IN THE FRAME:
If the name Celia Collett means
nothing to you, then either you have been hiding in a hole for the past three
decades or you don’t live in the parish of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell. But getting
Celia to blow her own trumpet is almost impossible, so this website will have
to do it for her…
As a Parish Councillor for over
26 years, and as District Councillor for six, Celia has spearheaded many major
initiatives. Affordable housing, the Village Stores, the first community action
plan… She has raised thousands of pounds for Save the Children and as a patron
of Oxfordshire Rural Community Council has helped support village life across
She is also relentlessly
positive, a trait that sometimes has colleagues on South Oxfordshire District
Council groaning about her ‘apple pie’ outlook. Where some people feel threatened
by change, she sees it as an opportunity – a can-do approach that earned her an
MBE in 2005 for services to the community.
Celia was brought up in
Meadowlands – then at the heart of the family farm and since sold – and has
lived in the village all her life. Next month, she celebrates 40 years of
married life with Clive – at least they would be celebrating if he hadn’t fixed
a meeting of his new allotment group for the same night! It seems somehow
typical of a family where the community means so much.
Tell us a bit about growing
up on a farm in Brightwell.
I feel one of the luckiest people
in the world to have grown up on my family farm. Mum and Dad worked so hard but
never let their work affect the time they gave to me, Stella and Tony. Because they
involved us totally and were always around, I never felt that anything I did was
a chore: stacking hay bales, driving the tractor, feeding the calves, getting
the cows in. All the cows had names, so you were friendly with some, and you
knew the ones that weren’t so friendly….
I remember the warmth of the
farmhouse kitchen when everyone would come in for their morning cuppa and a
slice of Mum’s lovely cake. Even the milk lorry driver, John, who came every
day to collect the milk, never left the farm without having a cup of tea and
piece of cake. Mum and Dad welcomed all our friends; the fields and farmyard
were the best adventure playground ever. These were treasured times. …. it was
a Darling Buds of May existence.
What changes have you
noticed about the area since you lived here as a child?
There have been many changes, but
my upbringing always instilled in me that nothing ever stays the same. You need
to try to adapt, embrace and make the most of the opportunities changes bring,
What was your first job?
As a teenager, my first paid job
was in the summer holidays picking cherries at Sheard’s orchard and
strawberries at Lay’s strawberry farm, both in the village. When I left school
I went to work for Lloyds Bank in Wallingford. I started off on the till, eventually
becoming assistant to the sub manager. Women in those days didn’t very often
get to be bank managers or even assistant bank managers.
Have you stayed working at
the same thing all your life, or have there been changes?
I stayed at the bank for 10 years,
until I had my first son. By that time my husband Clive had started his
electrical contracting business and since then I have worked in the business.
Unfortunately, the family farm
was sold, but thankfully not before my own two sons – Mark and Johnny – had
enjoyed their childhood years on the farm. Working for ourselves meant I was
always around for my family and has allowed me to spend time as a volunteer for
Save the Children, being involved in the community in many ways, as well as
being a Parish & District Councillor.
Who did you most look up to
when you were younger?
My father –a kind,
compassionate and humble man. He truly valued family and friends above all
material possessions. He took a keen interest in local and world affairs and
encouraged me to question, debate and to keep an open mind – above all, to search
for the truth.
How did you and Clive meet?
At a Rugby Club Christmas dance.
My cousin played for Didcot Rugby Club and Clive played for Oxford. It was just
one of those chance things – our paths wouldn’t otherwise have crossed, unless
I’d played rugby!
What’s a typical day (if
there is such a thing)?
There isn’t: one day it may be a
series of meetings – District Council, Parish Council, charities I am involved
in – doing a shift or sorting something out for the community shop. Next day
trying to catch up with all the things I should have been doing for Clive and
our business (luckily Clive is very tolerant). The following day can be looking
after the grandchildren, Sam and Lucy, giving them all my time and catching up
with things when they have their nap. I feel so privileged to live near enough
to share so many simple but precious moments: the joy is immeasurable.
I am a person who needs to keep
busy, otherwise I feel guilty. It probably comes from growing up on a farm,
which naturally instils a work ethic in you.
Do people in the village
see you differently from people in other parts of your life?
I hope not; I always strive to be
Describe the best and the
worst moments in your life so far.
The best moments were the birth
of my two sons, followed by the birth of my two grandchildren; nothing can
prepare you for the overwhelming love you feel. My worst moments were watching
my mother die in hospital. She suffered so much in her last few weeks, and it
could have been handled better.
What other things would you
like to achieve in your life?
Have a healthy and long
retirement seeing our grandchildren grow up and have time to do some of the
things Clive and I keep putting off.
If you were Prime Minister
tomorrow, what one thing would you change?
We have got into the habit in our
political system of achieving things through bureaucracy instead of true
democracy. This leads ordinary members of the public not to value their right
to vote, when people all over the world are dying for that right.
I would love to be able help
bring about change to get more ethics back into politics to enable the majority
of people to be confident about their vote.