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The Winter Fair

The Winter Fair

Saturday 17th November 10am - 1pm

Wincanton Memorial Hall

Raising funds for The Balsam Centre

Trash and Treasure, Tombola, Toys, Deli and Cakes, Plants, Bags, Art Gallery, Jewellery, Books, Gifts Kitchen Stall, Clothes, Raffle, and a Delicious Cafe.

Patron: The Countess de Salis

If you have been to the HFT Fair in the past, you will know how incredibly popular and successful this fair has become, with queues to even get in the door. The fair is now changing its name to The Winter Fair, raising funds for The Balsam Centre.

For those that love finding retro clothing, beautiful old crockery, silver spoons, old cameras, there will be a HUGE secondhand clothes stand with real treasures to be found, a fabulous kitchenware and bric-a-brac stand - the perfect hunting ground. There will be furniture, plants, and of course, delicious cakes. The Men's Shed will be there with their wares, along with some of the craft made by groups in the Centre.

We are looking for homemade CAKES, JAMS, CHUTNETS, ETC. for the Food Stand. If you have any you would like to donate to us, please drop them in at The Balsam Centre on Friday 16th.


New Groups!

A new Lip-Reading class has started on Tuesday mornings, for anyone struggling with their hearing, particularly when in noisy social situations. The room now has a Loop System, so if your hearing aids allow it, you can tune in to the tutor directly via your hearing aids.

The Deafplus Bus is returning to The Balsam Centre on Tuesday 13th November, 11am - 2pm, offering advice and information on everything to do with hearing loss. This great service - all from a minibus parked outside - can demonstrate equipment that can help you hear the tv, alarms etc, and do basic maintenance on nhs hearing aids.

We have several groups for teenagers starting at The Balsam Centre! There is a Youth section on the children's page now, with the Youth Cafe on Tuesdays - a youth club for craft and games.

Out in Milborne Port, Claire is teaching tennis for young people and beginners, Saturday mornings, 9.30am - 11.30am.

A Cancer Support Group has started at the centre, to support anyone affected by cancer. This is an activities group - knitting, felting, crochet and other crafts - providing a chance to have some "down-time" within a supportive group. Fridays, 2pm - 4pm.

The Breastfeeding Support group is now the Breastfeeding Cafe! Run by trained mums to support other mums, a chance to get advice and meet other mums. There will also be Antenatal Information Sessions run through the year, for further practical advice - next session 29th January 2018.

Tuesday Family Morning is a new play session for under 5s and their carers. Open to all, it runs on Tuesdays, 9am - 11am. A chance for children and their families to play together!

IT Drop-ins are continuing for anyone with a tablet, mobile phone or laptop they need help in using. We have 4 great volunteers who can give you individual support.

We have Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Blast Class... great exercise classes to relax, refresh and lift your mood.


Supporting Families

Kelly and Baby Basics South Somerset

Our Family Worker, Kelly, had a road trip to the Baby Basics headquarters in Ilminster to collect this beautiful mosses basket hamper for one of the families that we support here at the Balsam Centre. Lisa at Baby Basics is providing an amazing service to families in need of baby supplies and we were lucky to be able to work with them to provide much needed support. The kindness and effort put into each basket is amazing. Thank you Baby Basics South Somerset

Baby Basics South Somerset Moses Basket

The Balsam Video

The video about The Centre that saw the film crew pop in to our groups last summer is now finished! It will allow anyone who is thinking about donating to the Centre to see what we do and hear the beneficiaries talk about what The Balsam Centre means to them. See the video here.

As Seen on TV.....

With Sport Relief in full swing to raise money for charities like ours, our Maternal Mental Health project has been in the news as one of the projects that Comic Relief funded last year. (Comic Relief and Sport Relief run alternate years). Kelly and some of the mums have been interviewed on the radio and tv recently to talk about the project and what it has meant to mums taking part. Now we are being featured in a tv programme following Annie Price as she prepares to have a baby.

Annie found out her mum had experienced postnatal depression and Annie was worried that she too might experience it after her baby was born. So she came along to find out more.

You can see the whole programme by clicking on this link.


Conkers Nursery

Currently, we have no jobs vacant at The Balsam Centre, but from time to time we do hear about jobs in the area within the sector and will post them here.

Careers Fair at the Fleet Air Arm Musuem, Tuesday 13th November with over 80 employers

For more information, head over to the information on the adult-activities page. (Click on the link to open in a new page).


Other Jobs in the Community/Wellbeing Field

Community Development Worker (South Somerset), £23 - 25k pro rata, 25 hours per week.

With sound knowledge and experience of community development, you'll be providing a range of advice and support to voluntary and community groups across South Somerset, organising forums and developing partnerships with other community networks. You'll also be leading on the coordination of the successful Spark Training Programme.

Wellbeing Development Worker - part time, £20k pro rata, 22.5 hours per week

As part of a new Spark/Yarlington Housing Group partnership, you will be working with local residents to ensure that they have access to community-based activities, support, and volunteering opportunities that will have a positive impact on health and wellbeing, alleviate social isolation and improve confidence. You'll also work with the wider Spark team to identify gaps in local provision and support the devolopment of new activities.

You'll find further information, including a job description, personal specification, and details of how to apply at www.sparksomerset.org.uk/latest/jobs

The closing date for subission of your application is Monday 5th November at 5pm. If you have any questions in the meantime, or would like to have an informal discussion about the post, please contact Katherine Nolan, Manager, by email to katherine.nolan@sparksomerset.org.uk or call 01935 475914.


Viridor Funding

The Balsam Windows

The Balsam Centre has new windows - thanks to Veridor Credits!

Our previous windows were 30 or so years old and were well and truly showing their age, with serious condensation between the panes. My favourite window was the one in the office that gave the ghostly wail when the wind blew....

Replacing all the windows is an expensive job - enter Viridor Credits to the rescue! We now have silent, draught-free, double glazed windows - this is going to make such a difference, especially in the winter. To the groups that use the Veronica Room - you can now see out of the windows!!

Viridor Credits mission is "to make a positive difference to local communities by providing funding opportunities for projects from the Landfill Communities Fund", which they have certainly achieved here, and we would like to thank them too for all their support during the funding process.

Viridor Funding

Nick Berry from Viridor Credits visits the Memory Group to see the new windows in the Veronica Room

Compton Castle Open Gardens 2018 raises £5215.41

Compton Castle

Many thanks once again to Jane and Bill Hopkins for opening up their beautiful gardens at Compton Castle to visitors earlier this summer, raising a fantastic £5215.41 for The Balsam Centre, beating last year's figure by £1300.

The weather was delightful - no rain this year - which helped I'm sure to swell the numbers. It was just the perfect place to spend a English summer's afternoon. There were cream teas, cakes, ice creams, candy floss, Pimms, along with a produce stand, the Men's Shed and local vendors.

A BIG thank you to all the volunteers who came out to stand on the entrance, and wander with collection buckets, along with those who made cakes for us and gave us produce to sell.


Compton Castle Volunteers
glastonbury festival
the crowd
Compton Castle plants
Compton Castle Volunteers
glastonbury festival
the crowd
Compton Castle plants
Compton Castle Volunteers
glastonbury festival
the crowd
Compton Castle plants

We have signed up to be a part of Give As You Live where you can raise money for us - just by shopping online in your normal way! All you have to do is click on the link, choose your charity - The Balsam Centre - and then create an account. To find out more information, go to our Funding page

masonic charitable foundation award

The Masonic Charitable Foundation giving us a hand!

The Masonic Charitable Foundation Awards us £15,000

We are delighted to announce that the Masonic Charitable Foundation have given us £15,000 - many thanks to those of you who voted for us on their website. We are thrilled to have won the grant; it will help us to continue the valuable services that we offer here.

masonic charitable foundation award

There are many ways to raise money for The Balsam Centre. Maybe you'd like to do something fun whilst raising money...

Is anyone up for a challenge....?

Sponsored Hikes, Marathons and Company Volunteering

Would your company be interested in volunteering with us for the day? Emily Sheaf is our latest company volunteer, spending the day helping people to get online and use their tablets or smartphones. In June Spark came to volunteer for us, running the Loose Ends Cafe one Tuesday - delicious chilli! And Wincanton Racecourse are coming next week, helping us to treat the Art Shed. It's a great way for your team to get out together and get involved in the community - and it's fun!

Robert Frith Opticians completed a sponsored walk for us, raising a fantastic £500 for the Mens Shed Project and our own Berry Bernsen ran the Marathon for us last year. If you might be interested in a sponsored walk, we can even help you plan and reccy the walk with our own volunteers.

company volunteering

Emily Sheaf from Enterprise Car Hire in the IT Drop-in

If you are interested in company volunteering or taking on a team fundraising challenge - or if you have any other ideas - talk to Sue or Annette, 01963 31842.

The Mens Shed

The Mens Shed Photo: Oscar Yoosefinejad

The Men's Shed have a new shed!

With thanks to donations from South Somerset District Council, The Blackmore Vale Lions, and an anonymous donor, the new shed is up and running.

The original men's shed - the old mortuary to the hospital! - was getting a little low on space. It had put off potential shedders who hadn't envisaged building new friendships to mean getting THAT close. And there was just no space for the new lathe to operate safely.

So with support from SSDC, The Blackmore Vale Lions, a generous donor and pooling subs and sales, the Men's Shed commissioned a new shed to join the old one. An interconnecting door means the roller shutter door doesn't need to be opened in winter - a definite bonus! We even managed to coax the Countess of Wessex through the door.

If you are interested in joining the Mens Shed, pop in on a Tuesday or Thursday morning from 10am for a cuppa - you won't have to share a stool anymore!!.

This is a friendly group who enjoy coming together for building and banter and we welcome new members whatever their ability.

The Mens Shed

Previous News....

Visit to the Balsam Centre of HRH The Countess of Wessex on 1st November 2017

The Countess of Wessex
Photographs: Oscar Yoosefinejad

The Balsam Centre welcomed Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex to the Centre in November, with children from both Conkers and Balsam Nursery to greet her as she arrived.

Her Royal Highness had a tour of the Centre, meeting beneficiaries, staff, volunteers and trustees, and dropped in on a number of the different social, therapeutic and support groups and activities taking place that day. In every group and activitiy, The Countess of Wessex stopped and chatted to people, playing with the children in the Balsam Multiples group, and helping the IT learners to download apps. Everyone enjoyed meeting her!

The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex

Following her tour, we had the official launch of the Well Wessex group of charities. The four established charities working together to improve mental health in Somerset are: The Balsam Centre, Creativity Works, Heads Up! and Chard Watch. Each charity has its own individual approach and all include use of peer support to assist in recovery and maintenance of good mental health and wellbeing. The charities have been developing a new and effective model to meet the many challenges and changes currently taking place in the field of mental health.

Loose Ends Cafe

Jazz leaving the cafe

Jazz Bailey leaving the cafe

We said goodbye to Jazz Bailey at the cafe, who has been a great volunteer with us since she was 14. Jazz came with little cooking skills and leaves us a very proficient cook who has been making delicious meals with confidence - her Lemon Meringue Pie is legendary! We will miss her friendly, cheerful and calm demeanour in the kitchen but we wish her all the very best for her next adventure as she sets off to Strode College.

Maggie joins the cafe

Maggie is joining the cafe

A new member of the volunteering team has joined the kitchen - Maggie! Maggie is a cook with experience of cooking for large numbers of people and we are thrilled she is taking on the Loose Ends Cafe.

Loose Ends Cafe

Loose Ends Cafe

The Loose Ends Cafe serves lunch every Tuesday 12.45pm, with a meat/fish or vegetarian option, dessert and tea/coffee

If you are interested in joining the team, you don't have to have the experience that Maggie has, just a willingness to help out. It could be helping someone with special needs to volunteer in the kitchen, guiding them as they cook. Or maybe a group from your business would like to come and volunteer with us for the day, as a team from SPARK did recently.

Contact Annette 01963 31842 for more information.

glastonbury festival

The first team on shift!

The Balsam Team - another great year, stewarding at Glastonbury Festival 2017

19 GREAT volunteers made up the team this year, stewarding a new area, four gates within the South East Corner of the festival. We worked with two teams we'd not met before, Livewire and Friends of Brides Mount, who were fun to work with.
With more team members and more hours worked, we are hoping to beat our last year's figure of £2100 - we'll let you know!
glastonbury festival

Andy and Adam on shift

glastonbury festival

Rajasthan Circus

glastonbury festival

Lu - the backbone of the team!

glastonbury festival

The Welfare Team - Norman cheering everyone up with mermaid leggings...!

glastonbury festival

Jack kindly lending a punter some hair

glastonbury festival

Before the tents arrive...

glastonbury festival

and finally getting all the tents back into the box - many thanks to Sarah Dyke for the loan of her sheep trailer!

WW1 Project

World War 1 Heritage Project

Led by artist Sophie Bellars, the community came together to create a series of mixed media artworks to commemorate the men and women who fought in WW1, involving students from Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School, along with residents of Carrington House, the Guides and Wincanton Youth Club. Wincanton Museum and History Society and the Library brought together documents and artifacts from the period.

The event culminated on the 5th July with historical exhibitions at the Library and Museum and with the artwork on display at The Balsam Centre where we were joined by the Chapel Cross Tearoom Choir who sang songs from the period.


The sketchbooks of Constance Bailward

During WW1, a local young woman, Constance Bailward, was a nurse in the hospital installed at the Priory. She filled a sketchbook full of drawings and verse, describing daily life at the hospital. This fantastic historical resource was one of the central pieces of the event, and inspired the drama created by the students from King Arthur's school.

Carrington House Residents

Women from Carrington House worked with Sophie to create a roll-call of those from the community who lost their lives in WW1, embroidering the names and regimental insignia to create a large patchwork blanket. It was an opportunity for women to come together and talk about how they learnt and used their sewing skills over their lifetimes.

Carrington Resident
The Guides

The Guides

The 2nd Wincanton Guides took their inspiration from WW1 weapons. The Museum lent them some original weapons from the war, allowing the Guides to get a sense of what it might be like to be in the midst of war.

Starting with their initial reactions to the weapons, Sophie worked with the Guides to paint and print onto fabric, and the Guides then sewed the pieces together to recreate the missiles in the form of soft sculptures.

Wincanton Primary School and King Arthur's Community School

Year 5 pupils from the primary school collaborated with year 7 and 8 pupils from King Arthur's to study the stain glass windows in St Peter's and St Paul's Church. One of the windows depicts St George and was paid for by a local family to commemorate their son who was killed at the Somme - St George's face might be that of Lance Corporal Cash. The pupils designed and painted their own stained glass windows to put up in the Balsam Centre for the WW1 Heritage exhibition.

Primary students
The Youth Club

Wincanton Youth Club

Sophie joined with members of the Youth Club to look at the story of a local lad, Harry Hamblin who lived on West Hill and was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

After joining the Reserves, Harry was drafted into a Navy battalion and sent to the front. After recovering from an initial injury, he was sent back to the front where he was killed. Using a photograph of Harry in uniform, the club told his story through a series of images and text to create a time-line of the events that led up to his death.

King Arthur's Community School Drama

Susan Huggins, Drama Director and co-creator of The Ministry of Play and Director of The Octagon Theatre Company, Yeovil, worked with Year 9 Drama students to create a work inspired by Nurse Bailward’s sketchbook which was performed in the gardens at the Balsam Centre as part of the Sketches of Wartime Wincanton.

Primary students

It was an inspiring day, clearly reminding us of the effect the war had on this one small community, encouraging people to tell their own stories and the impact the war had on their own families.

Many thanks to Sophie Bellars for developing this great project and for inspiring so many others to take part! Thanks, too, to all those that took part, and those that supported it in so many ways.

Support Us!

The Balsam Centre is an independent charity set up by local people for local people.

Whilst the work of the Centre is long term, funding for its projects and services is all too frequently short term.

It is largely thanks to help from a fund created by a legacy left by one person, that the Balsam Centre has been able to continue its mental health work over the last few years. The help that this has given hundreds of people is a permanent and living memorial to that person’s generosity.

If you are thinking of donating, have you considered becoming a Friend of the Balsam Centre? This is a commitment to regular giving of any amount, at any interval, by standing order, and even better, if you are a UK tax payer and you ‘tick’ to say so, we can claim another 25% on top of your donation to support the work of the Centre. Become a Friend here!


Give As You Live

We have signed up to be a part of Give As You Live where you can raise money for us - just by shopping online in your normal way! All you have to do is click on the link, choose your charity - The Balsam Centre - and then create an account.

The site will ask for your name, email address and a password. You can choose your favourite shops, or just use their search bar to find the product you are looking for. When you buy in this way, the retailer will donate an amount to us, and you can see exactly what you have donated. This is a great way for people who would like to support us to do so whilst doing their normal online shopping! All the big retailers are there, Amazon, Ebay, supermarkets, and department stores. Happy Shopping! And thank you for supporting us!!

We now have a Virgin Giving charity page where you can donate directly, and Virgin will collect the tax for us! Just click on the button below.

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving