Kennaway House chief’s MBE delight

THE founder of the Kennaway House Trust has been honoured by the Queen in her birthday list published on Saturday.

Dr Michael James has been appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the community in Devon.

Michael led the campaign to raise �1million to restore the derelict building, then known as Church House, that ran from 2001 to 2008.

“I always thought the honours system was a bit random,” said a smiling Michael. “And now I know it is.

“The truth is I’m not much interested in honours lists, but it’s brilliant to see Kennaway House being recognised.

“I’d like to share this with the whole gang of us who worked to restore the house and give it a new and meaningful use.

“It’s turned out to be popular and well used – and that’s a reward in itself.”

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The restoration of Kennaway House was carried out between 2008 and 2009 and the venue was formally reopened by East Devon MP Hugo Swire as a major new centre for the arts and the community in the area.

Michael served as chairman of the project and then of the trust – the registered charity which now owns and runs the house – for 10 years from 2001 to 2011.

Mr Swire, who is also the patron of Kennaway House, told the Herald: “This honour is long overdue and recognises the hard work that Michael did in rescuing Kennaway House for the local community. It is now up to the community to support it going forward.”

Michael’s daughter, Susanna, 31, said: “I’m very proud of my dad – he’s always been a wonderful father.

“This is a bit special – starting the trust from nothing, or in this case a ruin, and then leading it to become so exciting and give pleasure to so many people.”

Long-term Kennaway House volunteer Mike Welch said: “Michael has done an amazing job. Without his vision, leadership and drive, Kennaway House would have been lost.”

Kim Smith, who lives near the house, added: “I have immense admiration for what he has achieved.”