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Making Waves: Local radio tracks down its biggest fan

James's Place Andover David Weatheritt Andover Radio

Andover’s local radio station is proud to be part of today’s Local Radio Day.

In a challenge set by Andover Radio breakfast host Grant Francis, subsequent radio host David Harber was set the task of proving how local radio can react quickly and how it helps reduce a sense of isolation.

David opted to broadcast from James’s Place, an inspiring and impressive facility at Penton Mewsey that provides entertaining and educationally beneficial services to people with physical and learning disabilities – all while seeking out the radio station’s to find the radio station’s ‘Number One Fan’.

With an hour’s notice the radio station was broadcasting live from the day care centre based at Penton Park and talking to managing partner Danielle Rolfe, while tracking down avid listener David Weatheritt.

“We live here, this is our family home”, explains Danielle.  “But we open it up 5 days a week and share our home with people with learning and physical disabilities.

“They come to us from 9am to 4pm and enjoy the house, the beautiful space we have and they enjoy the many activities we put on which includes holistic educational opportunities.”

James’s Place came into existence after Danielle’s husband – Penton Park’s master brewer Guy – identified the need for a ‘different type of facility’ for people with learning difficulties. 

Guy’s brother James experiences extreme epilepsy and Guy noticed that many day care centres, although capable of ‘looking after people’, were simply not enabling or providing enough “fun, useful or beneficial interaction with others.”

With the belief that people with learning disabilities can “achieve a lot more than many people think they can”, Guy and his parents opened their own day care centre at Penton Park. 

Danielle says, “Guy noticed that a lot of Day care centres just pop people into high backed chairs and they sit facing the wall all day”.

The Rolfe family wanted to create a space where people could “do and achieve more”, “even if that’s just a small amount”.  At James’s Place their team of Hester, Mary and many others recognise the importance of achievement every day.  Danielle adds, “We’re lucky to have a lot of space and we are willing to share our home.”

Commenting that the atmosphere at James’s Place is one of a really positive atmosphere, radio host David Harber told listeners that regular member David Weatheritt who has been attending the facility for two years is the perfect ambassador for both James’s Place and Andover Radio. 

“I love it here, I can use computers, walk the dog and just help out”, David said on his Andover Radio debut today.   A young man with a need to be in a secure, comforting and calm environment, he takes pride in his time at James’s Place and otherwise entertains himself with listening to Andover Radio.

“Andover Radio lets me know what’s happening” says David.  “I also really enjoy the music”.  David was awarded the accolade of Andover Radio’s ‘Number One Fan’ as part of today’s visit.  He adds, “Andover Radio lets me hear so many views and hear my friends.”

Today’s venture out of the studio was part of Local Radio Day, an annual event where hundreds of genuinely local radio stations exert special effort to showcase their commitment to their own local communities. 

Members of Andover Radio and Somer Valley FM in Somerset are the organisers of the annual effort which includes BBC local radio stations across the UK.   Over 130 radio stations participated in today’s campaign.

James's Place Danielle Rolfe Andover Radio
James’s Place: Danielle Rolfe talks to Andover Radio

Back at Penton Park, despite the lockdown restrictions, Danielle and Guy have not been sitting still.  They will open their second facility in Hampshire tomorrow.  A fully refurbished barn in Hook is set to accept its first regular members from 13th October.  “We got the keys on the 1st of March”, says Danielle.  “Then we promptly closed on 21st March because of Covid-19.”

The rural location of James’s Place in Hook will open tomorrow without ceremony because of Covid-19, but the intimate facility – which can house 12 members at a time – shows that when the chips are down there are still committed and impressive people like Danielle and Guy doing everything they can to help others.

Indeed, the movie poster above their desk is of the 1956 biographic film of flying ace Douglas Bader, ‘Reach For The Sky’.  The Rolfe family clearly believe in this to the benefit of others.

Their new facility in Hook is the second of three planned expansions to the James’s Place success.  They are planning their third in Winchester, due to be opened soon.

To help fund their grounds at Penton Mewsey, the venue is a beautiful and award-winning wedding venue, but that income stream has been put on hold.  Danielle explained in an emotional video last month that because of coronavirus restrictions they had to call brides-to-be and explain that their wedding plans could no longer facilitate their big day.

Danielle was heard on Andover Radio and subsequently on national TV ad radio explaining the difficulties the venue faced as restrictions put a temporary end to their service.

“Some of the most impressive people, doing the most impressive things in this town can be the least recognised”, added David from Andover Radio. 

“These chaps and their outstanding team really deserve much more recognition.  It’s always a pleasure to visit James’s Place; everyone always has a smile on their faces.”

“It’s not us, it’s the team we have up here,” responds Danielle.  “We just provide the stage.  One minute the team are up dancing with everyone, the next moment they are providing real emotional support. I can’t praise the team enough”.

Andover Radio’s Craig Hicks added, “As part of Local Radio Day, I am pleased to prove that within minutes we can immediately mobilise ourselves in ways that nationally-owned media companies can neither do, nor want to do.  We love showcasing the great stuff that happens in our town and make them feel part of something special.”

David Weatheritt will receive a special gift and a certificate for being Andover Radio’s ‘Number One Fan’ and for being a contributor to #LocalRadioDay which has been trending on Twitter today. 

Choosing his favourite song which was played on Andover Radio this morning, football fan David concluded, “I want to hear Three Lions and want to say hi to Jack, Billy and my best friend Becky.  I love James’s Place and I love Andover”.

People who may find the uniquely beneficial facilities in either Andover or Hook of interest are asked to contact Danielle by email here.

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