"We are the Village Green Preservation Society, God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety" sing The Kinks, unwittingly finding themselves in this article on the Berkshire Village Of The Year contest. Why? Because their song encapsulates the stereotype of village life. For singer Ray Davies this sort of life means being stuck in your ways, not wanting to progress, far preferring to make your strawberry jam in time for the village fete.
Well a lot has changed since 1968, when the song was released, but the image of village life hasn't. The Berkshire Village Of The Year aims to change all that. Not only does the competition want to crown the best village in the county, but it also serves to promote village life.
|Berkshire Village Of The Year's Mo Brickwood|
Contest organiser Mo Brickwood said: "To those in towns and cities, village life can sometimes be seen as some sort of rural idyll and can also be seen as representing another time and pace of life. In fact, most villages are dynamic and constantly changing and adapting to the needs of inhabitants in the same way as any other community."
Also the power of change at a grass-roots level must not be under-estimated.
Ms Brickwood added: "Villages are unique organisms. They are often a microcosm of society and, if they are healthy and democratic, are able to respond more directly and immediately to identified needs."
The two points Ms Brickwood makes above are key aspects of what the potential winning village should offer. Set up five years ago, the contest isn't anything like a Best Kept Village or a Village In Bloom competition. Instead, Village Of The Year looks at how a village operates and what makes a healthy thriving community.
|2005 winner Ashampstead|
"The emphasis is on how residents are involved in decisions about their village" explains Ms Brickwood. "This may be how they consider the needs of older residents and younger residents, how they support local business or how they are adapting to the challenges of technology".
So, if your village has 5,000 residents or below and you believe that it has made the best of local opportunities to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents, then you should considering entering it into the competition.
Entry forms, which take only around 15 minutes to fill in, are now available for the competition, which is organised by the Community Council for Berkshire (CCB) and sponsored by Calor.
The competition judges communities on six aspects of village life with categories in Building Community Life, Business, Young People, Older People, Environment and Information Communication Technology (ICT).
|2005 winner Ashampstead: great place for kids.|
The closing date for entries is Friday 19 May and judging will take place during June and July. The winning villages will be announced at a presentation event to be held during September.
Prizes are on offer to the winning villages, including a total of £750 specifically for the Building Community Life category. There is also a prize of £100 in each of the other five categories and all winning villages will receive a commemorative plaque.
The overall winning village will have the added honour of being nominated to go forward and represent the county in the Village of the Year for England competition, with the opportunity of gaining recognition at national level as well as a share of a £36,000 prize fund.
For further information and entry forms please contact Mo Brickwood, Calor Berkshire Village of the Year organiser, The Community Council for Berkshire, Epping House, 55 Russell Street, Reading RG1 7XG, telephone 01635 248494.
Email for an entry form email: