THE SOMERSET GAZETTE, 28 July 2011 – Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill has been keeping a central Somerset charity alive.
On the eve of next week’s 30th anniversary Glastonbury Children’s Festival, the Second World War leader’s great-granddaughter has revealed for the first time the part that her famous ancestor has unknowingly played in the charity which was founded by her mother.
Arabella Churchill was a favoured granddaughter of Winston Churchill, the daughter of his son Randolph, and was photographed with her beloved grandfather several times.
Bella, as she was lovingly called by her family and friends, died aged 58 from pancreatic cancer in 2008.
While constantly highlighted for her familial links, she was most proud of her roles as organiser of the Glastonbury Festival’s children’s field and as the founder and organiser of the Glastonbury Children’s Festival.
The children’s festival was first staged in 1981, using the money raised to fund her first work in schools across the south west as the Children’s World charity.
It was a formula that carried on after her death from pancreatic cancer in 2008, aged 58.
Thousands of children across Somerset and the UK – as well as abroad in crisis hotspots such as tsunami-hit Sumatra and civil war ravaged Kosovo and Albania – have been entertained and educated thanks to Arabella Churchill’s vision.
But it has not been without its sacrifices, as Arabella’s daughter Jessica Churchill-McLeod has revealed.
The 23-year-old, who has just completed the second year of her events management degree at Leeds Metropolitan University, has formally been asked to take over the running of the Children’s Festival when her studies complete next year.
“I do not feel that I am in my mother’s shadow, in fact I feel the opposite,” she said.
“I’m very proud to have been asked to take over a job that I know meant so much to my mother.
“People know me, like me and loved my mother.”
But it is a role that comes with some terrific responsibilities as Jessica has revealed for the first time as she looks back over 30 years of the Glastonbury Children’s Festival.
There were times – particular when festivals were hit by terrible weather – that the work of the charity itself was threatened and it was Bella’s extraordinary commitment to the charity that kept it going.
At times she refused to take a wage and even occasionally would sell some of the famous Prime Minister’s favoured paintings that had been left to her, but which still reside on the walls of Chartwell, the Kent home he shared with his wife Clementine until his death.
“After Churchill died it was decided that the grandchildren could each select a number of paintings that were displayed on the walls of Chartwell,” said Jessica.
“My mum was very clever in that she didn’t choose one large painting but several smaller ones.
“They have stayed at Chartwell where they can be appreciated by the public, they are not personal possessions of ours.
“It didn’t happen often, but occasionally when the need was there, mum would sell one, using the funds to keep the work of the Children’s World going.”
The National Trust, which was presented with Chartwell following Churchill’s death, has purchased the paintings that Arabella sold. Others still remain on the walls of Chartwell.
So can Jessica see herself following her mother’s example when she is in charge of the festivals?
“I just hope that I can do as much good as did with the paintings, when it’s my turn,” she said.
For more on Glastonbury Children’s Festival see pages 40 and 41.
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