A Voluntary, Self-financing Group, Established 1974 by Peter J Ellis

Junior and Teenage Sections – member of NODA, NAYT and Jack Petchey Foundation Bronze Award Scheme

We had a good summer term with membership steady and plenty of activities and a brilliant talent show.

The main group of youngsters were all in year 6 primary and therefore moving schools in September. I had a feeling that we were not going to see many return once they had started secondary school and parents anxious for them to settle into a new routine. I was quite right and we only had 4 returners. Two of these left early October and we were down to 2.

Despite recruitment attempts and advertising we were unable to attract any more members even though we had organised to start auditions for another pantomime. I thought this might be the edge needed to recruit more members but the lure of grease paint, acting, singing and dancing could not tempt anyone. It costs SAYF around £2,000 to stage a full pantomime so we did not go ahead.

Following a meeting with Leaders, Julie Fisher, Eileen Bartrup, Bekki Tovey and James Tovey, we decided to officially close SAYF on its 42nd anniversary – 31st March 2016. SAYF was set up in 1974 by Peter Ellis as the social side of St Andrew’s Sunday School. (Peter led the Sunday School for 25 years.)

It has been a most rewarding period in my life, working every Tuesday at club (school term time) and Sunday afternoons for 6 months of the year rehearsing pantomime. I must also mention hours and hours spent over 40 years designing and making pantomime costumes.

Hundreds of young people must have been part of SAYF over 42 years. Some staying only 1 night, a large number for several years. Members have been known never to leave – going on to be leaders such as Bekki and James Tovey. Eileen Bartrup has helped for 40 years and Julie Fisher around 20 years. A massive commitment by these ladies and many other helpers during the life of SAYF. I thank them all most sincerely.

I know SAYF will be missed. No more stall at the fete or game at the bazaar to help church funds. Also the Village Hall has lost a massive amount of income that SAYF put into their accounts each year by hiring the hall on Tuesdays, Sundays and 9 days for pantomime.

I have written to Sandon Parish Council who have, for many years, given SAYF financial assistance. They have always been most generous and supportive of the work we were doing with the young people of the community.

SAYF always gave young people a place of safety to meet their friends and ‘hang out’. We offered a sympathetic ear if needed and tried to give members confidence to work as a team, to respect others, even if younger, to be proud of their group, gain self-assurance and to socialise with others.

I know that the work that Peter Ellis, all our many helpers over the years, and myself have done, has been useful in the youngsters’ development to adulthood.

I must mention that City Councillor Ian Wright and his wife Carol have been stalwarts, always coming to our pantomimes, giving prizes at Presentation Evenings and sending great tins of sweets each year for the panto cast.

In January Ian nominated me to be a guest at the Mayor or Chelmsford’s Community Evening with the theme ‘Young People – Unleash the Potential’. This was held at Hylands House on Friday 1st April and it was for the Mayor to thank and congratulate anyone who contributes significantly to the aspirations of Chelmsford’s Youth (outside of their everyday employment). I took my daughter Dawn as my guest which was appropriate as she was a founder member of SAYF. It was the ‘icing on the cake’ for me, a very splendid evening, delicious meal and a wonderful exit to a very sad procedure of closing SAYF.

So now this is Mrs Ellis saying ‘goodbye’ and hanging up her whistle and trainers!

Evelyn Ellis Group Leader