Sid Vale’s Keith Owen Fund - Ten Years On

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:21 11 February 2019

Sidmouth Gig Club. Ref shs 02 19TI edr 7951. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Gig Club. Ref shs 02 19TI edr 7951. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

Take a stroll around the lovely Sid Valley and you’ll soon spot where the Sid Vale Association Keith Owen Fund has helped the heritage, environment and community.

Sidbury Millennium Green 2009. Picture: Keith Owen FundSidbury Millennium Green 2009. Picture: Keith Owen Fund

On discovering he had a terminal illness, while on a visit to Sidmouth in 2007, Canadian investment banker Keith Owen said he wished to place his life savings into the care of the Sid Vale Association (SVA) so the income could benefit the Sid valley.

Thus was established the Keith Owen fund, with a then capital of £2.256m.

During the past 10 years, the fund has supported over 190 projects across the Sid Vale, and is particularly proud that more has been given to projects benefiting young people in our community than to anything else.

Looking out from The Esplanade the two gigs, Keith Owen and Little Picket are pulling away from shore.

Naming ceremony of Little Picket (2017). Picture: Keith Owen FundNaming ceremony of Little Picket (2017). Picture: Keith Owen Fund

Nearby on the Ham, children are playing on the climbing wall.

Further into town, visitors are admiring the Queen Victoria window in Sidmouth Parish Church or marvelling at the cricket ground with its thatched pavilion.

All these owe part of their being to grants from the Keith Owen Fund.

Your walk may take you past the Sidmouth Rugby Club, Guide Hall, Scout Hut, netball or football club.

Gigs Keith Owen (2010) and Little Picket (2017) on Sidmouth Beach. Picture: Keith Owen FundGigs Keith Owen (2010) and Little Picket (2017) on Sidmouth Beach. Picture: Keith Owen Fund

Their activities for young people have all benefited from a Keith Owen fund contribution.

Other beneficiaries from the fund may be more difficult to spot.

You’ll need to be up early in the morning to hear the dawn chorus waking the wildflower meadows in The Byes, or spot wildlife enjoying the Deepway Meadow Pond at Sidbury.

Likewise, you’ll need to be a night owl to see the benefits the detectors and nets are providing for the Sidmouth bat project. All helped by the Keith Owen Fund.

Keith Owen. Picture: Keith Owen FundKeith Owen. Picture: Keith Owen Fund

Further up Salcombe Hill, a new classroom extension at the Norman Lockyer Observatory will have a variety of uses, including enabling their AstroScouts to learn more about the wonders of our universe. Again supported through the Keith Owen Fund.

Kate Tobin, chair of the Keith Owen Fund Grant Committee, said: “2018 has been a bumper year for the Keith Owen Fund. In total we have supported 20 initiatives with awards ranging from £400 to £20,000.

“I particularly love the smaller community projects when people feel inspired to make a difference close to home.

“For example, in Lymbourne and Arcot Park, we have recently supported two new community gardens.

Sidmouth Cricket Club pavilion re-thatched in 2008. Picture: Keith Owen FundSidmouth Cricket Club pavilion re-thatched in 2008. Picture: Keith Owen Fund

“Through this, and similar grants, the fund has been able to support people who give up their free time to make our surroundings better for everyone.”

Richard Thurlow, chairman of the SVA agrees with Kate.

He said: “Keith would surely be proud of the many projects his bequest has helped to fruition over the past 10 years.

“The fund’s objective is to support projects which enhance the local heritage and environment, or encourage people to enjoy and support the lovely surrounding of our valley.

Wildflowers in the Byes 2017. Picture: Keith Owen FundWildflowers in the Byes 2017. Picture: Keith Owen Fund

“It has also enabled great work on the SVA nature reserves and at the SVA museum.”

Richard added: “We are proud that over its first 10 years, the fund has contributed over £1,000,000 towards projects across the Sid Valley.

“Through good stewardship, the fund is in a healthy state for the years ahead.

“Grant applications are simple to complete, decisions are quick and a member of the grant committee is then on hand to offer on-going advice and support where needed.”

Ham play area regeneration 2011. Picture: Keith Owen FundHam play area regeneration 2011. Picture: Keith Owen Fund

As winter turns towards spring, you will probably notice the first bulbs peeping through as you complete your stroll around our valley.

‘The Valley of a Million Bulbs’ was a project inspired by Keith himself, financed through his bequest and made possible through hundreds of volunteers.

If you have an idea or project in the Sid Valley that is bursting to blossom, then perhaps the Keith Owen Fund could provide some financial support.

For more information on the fund and grant opportunities, visit the Sid Vale Association website www.sidvaleassociation.org.uk/keith-owen-fund.

To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

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