Olympic legacy is rejuvenation of West Byfleet

CHAIRMAN – Pauline Hedges

CHAIRMAN – Pauline Hedges

THE SPIRIT of the Olympics should live on in West Byfleet following the rejuvenation of the village’s business networking group.

West Byfleet Business Association chairman Pauline Hedges admitted the group had been ‘virtually moribund’ last year before news broke that the Olympic cycle races would be passing through the village.

Since then WBBA has been thriving, so much so that it is co-hosting a special Olympics Fair with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games on the recreation green behind St John’s Church next month.

Pauline said: “The recreation ground is next to the cycle race and we’ll have a funfair, kids’ rides, a crafts and farmers’ market and displays.

“We’ll be screening the races live on a giant screen as well as the film Grease. I’m a John Travolta fan and it’s a family film.

“People can bring a picnic, sing along, get up and dance. It will be something to remember.”

West Byfleet is expecting around 6,000 visitors over the Olympics weekend of July 27/28 and 29.

Pauline said: “They’ll be coming from the railway. It is a fantastic opportunity for retailers to attract customers into their shops with special offers.

“It is a unique opportunity, the rest of the country must be so jealous.”

But Pauline, 66, of Hollies Avenue, admitted the real legacy of the Olympics was the rejuvenation of WBBA.

She said: “It was virtually moribund before we heard about the cycle races – a few people
going to lunches.

“The Olympics has given us a focus – it gave us that kick-start we needed.

“We thought, let’s turn what could have been a negative into a positive, make a downtime into an opportunity.”

Back then, retailers and local business people met up with the Byfleet, West Byfleet and Pyrford Residents’ Association.

Pauline, who had worked for Surrey Chambers and now organises farmers’ markets, volunteered as WBBA’s chairman.

Pauline, a grandmother who has a regular breakfast slot on BBC Surrey, said West Byfleet was home to around 90 businesses.

She said: “It’s a real community. We have breakfast meetings, and tea and coffee at Corker’s wine bar. We have retailers, office workers, solicitors, accountants.

“Our local councillors, Gary Elson and Richard Wilson are very supportive and sometimes bring along council officials to talk to us. It’s really helpful.”

“If you get to talk to other people, you don’t feel so isolated. Although I have lived in West Byfleet for 22 years, I think I’ve got to know more people in the past year than I’ve ever done before.”

To find out more about the West Byfleet Business Association visit http://www.wbba.org.uk

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