitment – volunteers that will turn up when they say they will. However, you can get a lot out of being a volunteer. If you feel you’re getting bored, then get out and do something. Boredom doesn’t exist in my life! There are an awful lot of things you can get involved in in Wymondham. There's the Town Guide which comes out annually with all organisations listed. It’s available from the Town Council Offices. Also look at the Facebook pages for Wymondham – there are quite a lot – where you can find out what goes on. The Town Council is looking at coordinating volunteering in Wymondham. Watch this space.

How can people find out about upcoming Heritage and u3a talks and theatre performances?

I put them in the What’s On section of this magazine and post on Facebook groups. The next Wymondham Players production will be “Waiting in the Wings” by Noel Coward, 24th to 27th April at Central Hall. We were the first Amateur Dramatic Society in the country to do an audio description for visually impaired people and we will be doing it for this one too.

Facebook iconTwitter iconWhatsApp icon

Read our February E‑Edition in full:

Latest issue