Thursday, July 05, 2012


A visit to the Sussex Beacon

This week my chum Kathy Caton and I spent a couple of inspiring hours on a visit to the Sussex Beacon. I well remember all the fundraising at the turn of the eighties and the opening of the Beacon in 1992 so I was kind of surprised I'd not actually made it for a visit until now.

Built high on Bevendean Road with views over Brighton and the Downs, the Beacon's marking two decades of providing an invaluable service to local people living with HIV / Aids, including a ten-bed residential unit, day services, complementary therapies and a women and families service.

As Juley Ayres, the outgoing fundraising manager took us round the building, we were impressed by the light and airy design, nothing clinical or instititional here at all. There's a real buzz as staff, service users, volunteers and visitors go about their business, and we were greeted throughout by friendly smiles and people stopping to chat, a far cry from the hushed tones and gloomy atmosphere you might expect from such an organisation.

Juley took us through the garden, built and maintained by volunteers, with its different levels of a communal seating area, quiet dens, water features and tropical garden. The Beacon's just held its annual fundraiser, the Garden Gadabout, a success despite the grim summer weather, where the Beacon and its supporters open up their gardens to the public for a donation. It's just one of the Beacon's many fundraisers for its services, which cost £1.1million a year, with an immediate target of £150,000 to keep its in-patient unit open.

And of course they're always looking for volunteers to support their work.

Juley has done a number of radio pieces with Kathy and me, and we're going to miss her as the Beacon will no doubt too, but she promised she's going to be making plenty of jam to support the Beacon's fundraisers, so we'll be looking forward to that and we wish her luck in all her future ventures.

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