An Oxfordshire High Sheriff’s Award 2015 Goes to Martin and Celia Evans

On Monday 2nd March a few villagers were lucky enough to accompany Martin and Celia Evans to Christ Church in Oxford to receive an award from the High Sheriff of Oxford.

The purpose of these awards is to recognise people in Oxfordshire who have made outstanding contributions to the communities in which they live and work. Nominees are people who have had a high impact on the lives of others over a sustained period of time and are recognised by other people working in the nominee’s area as inspirational and as setting an example for others to follow.

This year, nominations were encouraged for people who have made outstanding contributions to any aspect of community life, but especially individuals who have used or supported sporting or cultural activity to enrich their community.

The ceremony was very relaxed: all attending were welcomed at the door by the High Sheriff Tony Stratton, complete with ceremonial sword, lace cravat and a fine historic costume, and his wife. In the ceremony the nominees were introduced by the current under-sheriff (and High Sheriff in nomination, so in office next year) Tom Birch Reynardson (dressed in a very ordinary lounge suit) and came forward to receive their award scroll.

Martin and Celia Evans were nominated jointly for this award because theirs is a real partnership in the work they do for our community.

Over the past 28 years, Celia and Martin have developed the Village Players Pantomime from a simple production in Launton Parish Hall to become one of the premier dramatic offerings in Bicester.

A simple measure of its success is that the 2014 production, The Little Mermaid, played to 1200 people over 6 performances and raised more than £5000 for local and national charities. This year’s production, Old King Cole, saw £4,700.00 similarly donated.

The Panto is a project that runs from October to February. In advance Martin spends time writing and preparing the pantomime, while Celia is working on background administration such as CRB checks for child chaperones.

The project comprises dozens of individual activities which are undertaken by over 100 people, all of whom are motivated and coordinated by Celia & Martin. A typical show will have around 40 or more people on stage, with 60 plus supporters.

No one is barred from performing, there are no auditions and it is Celia and Martin’s skill that creates a top quality show which gives everybody an opportunity to shine. Celia & Martin are careful to offer the same sort of job satisfaction for those who are off stage such as scenery builders, costume makers, programme writers and front-of-house staff.

It is a testament to their success that there is no shortage of volunteers for these jobs as well as the glamour roles on stage. Ages range from 4 to 85; children have grown into teenagers in the shows, gone off to college and returned as adult members of the cast.

The citation specifically mentioned “The fact that people return year after year to take part in the Pantomime speaks volumes for Martin and Celia’s sensitive handling of the performers.”

The dramatic quality has been recognised by numerous awards from the Oxfordshire Drama Network in their annual Pantomime competition. The community involvement is demonstrated by the many members of the group that have been involved for 20 years or more and by the arrival each year of new members.

Other entertainment activities coordinated by Martin & Celia are carol singing around the village, singing at the church fete and a summer show, all of which bring together the village of Launton and the surrounding communities.

Celia & Martin were nominated not only for their undoubted skills in creating a dramatic spectacle but more so for their ability to galvanise a huge team of people to deliver that spectacle.