4th June 2019

 

This week around 80 family, friends, volunteers and ex-members of Coram Beanstalk, formally known as Volunteer Reading Help (VRH), came together to commemorate the life of our founder Susan Belgrave MBE 1925 -2019.

 

The event was opened by Managing Director Ginny Lunn who reminisced about a particularly hairy car journey with Susan when she first met her. 

 

Susan's son Jos Belgrave spoke about his mother's life outside of VRH - living in the Middle East with young children, her adventuring spirit touring far flung places - even on horseback, and passing away sadly whilst planning her next trip to Russia to practice the language she had been learning!

 

Lyn Russell was one of the very first volunteers who sat around Susan's kitchen table plotting and planning a strategy to get reading help for every child in London who needed it - and before too long branches were being opened around the country.

 

Charles Martineau was the first paid Director or VRH, appointed in 1990 and talked fondly about the responsibility of taking over Susan's 'baby' which was in fact so meticulously organised, well-run and structured at that point that it was less of a baby and more of a fully-fledged adult.

 

He remembered Susan's never-ending networking, her determination to speak to the right people to further the reach of the charity and her refusal to take no as an answer.

 

Sir Peter Newsam, the first Patron in 1980 along with Lady Plowden, himself in his 90's was unable to attend but sent a moving tribute to this incredible woman.

 

Alex Moss, a reading helper for VRH in London then spoke about moving home to South Africa where he started Help 2 Read. When he asked Susan to become a Trustee of the charity she said she wanted to check it out herself so in 2014, at the age of 89, she set off for Cape Town - insisting, against advice, on walking alone everywhere, even at night. She was thrilled to see the VRH model in action helping children in another continent. 

 

Finally, the gathered guests were shown the Daily Mail film about Susan from 2014 when she was nominated as Inspirational Woman of the Year.

 

During a reception lunch, guests signed a memorial book which is now filled with memories and a commemorative bench was officially 'opened' by the family.

 

Representatives of the charities ABC to Read, Dorset Reading Partners, Schoolreaders and Archoxfordshire were invited to join us for the occasion - all charities which were started by people previously involved with VRH.

 

Susan was a remarkable woman and we will proudly continue her legacy through our work at Coram Beanstalk.