A bereaved mother is demanding that the organisers of the Lancashire Best Kept Village competition put the record straight and make a formal apology after a judges’ report criticised a memorial area created in memory of her son, Christopher Curwen.
Karen Bradley and her family were devastated to read the report detailing the judges’ verdict on the Wyre village of Stalmine.
It noted: “The car park and fence at the football club were a big let down, particularly the memorial area at the rear of the club in memory of a young player.”
To add to the family’s grief the report was recently printed in the parish newsletter and posted on Stalmine Parish Council’s website and noticeboard.
Distraught Karen, of Bradley’s Park Farm, Burned House Lane, Preesall, is now demanding a formal apology from all concerned.
The report has now been removed from the parish council website and village noticeboard.
She says the memorial area at Wyre Villa’s ground, off Hallgate Lane, is well cared for and much appreciated by Christopher’s friends,family members and club members, who value it as a quiet place to go for reflection.
Christopher, a sports coaching student at UClan, died in September, 2010, from lymphoma. The former pupil of St Aidan’s School, Preesall, had been a popular member of Wyre Villa FC, whom he first joined when he was 15. Many friends contributed to the cost and creation of the Chris Curwen Memorial Area. Opened just over a year after his death, it features a table, paving and seating and is situated near the footpall pitch, surrounded by black railings.
Karen, near to tears, said she was shocked when she opened her edition of the Stalmine St James’ Parish News – which her mother delivers – a few days ago.
She said: “I was mortified. I think I must have stood there with my mouth open. We had to read it a few times for it to sink in. My reaction was ‘why has his memorial been put in the competition’? It’s a personal, private area – a place for his friends and family to go and reflect. I was shocked and upset.”
“The report is basically saying that the biggest let-down of all was Christopher’s memorial and, oh by the way, there was some litter too. There is no mis-interpretation of how that statement is being read - it is clear that the memorial is the worst of the whole area in the eyes of judges.”
The chairman of the competition organising committee, Coun. Jack Dobson, said: “We can only apologise really. It certainly wasn’t intended to cause any upset. As I understand it the memorial is superb – it’s just the surrounding area that has got a bit untidy really.”
Jeanette Lowe, secretary and organiser for the Best Kept Village competition said she had apologised to Karen, adding: “I think it’s the way the wording has come over. There was no criticism of the memorial to Christopher – judges were very impressed by it. What they were concerned about was the surrounding area and broken fence which they thought detracted from the memorial.”
She said two sets of judges visited the village and filed their reports: “I amalgamate the comments and send to the Parish Council and the Parish Council in all good faith published the report. I’ve just taken the judges’ words and just passed them on. I don’t know what else we can do really.”
Karen is also questioning who decided the private memorial area should be included in the contest and says the Parish News should print an apology.
Karen’s mother Ann Abbott has now resigned from her role as a distributor of the Parish Magazine in disgust. Meanwhile the curate at Stalmine the Rev Dillys Dickinson said:” I don’t feel in any position to comment at the moment because we’ve not had a meeting of the Church Council. It meets at the end of February.”
Jan Finch, Clerk of Stalmine Parish Council said: “As a result of Karen’s concerns we’ve taken it off the notice board and off the website and I did apologise on behalf of the Council for any upset or annoyance we had caused. It certainly wasn’t anyone’s intention. When councillors read the report they read it as criticism of the area around the memorial itself.”
Christopher’s Godmother Lisa Hulley of Out Rawcliffe was so outraged she too contacted the contest organisers and the Parish Council Chairman. She said: “I couldn’t believe it to be honest, because it’s such a beautiful area. I felt so sad for the family. I just thought it was out of order that they commented about it - I know how much hard work and thought went into it. I’m very upset personally and just devastated for Karen and the rest of the family and just bewildered.”
Lisa added: “There were hundreds of people at Christopher’s funeral - they just haven’t thought about the upset this has caused.”
Lisa added that she thought a Parish Council representative should now visit the family and there should be a printed apology .
At the football club stewardess Mrs Joanna Isles said when the judges visited there was repair work being carried out to other railings at the club. She acknowledged there was an area of the ground that was a bit untidy, but not near the memorial,adding: “ People at the club are very upset. The player whose memorial it is was very well liked and we still keep his memory alive....You don’t need to come on to the premises to see the pitch itself.”
She said she thought someone should come to the Club and apologise in person